Devon O’Neil: What a game, yes, but what a champion, too |

Devon O’Neil: What a game, yes, but what a champion, too

I will remember Sunday’s 43rd Super Bowl for how much I yelled while watching it. Shouts of exultation, of disappointment, of disbelief.

I will remember it for the desire we saw, so naked and raw across the field that no single effort stood out.

I will remember it for the swings in momentum, the hallmark trait of any great competition.

Most of all, I will remember it for the way the Steelers proved themselves as the superior team and won a deserved world championship. Pittsburgh took Arizona’s hardest punches and remained on its feet throughout.

Point in case: The Steelers shut down Larry Fitzgerald for nearly three-quarters of the game, only to have him take three feet of space and turn it into 64 yards of potentially title-winning demoralization.

But the way the Steelers responded all night long, not just on that game-winning drive, was the principal reason they are world champs. They earned every ounce of the Lombardi Trophy.

Even Cardinals fans, albeit bitter at the way their near-miss ended, should admire that. …

A total aside: Can you imagine being the guy or gal with the numbers 7 and 7 in the halftime points pool? One moment you’re not even a consideration, then James Harrison rumbles like a buffalo 100 yards down the sideline, and suddenly your wallet is thick with bills. …

What do you do if you’re Roger Federer, and you can beat everyone in tennis except one man ” Rafael Nadal? I haven’t the answer, and I don’t think Federer does either. I guess he’ll keep playing, as painful as it is to keep losing to Nadal in Grand Slam finals, as he did Sunday in the Australian Open.

However their records end up 10 years from now, I have a feeling we’ll be looking back on this rivalry as the greatest in individual sports history ” greater even than Arnie vs. Jack. …

Happen to catch the photo of Michael Phelps hitting a bong at a college party in November?

At first I wondered how in the world his sponsors could stand by him so staunchly after such an image surfaced. The more you think about it, though, the more you realize Phelps doesn’t deserve to be vilified.

He makes tens of millions of dollars as a role model, yes, but he is only 23 years old. I know money seems to be a binding factor these days, like if you make a certain amount you’re somehow required to exist sans flaws.

The problem with that is money shouldn’t count for so much. Money buys things. It pays bills. But money should never own a human being, even if said human being is the greatest Olympic athlete in history. …

As an aside, you have to love the AP writer’s lead in the story about Phelps’ latest transgression: “Michael Phelps is unbeatable in the water. It’s on dry land where he runs into trouble.” …

Our Stat of the Week comes from the NHL, where Washington’s wunderkind forward, Alexander Ovechkin, has 36 goals in 49 games, four more than anyone else in the league. The kicker? He’s taken 323 shots ” 108 more than anyone else.

In related news, popular opinion holds that the best player in the NHL is a three-person conversation, involving Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as well as Ovechkin.

And sure enough, the top three scorers in the league are currently Malkin (75 points on 21 goals and 54 assists), Crosby (68 on 20 and 48) and Ovechkin (65 on 36 and 29).

The most incredible part is their ages. Malkin is 22, Crosby is 21 and Ovechkin is 23. …

In parting, it’s always intriguing to find out which football stars are the newest members of the pro Hall of Fame, but this past weekend’s announcement rang particularly sweet for a different reason.

Three years before he died in 2002 at age 59, “Bullet” Bob Hayes ” who won the 1964 Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters with borrowed spikes, and starred at receiver for the Cowboys from 1965-1974 ” wrote a thank-you letter in case he got elected to the Hall after his death.

His sister read the touching note upon receiving news of Hayes’ election. It read, in part, “Thank the fans all around the country and the world, thank the committee who voted for me and also the ones who (maybe) did not vote for me.

“Thank Mother and my family, thank (quarterback) Roger Staubach and tell all my team mates I love them.”

That last one was what grabbed me. In a very simple way, even after he is gone, Hayes reminds us that bonds forged in sports are among the most enduring in life.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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