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Packers Win Sends NFL Into Uncertain Offseason

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 4, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 4, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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ARLINGTON (AP) – Whether it was as complicated as deciding how to divide $9 billion or as simple as making sure everyone with a ticket also had a seat, the NFL had trouble getting it right this Super Bowl week.

The league slogged through bad weather in Texas, a botched national anthem, a Super seating debacle and the back-and-forth of labor negotiations that threaten to shut down the sport.

At least they had a good game.

Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 on Sunday in an exciting Super Bowl that showcased exactly what’s at stake. Because when the lights went out at Cowboys Stadium, there was no knowing whether they would turn back on next fall.

The collective bargaining agreement that led to unprecedented success this season for the NFL expires March 3, and barring an agreement before then, owners are threatening to lock out players.

“It’s hard to imagine that in a time of economic travails, the public will have an overwhelming sense of sympathy in a labor fight that pits millionaires against billionaires,” agent Leigh Steinberg said.

On Sunday, the Steelers and Packers offered up yet another example of why America loves this game so much.

Led by Rodgers’ pinpoint passing, the Packers hurried to a 21-3 lead and looked as if they were ready to run away. But the Steelers pulled as close as 28-25 midway through the fourth quarter and had the ball, trailing by six and needing to go 87 yards to win the game.

Only when Ben Roethlisberger threw three straight incompletions in the final minute were the Steelers’ hopes over. Green Bay brought its fourth Lombardi Trophy back to Lambeau Field and its first since 1997, when Brett Favre was every cheesehead’s favorite quarterback.

Rodgers finished with 304 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“It’s a very proud moment right now, and I just can’t say enough about that football team,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Will the Packers have a chance to go for a repeat next year?

Depends on whether the owners and players can come to terms on how to split the $9 billion their game produces each year.

The owners want a bigger chunk of that cash, along with a rookie wage scale and an increase in the regular season from 16 to 18 games. The players think those two extra games will cause an exponential rise in injuries and don’t want to give back any percentage of the revenue pool, a massive slice of which comes from the networks, which combine to pay around $4 billion a year to televise the NFL.

The millions watching the Super Bowl probably weren’t all that concerned about those things and, once the game got going, with the problems that cropped up this past week, either.

Back-to-back snowstorms in Big D put a damper on things — forcing flight cancellations, snarling traffic and putting the kibosh on some of the pregame festivities. Ice that fell from the stadium roof caused several injuries and delayed the installation of temporary seats that were supposed to pack another 15,000 into Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ $1.2 billion football palace.

With some of those seats unavailable, 1,250 fans with tickets were relocated to different places around the stadium. Some were forced to stand throughout the game, while others were relegated to watching on TV from a field level club behind the Steelers bench.

“They took us to a bar,” said Paul Colavecchi, a displaced fan from Clearfield, Pa., who came to Texas with his sister. “That’s terrific. That’s why we fronted five grand for this trip — so we could watch the game in a bar. I didn’t have to take a plane trip to Texas to watch the game on TV, and I certainly didn’t buy a ticket so I could watch the game in a bar.”

Colavecchi and others missed seeing Christina Aguilera, when she opened the evening by flubbing a line while she sang the national anthem.

“I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through,” she said in a statement after the performance.

They also missed seeing a halftime show that got mixed reviews. The NFL brought the Black Eyed Peas to the field after several years of going with older, “safer,” acts — the Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul McCartney. But the jump back into the 21st century seemed a bit stilted at times to some critics.

Then again, it’s supposed to be about the game and, in this case, that’s where the real show was.

For decades at the start of the now 45-year-old Super Bowl era, the NFL produced dud after dud. More recently, though, the title game has been exciting and down to the wire — exactly the way this one was.

The Packers pulled it out in a meeting of two of the league’s most storied franchises.

“This is a great day to be great, baby,” Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said.

But this could be the last uplifting day the NFL enjoys for a while. There’s no getting away from the labor strife that looms.

“Given the success of the game, given the money available, it doesn’t make sense to me that a compromise solution can’t be found,” said the NFL’s outside labor lawyer, Bob Batterman.

Eventually, it figures a solution will be found.

How much, if any, football will be missed? That is the question heading into an offseason of discontent.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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