Everyone loves a villain. But what happens when the lead characters are both villains? Do you care? Do you cheer? Do you hold your nose and side with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks – the neighbors up the coast – or roll with the New England Patriots and embrace all their theatrics?
Rest assured, there will be few pit stops today. Choose a living room in America, any living room in America, and a Super Bowl featuring the Seahawks and Patriots is as polarizing and intriguing as Bush vs. Clinton.
Controversy. Conflict. Allegations of cheating. A murder trial in the backdrop. A potential birth keeping hospitals on high alert. And best of all, two accomplished and outstanding teams preparing to kick off. Here are just a few reasons that make it impossible to turn away:
▪ There aren’t very many clean hands in the Patriots organization these past several years, and Bill Belichick’s reputation as a ruthless, bullying, win-at-all-costs head coach is well-chronicled and well-deserved. “Spygate“ was the equivalent of stealing the answers to a written math test in advance. “Deflategate” is the mystery without an ending, though someone within the organization clearly messed with the footballs. Fortunately, the investigation extends beyond this weekend, which means Belichick’s coaching brilliance will be on full display as he ties Don Shula with six Super Bowl appearances as a head coach.
Those are impressive numbers. So are his 21 playoff victories. If you can get past “Deflategate” and the mumbling and the hoodies – the man obviously has no sense of style – Belichick’s stature among the coaching greats remains secure. He is demanding, obsessive about details and preparation, and at 62, still owns one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game. And thus far, anyway, he has remained on the periphery in the tawdry Aaron Hernandez murder trial.
▪ Pete Carroll. This is a big year for the over-60 crowd, apparently. While Belicheck seeks his fourth Super Bowl title, the Seahawks’ Carroll is trying to make it two in a row – a daunting challenge in all professional sports. The youthful-looking California native also is attempting to expunge bad feelings from his underwhelming coaching experiences in New England and New York (Jets). After a very successful detour to USC – amid allegations of NCAA recruiting violations, improper payment to players, etc. – Carroll was plucked by Seahawks owner Paul Allen and empowered to remake the team in his image.
Watch the Seahawks perform, how they utilize length, athleticism and brute force and almost gleefully punish their opponents, and it is pretty obvious that Carroll is more than just another surfer dude with a pretty face. Consecutive championships would cement his stature among the greats.
▪ Richard Sherman. While the loquacious defensive back angered 49ers fans with his postgame critique of wideout Michael Crabtree during the playoffs a year ago, there is much to be said for someone who never shuts up and always has something interesting to say. Besides all of the above – including his length and speed and instincts – the pending birth of Sherman’s son could be the best subplot of the day. If the little one refuses to cooperate, does Sherman join his companion at a local hospital or does he stay and play the game?
▪ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insisted Friday that none of his franchises are relocating to Los Angeles in the immediate future. Fans in Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis can exhale, if only temporarily. Just so you know: There is no doubt Goodell is being lobbied hard throughout the weekend. All the fancy, schmancy hotels have side entrances and backrooms where side deals are cut.
▪ Why would anyone want to talk to Marshawn Lynch anyway? Here’s hoping DeMarcus Cousins ignores Lynch’s lack of professionalism and charms the horde of media members converging at the NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 13-15 in New York. Revealing bits of his personality during mandatory media sessions not only expands his brand – that’s the phrase these days – it humanizes him. The fifth-year center can be a charming and funny guy, and his candor and insights are always appreciated. So steal some lines from Sherman, but close the book on Lynch.
▪ The Patriots’ tough decisions. Early in the season, when the Seahawks were staggering, sniping, and appeared unlikely to reach consecutive Super Bowls, the organization identified the toxicity in their clubhouse and eliminated the source. Wideout Percy Harvin has not been missed.
▪ How could anyone not appreciate Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson? He is 5-foot-10, for crying out loud. Some opponents who try to tackle him – or smother him with their girth – weigh more than 300 pounds. Yet Wilson stands up, runs around and keeps coming back for more. He has that tremendous arm, a knack for escapability, a terrific sense of timing, and remarkable poise for such a young player.
▪ That other quarterback? Tom Brady could star in the “Ken and Barbie Show,” but his stunning looks and celebrity marriage to model Gisele Bundchen shouldn’t be held against him. The former Serra High standout comes from humble NFL roots. After battling to win the starting job his last two years at Michigan, Brady was a modest sixth-round draft choice in 2000, the 199th player selected overall. He got his big break when Drew Bledsoe was injured, and he never looked back. Among his many accomplishments: He led the Patriots to playoff berths in 12 of his 14 seasons as a starter, has reached six Super Bowls, and in the AFC division game surpassed Joe Montana for postseason passing touchdowns.
▪ Finally, as lousy as the Kings are right now, at least they’re here. They escaped the noose that was applied by Seattle tycoons Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. And now that Ballmer owns the Los Angeles Clippers and Hansen has been left to lick his wounds, this seems like a good time to release whatever residual anger remains in this corner of Northern California. Seattle is our Left Coast neighbor, after all, and when its business leaders aren’t trolling to steal other communities’ franchises, it’s a lovely city. So does this mean we should set aside division rivalries (49ers) and pull for the Seahawks? The polls are open.