A matchup true fans can embrace

Two take-no-prisoners defenses. Two tried-and-true bases of die-hard fans. Two championship-fueled franchises.

In so many ways, the right two teams are coming to Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV.

As the Super Bowl has given way to wretched excess through the years, the actual game diminished and sometimes dwarfed by its surroundings, there are no such worries this time . . . not even for a game to be played in the league's most opulent stadium under the watchful eye of the world's largest flat-screen TV.

The first Super Bowl I attended was played at Rice Stadium. Imagine that.

Home from college for Christmas break, I stumbled onto two tickets my father couldn't use for Vikings-Dolphins in Super Bowl VIII.

My friend and I drove to the game. We parked at the stadium. We stood a few feet away from the bus as the Vikings unloaded and headed for their swift demise.

It was a big football game, but, frankly, it didn't seem nearly as large an event as the Texas-Notre Dame Cotton Bowl I had been to four years before.

As a sportswriter, I have been to 20 more Super Bowls, beginning with Bears-Patriots in New Orleans after the '85 season and skipping only a few seasons while dabbling here and there in baseball and hockey.

Some of the games have been classics that went down to the final minutes or even seconds — Giants-Bills, Patriots-Giants, Cardinals-Steelers.

More than half of those 20 have been blowouts.

But always there were the parties and the sideshows. I remember more about the halftime performances or even the mid-week news conferences of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney or U2 than I do some of the games.

With the first Super Bowl to be played in North Texas and with so many fans and media members likely to make their first pilgrimage to the local spaceship, I feared the game once again being lost and buried in the foolishness that has come to define Super Bowl week.

Not going to happen.

Let's put it this way. If you were one of the 108,000 in attendance for last year's NBA All-Star Game, you were well within your rights to walk to your car saying, "Well, Alicia Keys and Usher were really good."

If anyone leaves Cowboys Stadium next Sunday night saying, "At least The Black Eyed Peas put on a good show," then something will have really gone wrong.

The Packers and Steelers are too good, too similar in style, their fans too committed for this game to turn into a letdown of, well, Super proportions.

For starters, the Steelers were the hardest team to score against this season. The Packers were No. 2. Every first down will be earned in this game.

After that, you have Aaron Rodgers, who is the next great thing at quarterback, just as Drew Brees was a year ago. He's facing the Super Bowl-tested Ben Roethlisberger, just as Brees had to duel with Peyton Manning in Miami.

Even though Big Ben won his first Super Bowl in Detroit with something far short of a stellar performance (9-for-21, 123 yards, two interceptions), he didn't need to be great that day to beat Seattle. While both quarterbacks could be pressed into mistakes by great defensive play (just as they were last Sunday), it's hard to imagine either Rodgers or Roethlisberger wilting in the Super Bowl pressure.

Beyond that, the game becomes one about the fans. This clearly won't be a repeat of Super Bowl XL in Detroit, where Steelers fans appeared to outnumber Seahawks fans (I will be kind) by 5-to-1.

Cowboys Stadium will be a sea of gold, as the team with the most Super Bowl victories battles the team that won the first Super Bowl to stamp its legend's name on the trophy.

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