SALT LAKE CITY — I know the Super Bowl is over the top. Other than grandfather clockmakers, nobody uses Roman numerals any more. But I also know that in basketball, baseball and hockey it takes four to seven games to decide the champion.
In football, it just takes one big circus-like afternoon.
More important is that unlike the other sports, the Super Bowl buildup is actually interesting. The game is just a bonus. All too often, the buildup to other championships includes a collection of vague platitudes.
But football? Like an open-field run, it’s hard to contain and easy to appreciate. Players start the hype two weeks beforehand. Admittedly it’s overkill. But so are hot wings and nachos on Super Bowl Sunday.
How do you not love a sport where the trash-talking starts at the final gun of the previous game? Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s rant at the end of the NFC title game was classic. Better still, he hasn’t hidden from the media since then. He's been everywhere.
“I could do this all day,” he told reporters at media day.
Sherman even took a snapshot from the pulpit and sent it out via Twitter.
"I'm not anybody's puppet," he continued. "You're not going to just get controversial things. I'm going to be myself every time, good, bad or indifferent, and it's not always going to be entertaining."
Oh yes it is.
Seattle has only made one trip to the Super Bowl, but the second has already been mesmerizing. Running back Marshawn Lynch took just the opposite approach from Sherman, when he stiff-armed the media two straight days. After being nearly inaccessible on a second day, the Professional Football Writers’ of America released an indignant retort.
I get their point, but Lynch has probably given them more material to work with than if he’d sung like a snitch. Partway through Lynch’s non-interview session, teammate Michael Robinson commandeered the mic and exhorted reporters to “bring your questions to me.”
So in one chair was a guy who wouldn’t talk. Next to him was a guy who could stage a filibuster.
The best stuff of the week, though, came after Sherman — yup, that Sherman — said Denver’s Peyton Manning “throws ducks,” meaning he throws wobbly or short passes.
Manning’s response: "I do throw ducks. I've thrown a lot of yards and touchdown ducks, so I'm actually quite proud of it."
While such commentary doesn’t happen every year, it often does. Turn loose 53 players in a room and someone — or everyone — is going to step out of line. That’s the beauty of it. I covered one Super Bowl where Deion Sanders said he wanted to be a billionaire and asked what was wrong with that.
“Deion,'' one reporter earnestly asked, “do you have to be careful not to say anything? It seems like these media days are sterile anymore ... ''
“I'm gonna let it flow,'' said Neon Deion. “I'm not gonna hold back. What I feel, I'm gonna say.''
That was the same Dallas team that included Michael Irvin and Nate Newton, a couple of world-class talkers. Newton said that Tempe (Ariz.) police “came in and gave us a list of places not to go, so I wrote them down and went there.”
The Cowboys were even more wonderful after the game than before.
"Don't say this is something special to us," said Irvin in the post-game interview period. "That's for you guys to say. We already knew we were special."
Remember, it was also a Super Bowl week that Jim McMahon mooned a news chopper.
Does that ever happen in the NBA Finals?
“It’s media, baby,” Newton said in 1996. “It’s the hype.”
After cutting short the media this year, and ignoring the NFL’s pleas for him to cooperate, Lynch admitted he was only there to avoid getting fined by the league. Robinson pretend-interviewed Lynch, saying he wanted to “break up the monotony a little bit.”
That he did that he did.
Sunday’s game may be the classic it should be, or it might be a flop. But it makes no difference to me. All I know is when it comes to playing the game, these guys are great — both on the field and in the media.
Joe Namath set the bar, way back at Super Bowl III, when he guaranteed a Jets win.
Ever since, the Super Bowl has largely lived up to its name, one way or another.
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