The moral of this Super Bowl story

Published Feb. 7, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

Perhaps you saw Super Bowl XLV as a morality play, a battle of good vs. evil at the most prestigious and influential position in all of American sports.

If so, you are happy today in the wake of Green Bay’s 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh.

Aaron Rodgers killed two devils with one football, outperforming a quarterback twice accused of rape, Ben Roethlisberger, and escaping the shadow of a quarterback serially accused of narcissism, overhype and sexual harassment, Brett Favre.

I don’t believe in morality plays. Not inside a billion-dollar stadium with George W. Bush and Jesse Jackson observing from Jerry Jones’ suite. And especially not revolving around protagonists I know only through their media caricatures.

Morality is oftentimes situational and best judged by a higher power, or at the very least by the people who intimately know the characters.

A-Rodg vs. Big Ben and A-Rodg vs. The Old Gunslinger, I’ll leave to the moralists here on earth and the God they are defying with their judgments.

To me, Super Bowl XLV served as the crescendo of the culture-war narrative that has been playing out across the NFL the past decade, since the rise of the Patriots dynasty.


To my eyes, Super Bowl XLV was the final repudiation of the 1990s, the Deion Sanders era, the celebration of the hey-look-at-me, I’m-building-a-commercial-brand-separate-from-the-team superstar.

Hold on, playa. That is not a personal rebuke of "Primetime." Deion is/was one of my all-time favorite players. I enjoyed every one of his high-steps, believe he was a remarkable teammate and an indispensable playmaker on two Super Bowl champions.

But Deion was all about Deion and spawned a gaggle of second-rate imitators — like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens — and the belief that every good team was just one super-talented mercenary away from Super Bowl glory.

The Packers and their general manager, Ted Thompson, won Green Bay’s fourth Super Bowl primarily because they stuck to the Patriots Way even more than the Patriots.

At considerable risk, Thompson rejected Randy Moss in 2007 and Brett Favre in 2008.

Over Favre’s objections, Thompson resisted the urge to trade for Moss, allowing the freakish and moody receiver to land in New England. And when Favre’s I-told-you-so frustration boiled over in reaction to Tom Brady’s 50-TD, undefeated regular season with Moss, Thompson traded the unretired Favre to the New York Jets.

The Patriots, the Jets and, most tragically, the Vikings landed the mercenary heirs — Favre and Moss — to Deion’s throne.

Only the Packers won a Super Bowl.

Thompson’s victory is so sweet and obvious that even Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will think twice before trying to Jerry Jones his way to a Lombardi Trophy.

Thompson’s victory is so devastating that its impact will be felt in the upcoming labor negotiations.

An owner’s worst nightmare is giving Favre $20 million for a season and seeing him engulfed in a childish, sext-message controversy that contributes to the derailing of the season.

An owner’s worst nightmare is giving Albert Haynesworth $21 million in April and watching helplessly as he blows off the offseason training program.

An owner’s worst nightmare is having his franchise quarterback (Big Ben) suspended for four games because he tried to have sex with a college student inside a bathroom at a crowded bar.

An owner’s worst nightmare is having a popular and influential player in the locker room (Moss) hold a postgame press conference expressing his desire to play for the team that just beat his team.

The owners believe too many of the players are clueless and irresponsible, particularly given the level of financial investment. The owners look at Daniel Snyder and Albert Haynesworth and think, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

Moving forward, the owners want some of their money back.

They don’t want to share half of their revenue with people they don’t believe have the necessary character to collectively act in a way that allows them to economically grow the game at a rapid pace.

The owners (and coaches) don’t want to pay millions of dollars to two receivers (Ochocinco and Owens) who direct their mental energy toward building a reality TV show and rarely show up in the postseason.

You say Bengals owner/president Mike Brown should exercise the same discipline as Ted Thompson. The owners say an 8 percent to 10 percent shared-revenue cut for players across the board is better insurance than trying to predict who might be the next Favre, Haynesworth, Big Ben or Ochocinco.

If the players want half the revenue, the owners want to believe the players have a sincere interest in being equal partners in the growth of the game.

It’s no longer 1985. Owners are now paying players like they’re CEOs and executives at major corporations. CEOs don’t moonlight as reality TV stars. High-profile executives get canned for sexual harassment and multiple accusations of sexual assault. Good executives work year-round.

Yeah, Super Bowl XLV was far more than a morality play. It was big business. It was a statement about where the game is at on the field and where things are headed off it.