The Green Bay Packers are a slight favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers in this Sunday's Super Bowl. Oddsmakers and football analysts typically base their predictions on the strength of offenses, defenses, players and coaches. But Morning Edition music commentator Miles Hoffman has broken down the game differently: by weighing the musical talents of the teams and their home cities.
When you look at the musical pedigrees of the teams' home cities, Green Bay would seem like the underdog.
"Pittsburgh is one of the great musical cities — not just of the country, but of the world," Hoffman says. "There are musical groups from Renaissance ensembles to barbershop quartets. And, of course, there's the great Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which is really one of the great orchestras of the world."
That seems like a huge advantage for Pittsburgh. But Hoffman says the competition is closer than many may think.
"Green Bay has its own excellent musical institutions," Hoffman says. "It has a symphony — the Green Bay Symphony — which is 97 years old."
That's not quite as old as the Pittsburgh Symphony, which is 17 years older. But there are many other musical institutions in Green Bay. Some are connected to the University of Wisconsin. There's also a Green Bay Civic Symphony, which recently performed a football-themed concert with Sam Spence, legendary composer of music for NFL Films.
Pittsburgh may have the edge in musical pedigree. But to truly support a team, a city needs a fight song. Both the Packers and the Steelers have official fight songs, but Hoffman says neither gives its team a musical advantage.
"Both are pretty bad, and neither one of them is exactly Mozart," Hoffman says. "So I don't know if we can judge there."
On the teams' lineups, though, the winner is clear. Several Steelers have held positions on the board of the Pittsburgh Symphony. But Green Bay players sweep the field with their musical talent.
"There are a whole bunch of Packers who have taken piano lessons in Green Bay," Hoffman says. "There's [quarterback] Aaron Rodgers, who also plays the guitar and is very interested in music theory. He has his own record label, so he's really into music. Safety Nick Collins, cornerback Jarrett Bush, safety Charlie Peprah, quarterback Matt Flynn, linebacker Brad Jones — they've all taken group piano lessons in Green Bay."
The players loved it and took it seriously.
"When they play their pieces together, they kid each other about how bad they are, and then they play absolutely as well as they can," Hoffman says.
Hoffman concludes that Green Bay, at least when it comes to the musical talent of its players, has the edge. And on the field?