The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers late Sunday to win Super Bowl XLV, the championship game of the U.S. National Football League. The Packers outlasted the Steelers in a closely matched game at Cowboy Stadium in North Texas, near Dallas. Bad weather would not prevent the biggest event in American sports from taking place in one of the biggest stadiums in the United States. But the euphoria of the win is tempered by a lingering labor dispute between players and team owners which could bring the game of football to an abrupt halt.
Standing on a podium in front of more than one hundred thousand people in Cowboy Stadium, Green Bay Packer coach Mike McCarthy accepted the Vince Lombardi trophy on behalf of his team for a stunning road to victory.
"We’re going to enjoy this one. This is a great day for the Green Bay Packers organization," McCarthy said. "Really proud to bring this trophy back home, particularly for the people of our organization who have been there for years and know the true meaning of what the Lombardi Trophy means not only to Green Bay but the National Football League."
The Packers, the only community owned, non-profit team in professional American sports, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. The win enables one of the NFL’s oldest and most historic teams to bring the Lombardi trophy back to the hometown of its namesake, former coach Vince Lombardi.
Winning Super Bowl XLV was an historic moment for the Most Valuable Player of the Game, Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He led his team through three difficult playoff games on the road to the final victory over the Steelers.
"It’s just surreal right now," Rodgers said. "It’s such a special team. You know, special season. So many guys were such a huge part of this."
Now that the biggest game of the American football season is over, the focus will shift to next season, and whether or not players will suit up to take the field.
NFL team owners have decided not to extend a collective bargaining agreement, and want to negotiate a new contract with the players. The league wants to extend the regular season from 16 to 18 games. They also want to change how much revenue they share with the players.
"We need to have intensive, round-the-clock negotiations to address the issues and find solutions. And if we are committed to doing that, I think we can be successful," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He believes progress can be made before March 3, the deadline set for an agreement.
"It’s a collective sacrifice. It’s a bad outcome if we’re not able to reach that agreement, and it should affect everyone in the league, including yours truly," Goodell added, we just need to make sure that we work as hard as we can to avoid it an get something done as quickly as possible."
If both sides can not reach an agreement by March 3, team owners can lock the players out of their facilities, creating a work stoppage.
The NFL has had shortened seasons in the past as a result of labor disputes. But this latest threat of a lockout comes at a time when football revenues, and fan interest, are at all time highs.
Any kind of disruption threatens income, and widespread interest, in American-style football, and could ultimately hurt the sports reputation among its most dedicated fans.