Do not read this column any further if you want a prognostication for Super Bowl XLV. It's just too tough to call, too close. Great, reasonable, fact-based arguments can, and will, be made for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers before they kick it off in Jerry Jones' massive pleasure palace in Arlington, Texas.
Especially refrain from proceeding if you want any analysis of things that just don't matter in the larger picture. Expensive commercials, party plans, pre-game and halftime entertainment, celebrities on a red carpet - just stop it already. None of that has anything to do with what I really care about.
What we have before us Sunday night is a football purist's dream. Two franchises of immense history and honor, from places that cherish the game, with fans as loud, passionate and loyal as any in American sports. Here's hoping they fill Cowboys Stadium with a joyful noise that drowns out all of the Super Bowl's corporate attempts to stifle them.
This immense devotion was not something that came overnight. You won't see many bandwagons among the Steelers and Packers faithful. They have both enjoyed plenty of grand moments through the decades - but also a lot of pain.
Given Pittsburgh's remarkable success in the Super Bowl era, it's shocking to consider how bad the Rooney family's cherished heirloom once was. From the start in 1933 to 1972, there was zero, zilch, nada championships. The franchise had to merge twice during World War II just to survive. The long list of personnel mistakes (cutting John Unitas was the worst) made any Steeler fan cringe.
That same story of survival and struggle marked Green Bay's history, too, as the last of the small-town teams that survived the NFL's early years. They had 13 straight losing seasons before Vince Lombardi guy showed up. And after he retired, the Packers had to wait a quarter-century for the arrivals of Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre and Reggie White to rise to the top again.