The Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks squared off in the 40th Super Bowl on Sunday. The game capped a week filled with stories of homecomings and family, a gritty underdog of a city on a comeback attempt, and a locale known for cars being visited by The Bus.
"The newcomer, the Seahawks from the Northwest, versus the tradition of the Steelers from industrial America, where our game and our league was born," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in detailing the compelling stories that led up to the America's biggest unofficial holiday.
There was The Bus, Jerome Bettis of the Steelers, winning his way to his first Super Bowl and playing what will likely be the final game of his 13-year career only a few miles from where he grew up. To celebrate the week, he did what any good host would do — holding a charity bowling event one night and taking his teammates to his parents' house for dinner on another.
There were Steelers fans, many without the coveted $600 tickets that have long been priced out of their range. They made the five-hour drive through Youngstown, then past Cleveland and Toledo, simply to wave their Terrible Towels and to be around their team and jut-jawed coach Bill Cowher for this, an attempt at the franchise's long-awaited fifth championship — the "One for the Thumb" that eluded the great Steelers dynasty of the 70s.
CBS Sportsline.com senior writer Pete Prisco said for victory, the Steelers need to play to win, rather than play not to lose.
"In the Steelers' run to the Super Bowl, they have won three consecutive road games, beating the AFC's top three teams," Prisco writes. "In doing so, they played an aggressive style on offense early and then tried to control the clock after taking a lead."
And Detroit, one of America's great, old cities, but one under duress. Hurt by sinking population, growing unemployment and urban blight that doesn't go away easily, this proud metropolis was a happy host, eager to impress and hoping the NFL's magic and money won't go away as soon as the teams and fans leave.
Bettis wasn't ashamed.
"The best part is being able to showcase the hometown," he said of a city that was staggered last month when Ford announced up to 30,000 job cuts. "I love this city and it puts our city on the grandest stage in the world. It's something that's much needed."
The Seahawks were the unknown underdogs, making their first appearance in the Super Bowl and trying to introduce themselves to the world after decades of playing under the radar in the Great Northwest.
"Mike said from the very beginning, that we are always going to be the 'other' team," running back Shaun Alexander, the league's Most Valuable Player, said of the warning coach Mike Holmgren gave the team earlier in the season.
A crowd of 64,000-plus trudged through freshly fallen snow to fill Ford Field. Double that descended on the Super Bowl city to do everything from simply lingering around the mezzanine at the Renaissance Center downtown in hopes of seeing stars to attending the Maxim and Playboy parties, which are traditionally the hottest tickets in town.
Despite all those visitors, the game was, as always, one taken in by most Americans on TV.
From the comfort of living rooms, at bars and at an estimated 7.5 million Super Bowl parties, up to 140 million viewers were expected to watch at least part of this year's game.
And it wouldn't be a "holiday" without plenty of food. American consume more on Super Bowl Sunday than any day but Thanksgiving, including 14,500 tons of chips and 4,000 tons of popcorn.
Their entertainment schedule included the Rolling Stones at halftime, Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville doing the national anthem and, of course, the slew of new commercials that sponsors paid $2.5 million per 30 seconds to air on the most-watched program of the year.
Of course, for those who really did need to use the commercial time for a bathroom break, there were options. A pair of Web sites, Yahoo Inc., and Ifilm, were making replays of the ads available on the Internet.
"We already know that a large chunk of users watching the Super Bowl are interested in watching the ads themselves," said Ethan Fassett of Yahoo.
It figured that they would be, and the commissioner reveled in the ever-growing popularity of the NFL's biggest game — no matter where it's played or who is playing.
"The Super Bowl now takes on a magnitude that almost defies the imagination," Tagliabue said.
It shines a bright spotlight on the Super Bowl city and the Super Bowl teams.
This year, they all had plenty of stories to tell.
"This feels great," Bettis said. "It makes everything that I've ever had to go through worthwhile. I've always wished it could have been me, and now that I have the opportunity, I relish every moment of it."