Friday, January 30, 2009

The Casual Fan's Guide to Watching the Super Bowl (and I don't mean just the commercials)

With the big game coming up on Sunday, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little primer for the game so that those who do not watch football every Sunday can have an idea what is going on during the game. I always thought this would be a great idea for some female oriented talk show (The View, Oprah. Rachel Ray): They should have a segment where a guy comes on who is funny and will give the audience a basic run down of what is going to happen in the game, which would probably make the game more interesting for those people watching only because the "have to". Because there really is something going on more than just new commercials (which have gotten increasingly lame over the past few years, I mean, really, can you name one truly memorable Super Bowl ad in the past few years?) The players and coaches involved in this game has decdicated the better part of their lives for the chance to be a part of this game, and I think that what they do should not be a secondary consideration to advertising.
So here are some quick hit thoughts on each team that will make the game more interesting while you watch:
Pittsburgh Steelers, they'll be wearing white jerseys with black helmets on Sunday:
The franchise has won 5 Super Bowls already - won Super Bowl XL 3 years ago - their coach is Mike Tomlin, and he will be the youngest ever to head coach a team in the Super Bowl (36) - their DEFENSE is what they are known for - their QB is young, and played very poorly in the Super Bowl three years ago - their best Wide Receiver (Hines Ward) is hurt, and we don't really know how much he will be able to contribute on Sunday - they are favored to win by 7 points, which is a pretty big margin, but not immense
Arizona Cardinals, they'll have red jerseys on with white helmets:
The franchise has never been to the Super Bowl, and are usually considered to be among the worst franchises in professional sports - their Quarterback is Kurt Warner, who is one of the truly inspiration stories in all of sports - #11 Larry Fitzgerald is really an amazing wide receiver, be sure to watch whenever he gets the ball - they had a miserable ending of the season, and no one believed they would win even one playoff game (they have now won 3) - if you had bet $100 on them to win the Super Bowl before the season started, a win for them on Sunday would mean you would be collecting $4500 (now you know why people gamble) - most people do not think they can win, and that this might actually be a blowout
There are two sets of conventional wisdom regarding how the game will go - one for how the Steelers will win and one for how the Cardinals will win. They go like this:
The Cardinals cannot make hardly ANY yards at all on offense for their first 3 or four drives. Meanwhile, the Steelers are running the ball ok, and they have a trick play that works, and it is something like 13-0 Steelers and the Cardinals still have not done anything on offense. Maybe Kurt Warner has turned it over once or twice as well. The Cardinals are in big trouble if the game play follows this kind of scenario.
The Steelers turn the ball over early, and the Cardinals capitalize. They are moving the ball well, running it some and passing it more. Kurt Warner has lots of time to throw, and Larry Fitzgerald is already making his mark on the game. The Steelers start to press, Hines Ward looks like a guy with a bad knee, and have another turnover. The Cardinals are keeping it close, and need just one or two big plays (maybe in special teams where the Steelers have had problems) to take the lead.
Usually the two sets of conventional wisdom both turn out to be wrong. That's where the promise in sports lies really - ANYTHING can happen, and often does. I'll give you ONE thing to look for as you are watching that will tell you if the Cardinals have a shot to win: Watch their QB Warner when they have the ball. When he goes back to pass, watch to see if he has 3 or more seconds to stand there and throw. If he has time to throw, the Cardinals have a chance. On the other hand, if Warner drops back and is getting pounded by 300 pound guys before he can look down the field, the Cardinals will be in for a long evening.
Remember, there's more to this game than the spectacle, there's a game going on, and sometimes it's even a really good game. If you have a couple of things to look for, it can make the game more interesting for you.

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