Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Bowl Miscellany

Random thoughts related (or at least somewhat related) to the big XLVIIth championship game that takes place this Sunday.

Who I Think Will Win

I can make an equally compelling case for each team, but my gut tells me Baltimore will pull this off and that feeling in my gut gets stronger with each passing day. The Ravens have that "team of destiny" feel about them. The large number of high-performing thirtysomethings on their roster reminds me of the 1982 Redskins team that won Super Bowl XVII. My prediction is Baltimore 20, San Francisco 17.

Who I Want To Win
For the first time in my life, I can not choose a favorite to root for among two teams playing in a Super Bowl. I like the smashmouth style and hard-working philosophy that both teams employ, and like that both have been built largely through the draft...I like that both quarterbacks played at colleges that aren't known as football factories...I like both head coaches (and am not going to mention the "br-----" word)...I like both cities' home-harvested seafood, whether it's blue crabs from Chesapeake Bay or Dungeness crabs from Frisco Bay...And, I like both teams' nicknames.

Yes, nicknames.

I have great appreciation for the fact that "49'ers" honors San Francisco's Old West past when it was a go-for-broke frontier port at the height of the Gold Rush. I have visited today's San Francisco, and must admit that it has many charms and is the single most beautiful city I have ever seen; however, its modern culture is infused with a high dose of flakiness that -- let's be honest -- is simply not consistent with the spirit of football. What is consistent with that spirit is the image of gun-toting prospectors sifting for gold in rushing streams while looking over their shoulders for thieves and grizzlies.

Across the continent, Baltimore's nickname is a brilliant twofer. Back before Art Modell ripped the heart out of Cleveland, I often thought that "Ravens" would be an awesome nickname for a professional sports franchise. After all, ravens are big and ominous-looking, and some ancient cultures associated them with warfare while others identified them as deities. But what makes "Ravens" even cooler as a moniker for Baltimore's football team is this: The team was given the name because Baltimore is where Edgar Allen Poe died and is buried.

And think about this: Poe died in 1849, the very same year the Gold Rush occurred and spawned the word "49'ers."

Players Not to Forget About
As in, here are my psuedo-predictions about players the media is not talking about this week, but who will make a key play to determine the outcome of the Super Bowl. I say "pseudo-prediction" because I am taking a weasel's way out by picking one from each team, ignoring the fact that only one team can have such a player.

If San Francisco prevails, it will do so in great part because of a play made by cornerback Carlos Rogers. It will be either an interception after he drops surprisingly deep in pass coverage to pick off one of Joe Flacco's deep throws; or a tackle made after he darts daringly close to the line of scrimmage a split second before the ball is snapped on a crucial third-and-short. I am calling Rogers's number because he is still a lights-out, clutch performer -- and, yes, because he went to Auburn. The predicted interception I just described is identical to one he made against Georgia during the 2004 undefeated season; and the predicted tackle is identical to one he made in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech to preserve that undefeated season.

However, if Baltimore wins, it will be because second-year linebacker Josh Bynes, during one of his turns on the field, reads the eyes of Colin Kaepernick, drops back, picks off a pass intended for Vernon Davis, and sprints to the house for a game-changing TD...My reason for thinking Bynes can do such a thing on football's biggest stage? Simple, and impeccable: He played for Auburn and was on the 2010 national championship team. Like you should know by now, everything I am saying in this post is extremely subjective.

Hall of Fame
As happens every year, inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be chosen the day before the Super Bowl. From a list of fifteen finalists, only five can make it. If I had a vote, these are the five I would choose: Andre Reed, Charles Haley, Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan, and Eddie DeBartolo.

It is tough to whittle the list down because it means eliminating people who are worthy of being inducted, like Bill Parcells. And it means eliminating one of the best offensive linemen who has ever played (Jonathan Ogden) even though I believe the O line is every team's most important collective position.

For the record, I do not expect Andre Reed to be chosen on Saturday by those who do have a vote, and I believe his exclusion from the Hall is a travesty. I also believe it reflects an unjust bias against wide receivers -- for I suspect that many voters believe receivers are made great by their quarterbacks, even though my decades of watching football have shown me that quarterbacks are just as likely to be made great by their receivers.

Ray Lewis
As everyone who watches football knows, Lewis was present when two men were killed at an Atlanta nightclub 13 years ago; was charged with their murder; and while never found guilty, subsequently plead guilty to obstruction of justice in regard to the investigation of their killings...And as everyone who watches football also knows, in the years since that killing he has worn religion on his sleeve and become known as an inspirational team leader.

For obvious reasons, Lewis is a lightning rod. Some people think he is a good man who pushes himself to greatness and wants to help others maximize their potential. Others claim he is a murderer who got away with it. While I stop short of calling any man a saint, when it comes to the Ray Lewis debate, I strongly disagree with those in the "he's a murderer" camp. Frankly, I think many of them need to take a look in the mirror, and then do some thinking instead of feeling, before they cast judgment on the man from Bartow, Florida whom they have never met.

Although I could spend thousands of words explaining why I cast my lot the way I do when it comes to Ray Lewis, I have decided to wait until after the Super Bowl to do so, because a post about that topic might be very long and should not have to compete with other topics for attention. Until I write that post, have a good time and enjoy the game!

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