DALLAS (Reuters) - The winner of the Super Bowl will be declared the ‘world champions’, a title sometimes mocked by non-Americans but one that NFL players seem to relish.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s National Football League title game, said he loves the label.
“It’s awesome, that’s what we tell the young guys - if you win this game, you are the best of the best, the best football team in the world,” he said.
Although American football is broadcast around the world, professional teams are scarce outside of the United States, especially since the 2007 demise of the NFL Europe league.
That leads some, even those close to ‘world champions’ themselves, to question whether the title is accurate.
“My wife is, ‘How can you guys be world champs when other countries don’t play football?’ She gives me trouble about that,” Steelers tight end Heath Miller, whose wife Katie played soccer at youth international level for the United States, told Reuters.
The moniker originates from the first three Super Bowls, before the full merger of the old AFL and NFL, when the occasion was labeled the AFL-NFL World Championship game.
Packers guard Daryn Colledge thinks there is nothing wrong with the title but would like to see the global element be truly realized.
“I think it is justified,” he said. “Hey, if another place has an American football team that wants to come over and compete, I am sure the owners of the NFL wouldn’t mind bringing in more countries.”
Steelers offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu agrees.
“Definitely, if you had an American football team (elsewhere) then maybe it wouldn’t be right to call it that - but right now, every other football team that tried to get here has lost.”
Packers kicker Mason Crosby is also comfortable with the world champion title but acknowledges that soccer is the game with true global appeal.
“The NFL is the biggest league. I think (world champion) has just been the name that has stuck. But I enjoy watching soccer and outside of the U.S. it is the biggest sport in the world,” he said.
Packers running back Brandon Jackson said he is more focused on getting the Super Bowl diamond ring on his finger.
“Are there any other countries that play the game? Right now, we play the sport and we’ll be Super Bowl champions or world champions, it’s just how you phrase it,” he said.
“I’ll say Super Bowl champions. It’s about putting that ring on your finger and that’s all I care about.”
Editing by Steve Ginsburg