Each year, the two best teams in American football square off in the Super Bowl, the final match of the season. The internationally-televised game draws hundreds of millions of viewers, easily making it one of the most-watched events on television. This year, Super Bowl XLV, featuring the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, comes to North Texas, where enthusiasm for the game runs high. Despite ticket prices that stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars, the Steelers and Packers draw on a loyal and passionate fan base from around the country
With their yellow so-called “Terrible Towels” in hand, fans of the black and gold have helped propel the Steelers to a record 6 Super Bowl wins.
Pittsburgh defensive player Troy Polamalu, whose number 43 jersey had the most replica sales in the National Football League last year, says pride in his team is widespread.
“The Steeler emblem is worldwide,” he said. “We’ve seen the Terrible Towel in outer space. We get so much support from fans wherever we travel.”
Green Bay Packer fans have their roots in the dairy state of Wisconsin. Many fans sport the foam “cheesehead” to show their team pride. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned team in professional American sports, something current Quarterback Aaron Rodgers credits with their success.
“There is no owner. So a lot of the fans consider themselves owners and personally invested -- a lot of them are personally invested in the team,” Rodgers states. “It’s a college-like atmosphere in Green Bay. Everywhere you go you see Green and Gold and it’s a first-name basis and there’s a special connection there that’s always been between the players and fans.”
Fans of both teams playing in Super Bowl XLV are braving unusually cold weather and icy road conditions to be in North Texas, to experience one of the most-watched, and most expensive sporting events in America.
Though the face value of tickets for this year’s Super bowl ranges from $600 to $1,500, the only way to get them now is on the secondary market. Prices are in the tens of thousands of dollars for the best seats, and event organizers are adding more seats and standing room to meet the demand.
But it’s not only Packer and Steeler fans buying those tickets.
"Football is king, has always been king, will always be king in this area,” said Norm Hitzges, who is a sports radio host on the air in Dallas, where the local NFL team, the Cowboys, is the most popular sports franchise in the area. Though the locals are disappointed the Cowboys are not playing, a Super Bowl hosted in their state is a welcome event.
“In Texas, football is a tradition. People in this state grew up 30, 40, 60 years ago. Going to football, high school football, on Friday nights in Texas. That is the sport here,” Hitzges explains. “College football grew, Pro football grew. The entire sports tradition of this is based on football.”
Players who will take the field on Super Bowl Sunday admit the energy and excitement generated by tens of thousands of screaming fans can help set the mood, and the pace of their performance.
For Pittsburgh Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is playing in his third Super Bowl, with an eye to giving the Steelers a record seven Super Bowl wins, the fans are why he plays the game.
“Pittsburgh fans are the best in all of the sport. I think that’s why this game is going to be so awesome. Packer fans, I know they travel and they are passionate about their Packers. That’s why I think this is the ultimate game and the ultimate two teams playing in it,” Roethlisberger said.
The ultimate game will be played in the ultimate stadium: Arlington Texas’s newly built $1.3 billion Cowboy Stadium. It could set an attendance record. Organizers say with added seats specifically for the Super Bowl, they are expecting a capacity crowd of 105,000 people.