A rare snow storm deep in the heart of Texas has added another unusual twist to today’s Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
The game was already looming as a classic battle between two of the NFL’s most successful and popular franchises but the big freeze that has paralyzed large parts of the US has added a surreal touch to the occasion.
The host city of Dallas has been transformed into an unlikely winter wonderland as the teams put the finishing touches to their preparations for the biggest annual sporting event in North America.
At least six workers who were trying to get Cowboys Stadium ready for the Super Bowl were taken to hospitals on Friday after being struck by falling ice, an NFL spokesman said.
The six were taken to different hospitals and the two most seriously injured were in stable condition.
“Melting ice and snow on the Cowboys Stadium roof slid onto several plaza areas earlier today,” said Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice president of communications.
While a blizzard this week forced airport closures and wreaked havoc on travel plans for anxious fans trying to get to North Texas ahead of the game, it has failed to dampen the hype and excitement about one of the most eagerly-awaited Super Bowls in years.
More than 100,000 people will cram into the space-age Cowboys Stadium to watch the game live while an estimated worldwide audience of more than 160 million are expected to watch on television.
The Steelers and the Packers showed their pedigree when it mattered most to reach the Super Bowl after a wildly fluctuating season where nothing really went according to the script.
The Steelers, who have won the Super Bowl a record six times, including twice in the previous five seasons, won their divisional title then beat the New York Jets to claim the AFC championship after the highly fancied New England Patriots tripped up during the playoffs.
“Fortunately for us, we have what you can’t buy,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “[We have] ... an unbelievable standard and expectation and all those great things.”
The Packers, who have won a record 12 NFL titles, including three Super Bowls, earned their place in today’s title game the hard way.
After securing one of the NFC wildcards by finishing second in their division, they won three sudden-death playoffs on the road.
“Chasing perfection and catching excellence on the way is something I think exemplifies everything that every football team, particularly ours, is trying to accomplish,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers are slight favorites to win but few people are exactly sure what to expect. Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks, bruising defenses and can pile on the points.
This is the first time the teams have met in the playoffs and the Packers have not beaten the Steelers in the regular season since 1995, although they have only played each other three times since then.
At their last meeting, in 2009, the Steelers won 37-36 with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing a touchdown on the final play, but McCarthy is expecting a lower-scoring game this time.
“I know first hand that our defense has improved and so has theirs,” he said.
The Steelers and Packers boast the two best defenses in the NFL this season but, as always, the battle between the two quarterbacks is looming as one of the keys to the outcome.