The build-up to the Big Game doesn't help with the whole you-must-take-this-seriously effort. What with ESPN's New Year's Resolution to provide 24/7 coverage, the network made "mining the details" an art form. I'm sure you were as thrilled as I to know when the 49ers arrived in New Orleans and what potential advantage that timing could give them.
I also appreciated that Tedy Bruschi or Shannon Sharpe or Boomer Esiason broke down play after play after play for me, using lots of arrows and squiggly lines and the rewind-fast forward button. It works out great, because I'd always wanted to give my kids dinner from a pistol formation,and now I know exactly how to do it.
I just wish these so-called journalists had taken the time to uncover that the two coaches from the two teams are - get this - BROTHERS! I mean, how crazy is that?!? I'm no media professional, but I'm convinced the sports world would have really enjoyed hearing about an intra-family rivalry. I, for one, would have enjoyed an interview or two with these boys' parents because, like, WHO ARE THEY GOING TO ROOT FOR?
Finally press-time became game-time, and all those large men in shoulder pads ran out behind crazed flag-bearers and sparkly, shooting lights. Jennifer Hudson looked angry in front of the Sandy Hook chorus, Alicia Keys milked every stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner," and 8 college graduates peered intently at a coin with two sides. Time for kick-off.
Cue the laugh track.
5. Jim Harbaugh
"Coach Jim," as he was referred to last night, has six kids, and my guess is they've only misbehaved once in their respective lives. Because their father is a man prone to exasperation and the most googliest-moogliest of eye-popping outrage. If his headset could talk, it'd be crying.
At various points during the game, I was nervous his eyes would explode. Then I worried he'd separate his shoulder from all the herky-jerky gesticulating. I was most impressed, though, by the solid wind effects he provided for Beyonce's hair from all his angry sighing.
He ended the game in fitting fashion: throwing his hands above his head and then ripping them to his chest, violently and repeatedly. I'm told by 6 analysts from CBS that said motion is the international sign for "God, stop staring at Ray Lewis and throw a bone over here! I'm over here!" Or it's referee sign language for "holding." Either way, Coach Jim really embraced the maneuver and gave it some furious flair, like only he could.
4. The Compare/Contrast
As I've mentioned, on the other sideline, na-na-na-booing at Coach Jim was his older brother, Coach John. The big brother is known to be more laid back in the facial-expression department, and he held true to form last night. Except when he decided to verbally undress a middle-aged, slightly paunchy, in-over-his-head stadium security guy with a walkie-talkie who had the unfortunate task of explaining to Coach John that "the lights are out." (You can watch the dressing-down here, but only if you're allowed to see movies rated PG-13.)
Well, then comes the second half of the game, and the 49ers start making their comeback. Which includes them scoring touchdowns.
The fancy CBS producers got it in their heads that it'd be cool to do some split screens comparing-contrasting the brothers. Phil Simms and Jim Nantz must have given the gimmick a solemn nod/thumbs up, and after one of those lead-winnowing touchdowns, someone in the control room yelled "CUT TO SPLIT SCREEN! CUT TO SPLIT SCREEN!"
So they did. On the left, there was an image of Coach Jim putting his hands in touchdown formation over his head, a look of not-displeasure passing over his face. On the right, Coach John turned his head away in disgust and maybe exhaled.
Phil or Jim made penetrating commentary along the lines of "And that, folks, is how these two different brother react to that play." Whoa, that's a lot of genetics/child psychology/Freud to take in one pictorial. Could it be nature or nurture that's to blame for the one guy looking relieved/not suicidal and the other guy looking kind of disgruntled? Gosh, this just adds a whole new dimension to the game!
Wait, oh, what's that? You think their differing reactions might be because one guy's team just scored and the other guy's team just let the score happen? Well, surface-level thinking like that is why you're sitting on your couch and not in a press box with a plastic card on a lanyard around your neck, AMATEUR!
3. The Power Outage
Jack Black and Melissa McCarthy had a love child and they named it Third-Quarter Power Outage. Just after Jacoby Jones returned the longest kickoff in NFL history to give the Ravens a commanding 28-6 lead, the lights went out in the Superdome. And the wheels officially fell off the wagon.
Joe Flacco leaped up from the Ravens' bench, grabbed his helmet, and started doing the stop, drop and roll. Phil and Jim were condemned to radio silence since power went out in the booth. That left the on-field commentators to pick up the slack.
Shannon Sharpe opened with something about the Ravens taking the power out of the 49ers, and then he used the word momentum as a noun, verb and adjective. Cut to players stretching on the field. Back to Dan Marino, talking about momentum. Cut to Colin and Coach Jim having a game of catch. Shannon again, saying "momentous." Cut to a clock counting the seconds the power outage has gripped the Superdome in its failed CTRL+ALT+Delete.
Then came my second favorite part about the power outage: the non-updates. One fellow after another appeared or was quoted on air as reporting that the NFL refused to issue a statement about what caused the power outage. We heard this several times. "Hey guys, no news about what caused the power outage! (P.S. Momentum.)"
4. The Quarterback Question
My FAVORITE part about the power outage came about 5 minutes into it. Bill Cowher, he of the On-Field Analysts, was so desperate to fill time that he actually said the following:
"I don't know the team as well as Jim Harbaugh, but I think Alex Smith could run a better one-minute offense than Colin Kaepernick."
Read that sentence again. Every clause of it is awesome. The perceived need to establish that you, an ex-coach and paid talker, do not "know" the team as well as its coach. And then the quick jump to insinuating what the coach should do. And the insinuation being that the quarterback controversy that was laid to rest weeks ago should be exhumed. And then the leap that a one-minute offense is needed when we're about one minute into the second half.
Somebody, get that man a seat at the Modern Family writing table.
5. Ray Lewis
Oh, Ray Lewis. Or should I call you Mr. Lewis? Or Disciple Lewis?
I daresay they are few men with less perspective about themselves, their profession, or their place in the world than Ray Lewis. This man's job is to hit people, really hard, and hopefully hurt them enough that he doesn't incur a fine but does make them think differently about running or throwing towards him. The soundtrack to his work-day is a snarling growl. He accentuates his uniform by adding a Silence-of-the-Lambs mask to his helmet.
He played a controversial role in a double-homicide that took place outside an Atlanta nightclub in 2001. In college, the police were called on two occasions when two girlfriends, each pregnant with his child, accused him of domestic violence. Today, he has six children with four women.
He came back from a torn tricep injury to play in these play-offs. Average recovery time for such an injury reportedly takes 6 months; he did it in 10 weeks. Now there are reports he did it with something less like miracles and more like a banned substance swabbed from the antler of a deer. Or something.
Yet watch Ray before, during, and especially after a game - including last night's - and you'd think he's a monk with a freakish build and otherwise rare desire to barrel men into turf. He's crying, he's gazing heavenward, he's wearing t-shirts footnoting Bible verses.
Pre-game, he explained his trip to the Super Bowl by noting that God was "using him....for His glory." Post-game, he simplified the Ravens' victory by remarking that "When God is for you, who can be against you?"
Oh my gosh, Ray. You're killing me.
But seriously, please don't kill me.
I hope God's with me on this one.