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It really is more than just a game, you know. No American sport has a more dramatic ending than the NFL with its "one game wins it all" finale that truly is the Super Bowl to most of us. And this one seems more super than most.
The teams for Super Bowl XLV are iconic in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, two teams and two communities that take football so seriously they have banned cheerleaders. And they are representing the league at a time when its popularity has never been higher.
But the nature of the NFL game has never been under greater scrutiny, too, and the "poster person" for questions about the violence of the sport is in this game -- Pittsburgh head hunter James Harrison.
Does he represent unnecessary danger that should be legislated out of the game or does he represent the violent nature that draws us to the game? Let's allow two writers to present both sides of the question.
• Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer looks upon Harrison's "whining" about being unjustly penalized as "the Jack Lambert story with better dentistry." Read why Shaw thinks Harrison is bad for the game.
• Now read this piece by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jennifer Floyd Engel, who believes Harrison represents what attracts us to the game and that his comments this week cut through "the hypocrisy of the NFL and its fans." You decide.
And now just a few bits of tid before we get to more of the nation's best sportswriters on the nation's biggest day of sports:
• Tweet of the Week from TV Guide's Michael Schneider: "MTV to air an all-day 'Jersey Shore' marathon on Sunday as a precursor to the Super Bowl. Just so you feel all dirty inside before the game."
• According to The Associated Press, "a source" said that singer Usher and guitarist Slash will make a surprise appearance with the Black Eyed Peas during the big game's halftime show. Uh, not much of a surprise now, is it?
• Over in the NBA, Familia Camarena Tequila is now the official tequila of the Orlando Magic. After LeBron James poured 51 on them this week, they can use it.
And now for the main courses of the Brunch on this super Sunday:
• The Magic have more than one reason for needing a stiff shot of tequila. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel explains the strange story of Gilbert Arenas that involves being served court papers while walking to the locker room plus mention of Gilbert's two deceased sharks that may have been murdered. Now that's a good story.
• Before returning to the Super Bowl, David Whitley of Fanhouse reminds us that this week was the 10th anniversary of the brief shooting star that was the XFL. From "He Hate Me" to the assistant coach seen urinating on national TV, good times that most of you chose to ignore.
• Jerry Green (not me) of the Detroit News is one of just four sportswriters who has covered every Super Bowl. He tells us of the immense pressure on Vince Lombardi to win the first one to try to put down the upstart AFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Vince won the game but the AFL eventually got its merger with the NFL.
• Another one of the sportswriting greats, Jerry Izenberg, Columnist Emeritus of The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), examines the wonder that is Jerry Jones, dating to the day when a car rental agent cut apart his worthless credit card in front of him. He's come a long way, hasn't he?
• You must know that an episode of "Glee" will immediately follow the Super Bowl on Fox. Chuck Barney of the Contra Costra Times looks back on other shows that got that coveted "show off" slot and finds many that succeeded and some that fell flat. My favorite was the "Grey's Anatomy" episode in 2006 when Meredith was holding an unexploded bazooka shell that happened to be embedded in some poor dude's chest. Good times.
• Spoiler warning: If you're too busy to watch and want to know the score, it will be Green Bay 28, Pittsburgh 27. Mortal lock.
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