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Going deep on the Super Bowl - Tom Purcell

There's a reason the Super Bowl is such a big deal. There is no city in the country in which it is a bigger deal this year than in Pittsburgh.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. As a kid, I never understood the deep connection my father had to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His mood soured when his team lost. He was elated when they won.

I understand that connection now.

NFL football is much more than a sport. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers are much more than a team. The Steelers symbolize who and what my townspeople are -- who and what my own family is.

Pittsburgh is the land of hardworking, down-to-earth people. The values that forged our country -- craftsmanship, sacrifice, thrift, pride -- are alive and well in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers are a reflection of our work ethic and our values.

As with every NFL team, the Steelers are made up of some of the world's greatest athletes. Many of these fellows have become very rich playing football. One could understand how they could have mighty egos.

But the Steelers play as a team. No member of the team is bigger than anybody else on the team -- no player is cocky and self-serving. Unlike other NFL teams, our players don't point fingers when things go wrong.

The Steelers are a reflection of the virtue of humility. They give testament to the saying "united we stand, divided we fall," a concept our country has forgotten all too often.

The Steelers have the NFL's best defense because they never stray from the fundamentals. They know that even the most successful teams must continually relearn the basics -- if they wish to remain successful.

The Steelers are a reflection of hopefulness and sticking to your guns. They had the hardest schedule of any NFL team. They weren't expected to make it to the playoffs, let alone go to the Super Bowl.

But they took it one game at a time -- one day at a time. They prepared for what they could control and didn't worry about the things they couldn't. And though plenty went wrong along the way, they reacted and recovered -- and kept winning.

It's fair to say that NFL football is just a game -- just an amusement that keeps the masses entertained. It's fair to say, too, that the Super Bowl is a reflection of America at its worst -- it shows our propensity for materialism, excess and meaningless hype.

But the opposite is just as true -- the Super Bowl is a reflection of America at its best.

The teams that make bad decisions are punished. The teams that pick the wrong coaches or players -- the teams that attempt inferior strategies and make poor decisions -- lose.

The teams that make the best decisions win. The Steelers' management has demonstrated a considerable ability to hire the right coaches, pick the right players and manage their budget well. ESPN The Magazine says they're the best franchise in pro sports. Just about every year they have a shot at the playoffs.

When Steelers fans root for the Steelers, we root, in essence, for the simple principles and values that made America great. We root for selflessness, heart, courage, passion, competence and power.

We root for the values that are so common in Pittsburgh. We root for gregariousness and neighborliness and big-hearted folks who help you out when your car breaks down.

Sure, the Super Bowl is just a game. But on the other hand, it is also a celebration of the American spirit.

The underdog Arizona Cardinals have been mighty scrappy down the stretch -- they overcame impossible odds and made it into the Super Bowl. Still, I hope the Steelers crush them.

In any event, I know now why my father and I are so deeply connected to our team. To us, the Steelers are a symbol of the deep connection we hold for our city and our country.

Who wouldn't root for that?

Tom is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.