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'Cheeseheads' Face 'Terrible Towels' in Super Bowl

Green Back Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk stretches with teammates during practice Thursday
Green Back Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk stretches with teammates during practice Thursday

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UPDATE: The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, 31-25, earning their first National Football League championship in 14 years. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers face each other for the championship of the National Football League. This week’s show is all about Super Bowl Sunday -- the teams, the cities and the arty stadium where the players will meet.


The Cities

DOUG JOHNSON: Millions of Americans will settle down for a few hours of television on Sunday night. Or maybe settle down is the wrong term. Most Americans will be jumping up and down, cheering loudly or crying out threats and denunciations. All will be yelling directly at the television as if it can answer their appeals.

Can you guess what Americans will be watching this weekend? Of course! It is Super Bowl Sunday. Christopher Cruise has more about the competing teams and the cities they represent.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: The Green Bay Packers come from a city with a population of about one hundred thousand people. It is on the Fox River which feeds into the Green Bay of Wisconsin. The state is in the central part of the country.

Wisconsin produces beer, cars and machinery. But it is best known for making a lot of cheese. It is the second largest cheese producer in the country, after California. As a result, Wisconsin natives are known as “cheeseheads.” Sports teams from the state of Illinois first used the name as an insult. But the people of Wisconsin welcomed the cheesehead title. They use it with honor.

Henry Moser, 5, of McKinney, Texas, tries on a cheesehead at the NFL Shop in Dallas
Henry Moser, 5, of McKinney, Texas, tries on a cheesehead at the NFL Shop in Dallas

In fact, Green Bay Packers fans wear large representations of that name at football games. At the Super Bowl this Sunday, Packers fans will be wearing bright yellow, triangular-shaped pieces of foam on their heads. The foam has holes all over it and looks like a big piece of cheese.

Packers Backers are some of the fiercest fans in American football. But the same can be said for supporters of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh is in western Pennsylvania. More than two million people live in the Pittsburgh area. Three hundred eleven thousand live in the city itself.

The Steelers were named after the industry that built the city -- steel. For many years, Pittsburgh was considered the steel capital of the world. But a recession in the nineteen seventies closed steel mills in Pennsylvania.

Now, Pittsburgh’s economy depends mainly on its technology, education and healthcare industries.

And like Packers Backers, the Steelers fans have their own game-day tradition. The Terrible Towel is about forty by fifty-eight centimeters of bright yellow and black cloth, Steelers colors. Terrible Towel is written on it. Fans wave the towel around at games.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans wave their Terrible Towels
Pittsburgh Steelers fans wave their Terrible Towels

A radio announcer for the Steelers invented the Terrible Towel in nineteen seventy-five. Now Steelers fans have taken the towel all over the world. There are photographs of the towel at the top of Mount Everest, in war in Iraq and Afghanistan and even in space.

Two years ago, astronaut Michael Finke waved the Terrible Towel from the International Space Station.

But it can also be found in great numbers in Green Bay Packers land. The McArthur Towel Company of Baraboo, Wisconsin, makes the Steelers’ Terrible Towel.

Cowboys Stadium

DOUG JOHNSON: Now on to Arlington, Texas, home of Cowboys Stadium where the two teams will face each other Sunday in the Super Bowl. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team, started thinking about building the stadium in the nineteen nineties. But, it did not open until May of two thousand nine.

Cowboys Stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world. It is also the only stadium that exhibits museum-quality modern art. Faith Lapidus has more.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Cowboys Stadium cost more than one billion dollars to build. The huge stadium has a roof that opens and closes. It is also home to exciting works of art.

Stephan Ackermann works on "Coming Home (Meet Me) At the Waterfall" by his brother, artist Franz Ackermann, at Cowboys Stadium in 2009
Stephan Ackermann works on "Coming Home (Meet Me) At the Waterfall" by his brother, artist Franz Ackermann, at Cowboys Stadium in 2009

Two of them are by Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. “Moving Stars Takes Time” hangs in the main concourse. It is made of stainless steel, glass mirror, color effect filter glass, steel cable and other materials. It is a mobile, a moving sculpture. It looks like the Earth’s solar system except shinier, smoother and sharper. But it is incomplete. There are just six floating objects.

Eliasson did this purposely. He wants to force the observer to stop and study the strange sight. He wants visitors to spend some time thinking and enjoying all that surrounds them everyday.

Some of the art works are clearly linked to football. One of these is “Coin Toss,” by Texas-based artist Annette Lawrence.

This large installation of stranded cable spreads high across the main concourse. It looks like cables you find across the top of a bridge. They are shaped like an hourglass. Lawrence says the shape is linked to the promising moment at the start of the football game. The idea is of a circle turning over in space from one side of the room to the other.

Another sports-linked work is Mel Bochner’s “Win!” The New York City-based painter used acrylic paint on a cement block wall. In large, bold, black letters he wrote words of battle like “vanquish,” “conquer” and “clobber.”

Cowboys Stadium may seem like a strange setting for art but this could be a sign of the future. New artists may have to seek unusual supporters as art museums and galleries find it increasingly difficult to raise money.

There are twenty-two works of art at Cowboys Stadium. You can find a link at our website,

Super Bowl XLV

DOUG JOHNSON: And finally, Super Bowl forty-five, the big show and showdown. How did the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the two thousand ten football season? And what can viewers expect to see during the game that will be broadcast to much of the world?

The Green Bay Packers regular season record was ten wins and six losses. However, all their losses were in extremely close games.

This will be the Packers’ sixth visit to the Super Bowl. They won the championship three times.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been to the Super Bowl seven times before. They have been the National Football League Champions six times. The last victory was in two thousand nine.

Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior stretches during practice Thursday
Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior stretches during practice Thursday

Super Bowl forty-five will be broadcast live around the world. Last year, an estimated one hundred six million people in the United States watched the championship game between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts.

Broadcasting experts said it was the most-watched program of any kind in American television history. Advertisers paid at least two and one-half million dollars for a thirty-second commercial broadcast during the game.

This year the cost of commercials has risen. A thirty-second ad will cost at least three million dollars. But marketers say it is worth it. They say the ads have a popular culture appeal. Many of them are very funny and entertaining. Some people turn on the game for the commercials alone.

The hip-hop band Black Eyed Peas will perform during the Super Bowl’s halftime break. The group released its latest album, “The Beginning,” in November. Here is “The Time (Dirty Bit)” from that album.


Reporter Caty Weaver talked to some people on the streets of Washington to find out what they will be doing on Super Bowl Sunday.

We start with Thomas. He will be watching the game at his home with family and about fifteen friends.

THOMAS: “Oh yeah, we having a Super Bowl party. We gonna cook and eat, I mean we gonna party.”

So what is on the menu?

THOMAS: “A little bit of everything. Chili, you got ribs, chicken, potato salad, greens, macaroni, a nice buffet."

And he says there will be a lot of shouting and cheering. There is opposition in the group, he says.

THOMAS: “See, I’m Pittsburgh and my sister and them, they’re Green Bay.”

Cat Austin is from Woodbridge, Virginia. She also plans to have several couples over for the Super Bowl. She says she will put out wine and cheese. Cat Austin says she does not care about football.

CAT AUSTIN: “I don’t watch football except to be able to come to the office and talk about it with the guys.”

However, she says her guests will get excited.

CAT AUSTIN: “The football culture is the football culture. It’s all fun, friends and family getting together eating and yelling and just having fun.”

Christina Aguilera will sing “The Star Spangled Banner” before the game begins. We leave you with the singer performing “Bionic” from her latest album of the same name.


DOUG JOHNSON: I’m Doug Johnson. Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.