Football fever comes to fruition

Super Bowl XLV, which takes place this Sunday, could come down to a battle of the quarterbacks, writes Sam GeogheganThe National Football League, with all of its glitz and glamour, could not have hoped for a better Superbowl. The Superbowl, now in its 45th year, will be played in the impressive new Cowboys Stadium of Arlington, Texas, this Sunday between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.These two teams are the most storied franchises in the NFL and arguably in US sports. Pittsburgh have won a record six Super Bowls, while the men from Wisconsin have three titles to their name, with the Superbowl trophy named after their most successful coach – Vince Lombardi. This is a game of the ultimate champions.Pittsburgh’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is a man who has been there and done that. “Big Ben” was drafted in 2004 and since then he has established himself into one of the top quarterbacks in the league as he has led the Steelers to two Superbowl titles in the last five years. However, his off-field activities are not befitting of a franchise quarterback and a $102 million contract. Following his second season where Pittsburgh became World champions for the first time since their “Steel Curtain” team of the 1970s, Roethlisberger was involved in a serious motorcycle accident which threatened his career, just when he was trying to emerge as a toptier NFL quarterback.The accident hampered Pittsburgh’s 2006 season as they failed to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh won their second title in four years in 2008 under new coach Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger’s play was noticeably better than in previous seasons. Following this success, Big Ben was accused of rape in the summer of 2009. The charges were eventually dropped but these allegations were still very much fresh in the minds of many when Roethlisberger was accused a second time in March 2010.This time the story was more believable and people began to wonder how an NFL superstar could be so stupid. Roethlisberger was not charged on either count and that has to be clear, but there are many unanswered questions especially about the second allegation. It was demonstrated that many had doubts when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first six games of this season. In a land where a person is “innocent until proven guilty”, this shocked many as Roethlisberger hasn’t been legally charged with anything. The suspension was later reduced to four games.In Roethlisberger’s absence, Pittsburgh were 3-1. Upon his return, Pittsburgh finished 12-4 and secured the number two seed in the playoffs. They’ve defeated the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets en route to Dallas and a battle with the ‘cheeseheads’. Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback, is a completely different style of triggerman to Roethlisberger, both on and off the field. While Roethlisberger tends to make plays with his feet by running out of the pocket, Rodgers is your typical pocket quarterback who can make all the throws – though also demonstrating pace when necessary. Rodgers entered the NFL in 2005 after a very impressive college career at California. He was a potential top five pick in the draft but he slid all the way down to 24th and into the hands of Green Bay. The 2005 draft will forever be remembered, as Rodgers had to wait alone in the green room for hours until he finally heard his name called.His first three years as a pro didn’t make up for that embarrassment either. Green Bay already had an all-star quarterback in Brett Favre. After the confusion about Favre’s retirement persisted in 2008, a bitter divorce ensued culminating in Favre being traded to the Jets and Rodgers became the starter.Rodgers finally had his chance at Lambeau Field to make the Packers his team. Although it is almost impossible to forget Favre who was at the helm since 1992, Rodgers handled the pressure considerably well. He has led Green Bay to the Superbowl as the first NFC number six seed after impressive wins on the road against the Eagles, Falcons and Bears.Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have dominated American football over the last decade. It’s now Rodger’s time to stake his claim as the NFL’s best quarterback, and he has the potential to hold that title for years to come. However, Rodgers and Green Bay must win this Sunday in Dallas if he ever wants to be mentioned as the Packers’ third great quarterback behind Favre and Bart Starr and not just as number four’s replacement.When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Steve Young, won the Superbowl in 1994, he said the monkey was off his back as he had replaced possibly the greatest quarterback of all time in Joe Montanna. Rodgers needs to get the monkey off his back too and Superbowl XLV is the perfect opportunity for him to do just that.