Super Bowl Game, Parties and Quarterbacks
Shortly after 6pm, some 100 million people will tune into the Super Bowl game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. Many of those millions are casual fans, just gong to Super Bowl parties and bars to watch the game and have fun doing so. Serious “football-watchers” like you and myself, however, watch for different reasons, like strategy, rooting interest, gambling, fantasy football and of course, making sure our predictions go as planned.
One point that was made in that piece, however, is that this Sunday’s football game is all about the quarterbacks. Here you have a Steelers team that throughout history has been a proponent of running the football and defense, and yet all anyone can talk about are Ben Roethlisberger’s “comeback” and his pursuit of a third Super Bowl ring that will propel him past guys like John Elway and put him in the famed company of Tom Brady.
Then there is the other quarterback. While the Green Bay Packers are pretty accustomed to celebrating great quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers is not used to being celebrated. Sure, he has had statistical success since Day 1, but he didn’t win his first playoff football game until this season, and all of a sudden he’s being mentioned among the top 3 or 4 best quarterbacks in the league.
But we’ll come back to the quarterbacks in a second.
What’s really important here is how you feel about the game?
Are you happy to take all of Sunday off and do nothing but enjoy the pleasure of watching a game with 100 million other people that don’t have anything better to do than eat chips and watch television?
Can you not wait to get your mouth on that first bite of pizza just as the opening kick goes into the air?
Does the thought of having a Super Bowl party make you the least bit excited about that new couch that you spent way too much money on?
Are you happy that as we approach the Super Bowl, we may be witnessing the last football game for quite some time now? Unless of course, you’re talking about futbol, which of course, is played on a regular basis anywhere outside of Harlem.
Let’s face it; American football is a part of our souls. It’s the fun part of our souls, a part that has very little do with anything tangible, and a part that makes us throw wonderful parties in the name of sport Still, we take our football way too seriously. When somebody messes up, we immediately want him to take blame for it in the post-game press conference. If a coach appears to mismanage the game, we have to know why he didn’t make this substitution or call that play.
During the Super Bowl, that criticism, born out of a place of fun and happiness, will come down upon the heads of Coach Mike Tomlinson and Coach Mike McCarthy like a linebacker down the “A” gap. Don’t get me wrong. I certainly have taken the opportunity to make sports a bit more serious than it needs to be in a column or two. However, in such instances, I was wrong. I was wrong to make the sport of football, or any sport for that matter, too serious. Mike McCarthy won’t be a bad coach if he loses this game. And Mike Tomlinson isn’t lucky if manages to win his second Super Bowl in three years. I’m letting bad coaching off the hook, but the fact is that coaches are what they are. The players control the game. And the only things about football that should be taken seriously are the players on the field.
Then again, should the players even care so much?
As we approach the Super Bowl, it’s easy to see how players lend themselves to the serious nature of football. Afraid to say the wrong thing or piss of the wrong person, football players shy away from the camera like a 7th grader shies away from asking the pretty girl to dance at the school Halloween party. Of course, in this age of media and new media, a lack of sound bites from some only means more air time for the big mouths. Enter Chad Johnson’s dating reality show and Antonio Cromartie’s curse-filled rants.
You won’t hear any Cromartie-like statements coming out of the lead up to the Super Bowl though. We haven’t heard trash talk on Media Day of the Super Bowl since Plaxico Burress predicted the final score to the New York Giants eventual win over the 18-1 New England Patriots. While Burress ultimately delivered on his promise, statements like those didn’t lend to his favor when he needed all the creditability he could get once he fired a gun off in the bowels of a Manhattan nightclub.
Burress isn’t alone though. People don’t like Cromartie because he spoke his mind. People don’t like Joey Porter because he runs his mouth. And who the hell loves Terrell Owens when he’s barking up and down the sideline at the closest head coach or quarterback that will listen to him?
Still, the guys who talk the most and speak their mind are the reason we love the NFL. If nobody said anything, the NFL would still score huge viewing numbers, but if you don’t think Cromartie’s telling Tom Brady to go bleep himself didn’t draw in a few more casual (and valuable younger) viewers, you’re crazy.
The NFL needs more vocal football players. People who entertain us with their mere presence are what make the world go round. It’s why Keith Olbermann will always have a job on television. It’s why Mike Ditka is a commentator on ESPN’s NFL Countdown. And it’s why our current President was elected into office. People like soaring speeches, daring claims, and the gumption of the underdog. They eat that stuff up for lunch—hell, I eat it up.
And that is why it would be great to see Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger go at it in the media this week. That of course is just a media member’s dream that won’t come true. The biggest stars on their teams, playing in the NFL’s biggest game, on television’s biggest stage going at it like two name-calling teenagers would make for one heck of a story. Because unlike the matchups in the Super Bowl, Rodgers and Roethlisberger can actually be on the same “playing field” during the week. On the field, there can be no such battle. Rodgers can’t run out and tackle a Steelers wide receiver headed for the end zone from his place on the bench. And Big Ben isn’t pass-rushing Rodgers. Thus, any nonsense talk about this game being Rodgers vs. Roethlisberger is crazy.
I wish I could make this game about Rodgers vs. Big Ben and their respective race for career-defining Super Bowl wins, but I can’t. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing real. They’re too good to knock down even in a loss, and the fact that they’re too serious to come at each other during the week takes away any potential spice their non-dueling positions could conjure up. For two guys who play with such reckless abandonment, they are amazingly constrained in front of a microphone.
Call it good PR-prep or home training, but whatever it is, these quarterbacks, like the many quarterbacks before them, take the game too seriously to talk about anything other than football this week. Maybe that’s what they should do to play their best game, but in reality; a few moments on the mic can’t take away from hours, weeks, months and years of preparing for the Super Bowl. Serious is who they are though—just like the teams they represent.
You, however, can take it upon yourself to make football a little bit more fun. Toss the pre-game analysis. Forget about Big Ben’s pursuit of #3 or the monkey on Aaron Rodgers back. Don’t listen to the pundits try to make an underdog out of one team, or make a mountain out of mole hill when there’s nothing else to report. Just sit back, enjoy your nachos, pizza and beer, and watch a game that was meant to be fun, while having fun. Millions of casual fans will do just that, and I want you to do that as well. For many major sports fans, football has been far too serious for far too long, and with an impending lockout after the last game of the season, enjoying this Sunday’s Super Bowl might be your last (and maybe your first) chance to enjoy watching football. So make is Super.
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