Lynn Cullen's Super Bowl Tale of Two Cities | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Lynn Cullen's Super Bowl Tale of Two Cities

Here's something I can say with absolute certainty: The team I love is going to win the Super Bowl. 

Here's another thing I can say with absolute certainty: The team I love is going to lose the Super Bowl.

That's the problem. 

I've dreaded a Steelers-Packers Super Bowl ever since I moved here from Wisconsin 30 years ago. When both teams were having good seasons, I'd make lame jokes about checking into Western Psych to watch the game. But year after year I was spared. Until now. 

And wouldn't you know, this year I'd actually relaxed. The Packers were erratic, suffering humiliating losses to the likes of the Detroit Lions. But then late in the season, with their starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers sitting on the bench the entire game with a concussion, I saw the Packers scare the bejeezus out of Tom Brady and the Patriots before losing by a field goal in the last 10 seconds. 

"Uh-oh," I remember thinking. "Better check the day rates at Western Psych."

I'm not just any cheesehead, either. I was born and raised in Green Bay, to a family that's owned season tickets for 70-plus years. I can remember going to Packer games in the '50s with my Dad in rickety old City Stadium -- before Lambeau Field was even built. One of my main criteria for choosing a college when I graduated from Green Bay East High School was that it had to be close enough to get home for Packers games. I ended up going to Northwestern University because I could take the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad straight up the western shore of Lake Michigan and be home in four hours.

Green Bay is like a tiny Pittsburgh: blue-collar, unpretentious, ethnic and Catholic. When I grew up, the population of the town was a mere 55,000; the tallest building was -- and still is -- only 10 stories tall. It's classic small-town midwestern America. 

When Vince Lombardi came to Green Bay in 1959 for his first head-coaching job, the only people of color in town were the local Oneida Indians and one black family, the Hammers, who lived down by the Fox River, and whose son Ennis was in my class. Lombardi actually had to hire a barber every few weeks to come up from Milwaukee so his black players could get a haircut. Shortly after his arrival, with my Realtor father's help, Lombardi got an open-housing ordinance passed so his black players could find homes in the blinding whiteness of the frozen tundra.

I remember in the '60s going bowling at the Kegler's Klub on a double date with Lombardi's daughter Susan, Jack Singleton and Tom Lutzey. Tom is now on the Packers board, the team's governing body.

You see, besides being one of the oldest NFL franchises, the Packers are also the only NFL team with no owner. The team is owned by the people of the town, including me and my siblings. And it's governed by an unpaid board made up mostly of local yokels. Corporate meetings are held, snow or shine, at Lambeau Field, so all us owners can squeeze in. And here's the best part: If the team should ever be sold, the proceeds go to a local American Legion Hall. How are you not supposed to love a team like that?

Last year, my 88-year old mother was on the St. Norbert College campus (where the Packers used to practice) to attend a lecture by a Chinese dissident. She slipped on some ice and went face down on the sidewalk. She was helped to her feet by a stranger who turned out to be the president of the Packers, Mark Murphy. Over her protestations, the Packer prez drove my Mom home and then, because one of her front teeth was clearly askew, he insisted she call her dentist -- who, despite the fact that his office had long ago closed for the night, said he'd jump in his car and meet them there in a few minutes. I tell you all this because I want you to understand: Not loving Green Bay is like not loving a Norman Rockwell painting. 

So, there you have it: my Super Bowl predicament. I spent the first half of my life loving the Packers and only the Packers. But in the second half I made room in my heart for the Steelers as well. It's been a threesome that's kept me warm through many a cold winter, and I know it will survive Sunday. I just hope it's a great game, worthy of these two wonderful and storied franchises. Pass the nachos. 

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