Sports writers across the world have all the storylines they need for upcoming Superbowl XLIX, and advertisers started their lead-in commercials two weeks early. Cue the hype machine.
The defending Superbowl Champion Seattle Seahawks return to face the New England Patriots, in a match-up expected to be greater than last year’s blowout of the Denver Broncos.
Leading into last year’s Superbowl we were forced to believe an athlete (Richard Sherman) hollering boastful and victorious nothings into a journalist’s microphone, in the immediate afterglow of a hot contest, warranted two weeks of media examination. The current lead-in hype story is significantly more valid.
The confirmation of the Patriots illegally deflating footballs – to gain better grip on the ball – in the AFC Championship versus the Indianapolis Colts is no surprise. Continuously the Patriots franchise has been accused and found guilty of shady practices off and on the field. Whether spying on the other team’s practices, or taking advantage of gaps in rules, this is how the Patriots franchise operates under the football leadership of head coach Bill Belichick.
The pervading sentiment is that the deflation of balls – each team has their own set of 12 balls – did not affect the 45-7 outcome of the game. The Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell might disagree as a proponent of the notion that little things can mean a lot. Momentum can be the worst enemy or best friend of any cause. Most well formulated human games, from backgammon to baseball, can pivot immensely on simple moments of fortune or misfortune. And it is historically quoted that “football is a game of inches”, and now we can add “pounds per square inch (PSI)” as well.
The real football storylines are primarily on the side of the defending champion Seahawks.
The Seahawks shocking victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship would remain much more in the spotlight if not for the Patriots cheating scandal.
The epic emotional postgame interview with Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson after the game, earned hardly moderate attention – certainly in comparison to Sherman’s version a year before. Wilson’s game ending comeback after throwing four interceptions was a rare achievement. His unique combination of gifts, as a leader, athlete, and quarterback, were compared by Belichick to Hall of Fame Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach of the 70’s.
And while the Seattle defense and running-back Marshawn Lynch are most critical to the team’s historic run since last season, special respect is owed to Head Coach Pete Carroll. Carroll has yet to garner an NFL Coach of the Year award, but should his team pick up a second consecutive Superbowl, then his NFL Hall of Fame future will become much more certain.
What was certain in the win over Green Gay was that his team stood scoreless until an aggressive fake field goal call for a touchdown before halftime. That critical call permanently brought the game close. The successful onside kick to pull ahead in the fourth quarter was another coaching win.
Criticisms aside, Carroll versus Belichick makes for a spectacular, football chess match this Superbowl.
Defense wins championships. Whichever team manages to perform best in that aspect will earn the respect they seek…plus a trip to Disneyland and the White House.