Super Bowl, Super Drama
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post for Unboxed Thoughts focused on the PR challenges facing the NFL. At the time, domestic abuse was front and center in the minds of NFL football fans, as Ray Rice and Greg Hardy made headlines for their bad behavior.
Now, months later, a new PR headache plagues the league. The dominating performance of the Patriots in their blowout win of the Colts in the AFC Championship is now clouded by allegations that the Pats toyed with footballs to give their team an unfair advantage. In the first week following the game all the talk is about deflated footballs and little is discussed on sports radio and TV about the Super Bowl matchup itself. The NFL has another PR nightmare on its hands that takes the focus off the field.
ESPN, Fox Sports and the rest of the sports media love a heated controversy and excel at drawing viewers, listeners and readers in with around-the-clock coverage of each and every black eye facing the league. From domestic violence to weapons charges to DWI, there has been no shortage of off-the-field discretions to cover. After 17 weeks of meaningful football and a month of preseason, I am geared up for what should be an incredible Super Bowl. I couldn't care less about how much air the Patriots put in their game day balls against the Colts. I am focused on the Big Game and not on the minute details of how many ounces each ball is required to weigh by the NFL.
My advice is to tune out the noise and nonsense and focus on what should be a memorable Super Bowl this February in Arizona. Here is what I am looking at:
- The Patriots crushed the Colts not through the air, but on the ground. The Pats' LeGarrette Blount ran for nearly 150 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground against Indianapolis. If the ball was a bit heavier, would this have made a difference? A slightly deflated ball would have no impact on the running game. Blount could have been toting around a carton of milk instead of a football and it would not have mattered. The Colts lost by nearly 40 points to the Pats. In my view, the air pressure of the footballs is completely irrelevant and is just noise.
- Speaking of Blount, he is yet another example of Bill Belichick's brilliance at turning lemons into lemonade. Blount is a journeyman running back that was not highly coveted by the other 31 teams in the NFL. The Pats plugged him into their system and magic happened. That is what they do best. Look at the Pat's offensive depth chart. Other than their top tight end, there are few playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Belichick excels at taking middle of the road players and putting them in the right position to shine. I am very interested to see who will get this opportunity in the Super Bowl and expect the MVP on the offensive side of the ball will be someone we least expect.
- Last I checked, neither the Patriots nor the Seahawks are favored by Vegas in the Super Bowl. They are given equal chances of winning. I believe this is a first time in my lifetime this has happened. Like the Pats, Seattle has few big playmakers on offense outside of their top running back. Yet, they dominated the league with their defense and opportunistic play on offense. The game will come down to which team is most creative on both sides of the ball. In Belichick and Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seahawks, we have two of the most creative and gutsy coaches in the league. It will be interesting to see how both coaches match up in terms of introducing disruptive and innovative play calls into their game plans.
- That Belichick and Carroll are facing off in the Super Bowl is a minor miracle in itself. Before Belichick became head coach of the Patriots, he was dumped as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. At the time, it did not look like he would get another opportunity to be a head coach in the league again. Twenty years or so ago, Carroll was canned by the New York Jets after one season as head coach when he led the team to a 6-10 record. Now, Carroll is going for his second Super Bowl ring in two years and Belichick is in a position to win his fourth Super Bowl. Belichick is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame and Carroll, with another win, could punch his ticket.
- Nobody knows who will win this intriguing matchup of world class coaches. Regardless of how much air is in the balls or how little respect the Seahawks' Doug Baldwin thinks folks have for Seattle's offense or any other silly story lines that will surround the game, I think the game will be a great one and will come down to the wire. Nobody outfoxed Bill Belichick and I don't see that happening in this game. Put me down for: Patriots 24, Seahawks 20. As a Jets fan, I hate to see the Pats win. But, they are simply too crafty and well coached to lose this one.