By Rich Levine
If you live in New England, you chose your Super Bowl XLV allegiance long before clicking on this column.
For Patriots fans, the decision was more simple than a Tom Brady sneak over center.
On one hand, youve got the Green Bay Packers, a pretty likable team in all respects. Theyve got the young, upstart QB with a golden arm and record free of rape allegations. Theyve got a little local flavor with BCs BJ Raji. Theyve got Charles Woodson, who despite his involvement in the Snow Bowl, is a player everyone, regardless of NFL affiliation, can respect and support in his quest to finally get that ring. Theyve got inspiring stories like Donald Driver. Theyve got an ardent, never wavering fan base, which hasnt taken home a title since the night Reggie White took Max Lane to school and Desmond Howard killed New Englands dream but enough has happened since then that no one here (outside of maybe Max Lane) still holds any hard feelings.
Most of all the Packers are an organization that stood up to the ruthless, junk-texting tyranny of Brett Favre and is on the verge of being rewarded. Everyone can get behind that. Thats a platform that could stop the madness in Egypt. Thats what the Packers are right now; a team that anyone, even if youre not from around here (or there), can take pride in rooting for.
On the other hand, it doesnt matter.
Because on the other hand, you have the Steelers.
When they played the Jets two weeks ago, New England could find a little solace in Pittsburgh's victory. Anytime they play the Colts, its pretty much the same deal. But short of a scrimmage against the Al-Queda intramural team, youre never going to find a time where Patriots fans are on Pittsburghs side.
In other news, Charlie Sheen likes cocaine and porno.
But while the anti-Steelers sentiment is nothing new around these parts, rooting against the Steelers in the Super Bowl on Sunday goes far beyond that.
Its not about just about hoping that Pittsburgh loses, or dreading the sight of an alleged rapistconfirmed creep earning another moment in the sun. This is about more than the Super Schadenfreude that typically goes along with a Big Game appearance by one of New Englands rivals.
Basically, if the Steelers win on Sunday, it will change how this Patriots era is remembered.
Now, obviously its not going to have an effect on we remember it here in New England. Nothing will take away from the three titles. If the Steelers win this game in roughly 48 hours, its not going to be a Back to the Future moment where photos from Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVII and XXXVIII slowly begin to fade out of focus. Youll never look back on Laws interception, Pattens catch, Bradys drive, Vinatieris kicks or any of the other moments from those three games and think, Damn, this just doesnt feel the same.
But it will change New Englands legacy. It will have an effect on how history remembers the Patriots dynasty.
Up until now, and since the moment the Patriots won title No. 3, they have been the only team to do so in the Free Agent era. Belichick (and Pioli) were the masterminds whod beaten an unbeatable system. Brady, the only quarterback since Montana (the closest thing to him!) to have the talent, persistence and pedigree to lead his team to those heights. Its only been them. And Patriots fans have always been able to take pride in that. Its always been one of the calling cards of the teams recent (ish) run.
But if the Steelers win this game on Sunday; if they win their third Super Bowl in six seasons; if Big Ben wins his third before turning 30; if the Steelers show that you dont need Belichicks brain or Bradys magic touch to win three rings in such a short span of time, during such a spastic period in NFL history, then things change a little.
In the big picture, moving forward, from Sunday right up until the asteroid hits, it will always be a little different.
New England would hate that. So on Sunday, amidst snow banks throughout New England, its time to take it up a notch. Other than the AFC title games in 2001 and 2004, theres probably never been a game more worthy to unleash your hatred for the Black and Yellow (Black and Yellow Black and Yellow Black and Yellow).
Thankfully this wont be hard. Hating the Steelers never has been. You can argue, and very easily, that theres been no more bitter Patriot enemy during the BradyBelichick era.
Of course, youve hated the Jets, but until last month, theyd never accomplished anything significant at the Patriots expense. Youve hated the Colts, but thats mostly just because theyre good. Its as much about mutual respect as it is hatred. In fact, take Bill Polian out of the equation, and can you name one Colt whos seriously offended you for reasons beyond making a tackle, grabbing an interception or scoring a touchdown? (OK, you cant count that stretch when Peyton Manning was on 75 percent of all the commercials. That was more a world problem then a New England problem.)
Both the Jets and Colts have given you numerous reasons to wish awful things upon them but no team whether its the constant trash talk, the obsession with Spy Gate and, most of all, that theyre always pretty damn good has been a bigger thorn in New England side than the Steelers.
And with a win on Sunday, that thorn will break the skin of the Patriots Dynasty and bleed it of at least some of its historical significance.
Just another reason to root for the Packers.
Not that you needed one.