The rest of the country can call this Super Bowl XLIII, or Super Bowl 43 for the Roman numerically-challenged among us. We’ll just call it Super Bowl DRC for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Bradenton native who is coming home for the big game.
Hey, Dominique, um, got any extra tickets?
How many times do you think he’ll hear that in the next two weeks?
Rodgers-Cromartie is bringing his Arizona Cardinal teammates, too, which means the longest championship drought in the NFL can end Feb. 1 at Raymond James Stadium.
All the Cardinals have to do is solve the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, which stifled the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in the AFC title game, and find a way to stop Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That’s where Rodgers-Cromartie comes in. The rookie cornerback, who played his senior year of high school ball at Lakewood Ranch, is part of a Cardinals defense that came alive during the playoffs.
Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t have his best game Sunday when the Cardinals knocked off the Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship Game. He didn’t have an interception for the first time this postseason.
That’s OK. Save it for the big stage, kid.
This is the fourth Super Bowl in Tampa and the third-straight that featured a team making its Super Bowl debut.
The Buffalo Bills made their first of four consecutive Super Bowls in January 1991.
The Ravens played in their only Super Bowl in January 2001.
For what it’s worth, the newbies are 1-1.
The first of the Tampa Super Bowl, XVIII, was played in January 1984. The Oakland Raiders beat the Washington Redskins that day with the help of Raiders lineman Henry Lawrence, of Lincoln Memorial and Manatee High fame.
For what it’s worth, the local guy is 1-0.
But enough about history.
Both teams can make history.
The Cardinals are looking for their first NFL championship since 1947.
Pittsburgh is looking for its sixth Super Bowl title, which would be the most of any team.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin returns to the city where he served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back coach from 2001-05, a stretch that included the Bucs Super Bowl year of 2002.
His defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was born 10 years before the Cardinals won their last NFL championship. This is LeBeau’s 50th year in the NFL as a player and coach.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt faces his old organization.
He was the offensive coordinator during the Steelers last Super Bowl victory after the 2005 season. Whisenhunt thought he would replace Bill Cowher, but the job when to Tomlin.
We’ll have Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who was written off ages ago, it seems, and his favorite target, all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
The Steelers have safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Hines Ward and all those fans with all those yellow Terrible Towels. Expect it to get a tad windy near kickoff.
So many big names. So many storylines.
And the local boy making good.
You know who is a huge Cardinals fan? Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Figures. The Cardinals are the NFL’s answer to the Rays. They weren’t expected to come this far. They are playing their championship in Tampa Bay. They are facing a team from Pennsylvania.
For what it’s worth, baseball’s version of the Cardinals lost the World Series.