Packers-Steelers as good as it gets
It was written in this space last week that a No. 6 Packers vs. a No. 6 Jets storyline might’ve been good for a league whose image is soon to take a Dick Butkus-type hit on the labor front.
But now that the Packers and Steelers are about to put the delightfully uncomplicated XLV in the next Super Bowl, it’s hard to imagine a better matchup for widespread recognition, outside, of course, the insufferable possibility that the Dallas Cowboys would’ve somehow stumbled across their own threshold.
The description “storied franchise” gets thrown around way too loosely, but the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers match it closer than any team where professional football is concerned.
The Packers have been around since 1919 and have the most championships (12). The Steelers have been in operation since 1933 and have the most Super Bowl trophies, with two of their six being earned in the last five years.
The Packers were the team of the ’60s and re-kicked some righteous fanny in the ’90s. The Steelers were the team of the ’70s and rival New England as the team of the new millennium’s first decade.
Outside of the big star on which the Packers and Steelers will gladly, if symbolically, tread next week, there is no traditionally better logo (sorry, you Baltimore/Indianapolis Horseshoes) or more recognizable uniforms in the pro tackle-football universe.
The community-owned Packers and the Rooney-controlled Steelers are so well respected by the players that John Kuhn, the only current Packer with a Super Bowl ring—and a Pittsburgh-issued one at that—had this to say recently:
“The Steelers, even though they’re family-owned, take very good care of their players, and players like to go there. They’ll go there for less money, and I think guys will do that here in Green Bay too because they understand that an organization that takes care of you, you want to play for an organization like that.”
There may be no more loyal or similar fan bases (given their collar color of choice) than the ones that follow the Packers and Steelers around like they were the Grateful Dead or something. I can’t speak for the good people of western Pennsylvania, who count Mike McCarthy as one of their own, but the cult that surrounds the tiny-town Packers is like no other mainstream form of adoration I’m aware of.
But when we get outside of our insular bubble, how popular and recognizable are the Packers and Steelers, even on the so-called global stage they are about to ascend?
As difficult and subjective as that might be to quantify beyond an inventory of shipping invoices for cheeseheads and terrible towels, a British newspaper took on the challenge of identifying the world’s most popular teams last September simply by taking note of fans on Facebook.
It should surprise no one that the first four, as well as 13 of the top-20 most popular, were soccer teams from Europe, South America and Asia. Few who follow the
No. 1 team on the list, Galatasaray of Turkey, will particularly care what happens the Sunday after next in Arlington, Texas.
The most popular United States-based teams were:
No. 5 Lakers, No. 8 Yankees, No. 12 Celtics, No. 13 Red Sox, No. 14 that football team with the big star, No. 16 Steelers and No. 20 that baseball team on the north side of Chicago that will otherwise remain nameless.
If it’s universal greatness and not a popularity contest subject to population bases we’re talking, the list would include the Packers, Montreal Canadiens, Manchester United (No. 6 on Facebook), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Patriots and all of the aforementioned, with the exception of otherwise nameless Chicago baseball team.
But however you count it, you cannot do better by any measure than the Packers and the Steelers in the Super Bowl.