Set for more Super Bowl magic

When the NFL season kicked off back in September, very few pundits would have predicted that come February, Super Bowl XLIII would feature the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cardinals have never reached a Super Bowl in the existence of the team, with their only NFL championships game victory taking place in 1947, well before the Super Bowl was established.

Since then the team has only managed to make it to the playoffs six times, winning a measly five playoff games. Even worse, three of those wins came in the run-up to Super Bowl XLIII this year.

The Steelers have quite a different history, as they are gunning for their sixth Super Bowl title, having claimed the title as recently as Super Bowl XL, contested in February 2006.

Should the Steelers manage to claim a sixth title, it will be the first time in the history of the NFL that one franchise has been able to claim a sixth title.

The team still includes a number of players who were there when the team took Super Bowl XL, which brings with it the promise that there are at least a number of players on the field who have the big game temperament needed to win the Super Bowl.

Even though the Cardinals may not have Super Bowl experience as a team, their quarterback Kurt Warner won Super Bowl XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams, and was voted Super Bowl MVP that year.

Yet as divergent as the fortunes of these two teams may seem, they do share a common history. In 1944, during the height of World War II, there were not enough players available to fill the rosters of both teams, as many able bodied men were off fighting in the war.

This meant that some teams had to merge in order to field enough players, and as it happens, for that one season, the Steelers and the Cardinals, then based in Chicago, became one team.

The combined roster did not lead to any great success, as the combined team, referred to as Card-Pitt, finished the season with a 0-10 record in the Western Division.

It is unlikely that this will cause any quarter to be given when the two teams take to the field at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on 1 February.

The Cardinals will start the game as underdogs, going up against a Steelers defence that was the best in the league during the regular season, claiming titles for the fewest points allowed (223), fewest total yards allowed (3,795) and fewest passing yards allowed (2,511).

This is merely the latest iteration of the ‘Steel Curtain’ defence for which the Steelers have become famous.

For the Cardinals, starting as the underdogs should not present a problem. They were viewed as the underdog in all three their playoff games, yet went on to win every single one on their way to the Super Bowl.

Yet competition for the Super Bowl is not limited to the teams playing for the title. Hosting the event means a massive injection of tourism and exposure for the hosting city, leading to great competition for hosting rights.

Tampa won the right to host Super Bowl XLIII back in May 2005, beating out Atlanta, Houston and Miami for the honour.

This will be the second time the Super Bowl will be contested at the Raymond James Stadium, and the fourth time Tampa will host the Super Bowl.

The last Super Bowl to be hosted there was Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001. Back then the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens beat the NFC Champion New York Giants by a massive 34-7.

For those not so ardent fans of the game who sit through the broadcast anyway, the highlight is quite often the halftime show.

This year it will feature Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, making a repeat of the infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ of Super Bowl XXXVIII highly unlikely.

Then of course there is the advertising. Market research suggests the Super Bowl broadcast is the only day of the year when people pay more attention to the advertisements than to the actual programming.

That might go a long way to explaining how, even in tough economic times, Super Bowl advertising sold out once again, even at $3 million for a 30 second spot.