The important thing to remember as the Super Bowl approaches is that the whole thing's a marathon, not a sprint. A good start might mean nothing, be long forgotten by the time the big day comes around. It's the kind of race that goes not necessarily to the swiftest but to the steadiest. Survive and advance. That's the strategy.
I'm not talking about football teams. I'm talking about the rest of us trying to get through the two-week gap between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The extra week off is so pointless, so dull, so encouraging of all sorts of meaningless jabber, only the strongest among us can make it through unscathed.
Super Bowl Hype Week I isn't so bad. It follows the pattern of a usual NFL week. The first couple of days are devoted to analyzing and discussing the games just played. Then around midweek our biological game clocks turn our minds toward the next Sunday, just as they'd done for the previous 20 weeks. And our minds are met with ... nothing.
It's a little disorienting. I was in a bar on Sunday afternoon and they were showing track and field on the TV. Some of us are able to gain equilibrium by sticking to routine, thinking about the coming matchup, how the Super Bowl might play out. But then the weekend comes, there's track and field on the sports bar TV, and there are a pile of empty days to get through before anybody plays any football.
That pile of days, Super Bowl Hype Week II, reduces good sports fans to quivering puddles with nothing better to do than talk about "American Idol." It is not pretty.
Some of us are able to make it. The rest are left to the coyotes.
As usual, the media reflects society in this area. Here's a sampling of the NFL cover stories on major national sports Web sites Thursday morning, four days into Super Bowl Hype Week II, barely halfway through. Note the relative absence of actual football.
ESPN.com: A photo feature about the rings worn by the first 40 Super Bowl winners.
Yahoo Sports: A Charles Robinson column about the pending free agency of Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.
MSNBC: A Mike Celizic column about how this year's Bears aren't the collection of colorful characters Mike Ditka's '85 team was. "They don't come with a [catchy] nickname or even a clear identity."
I tell you what, boy, this '80s nostalgia we have these days is nothing compared with the '60s nostalgia we had going on in the '80s. Things ain't what they used to be and probably never were.
For some reason I'm moved at this moment to recall the greatest piece of first-person sportswriting in history, Herman Jacobs' 2000 reminiscence for the Onion, "In My Day, Ballplayers Were for Shit."
USA Today: "Colts' Brackett Tempered by Tragedy, Struggle." Really a nice story by Skip Wood about Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, a former walk-on at Rutgers who had to deal with the deaths of a brother and both parents in a 16-month period early in his pro career. Pretty Jimmy Roberts Large Detroit Automaker Olympic Momentish, though.
AOL Sports: A column by Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post about how, according to the headline, "Super Bowl Is About Sex More Than Game."
"Since when does Super Bowl Sunday have anything to do with football?" Armstrong writes. "Granted, back in the day, it was about overgrown men getting drunk during the week and knocking the slobber out of each other on Sunday while everyone in the country passed out on the couch, if not in the nearest bowl of guacamole.
"Not anymore. Far as I can tell, Super Bowl Sunday is mostly about the real national pastime, if you, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, get my drift."
I do, Jim! I know what Peyton Manning really uses that laser rocket arm for, nudge-nudge.
"Used to be they peddled sparkplugs and trucks and cigarettes during the Super Bowl. If they resurrected the Marlboro Man today, they'd probably dress him up in a garter belt and fishnet pantyhose."
If they did that, I would take up smoking.
Jim's being funny here, I think. I think. There's a joke about Lovie Smith and his team, "the Bares." See what he did there?
In my day, there was no sex in the Super Bowl. There was just Joe Namath and his pantyhose, but they weren't fishnet or anything.
CBC.ca: "Riders Trade Butler to Ticats for Flick, Smith." Oh, wait.
Sports Illustrated: Peter King on the Colts run defense. More football content. That Peter King will outlast us all.
Fox Sports: A sort of rebuttal by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, who writes, "Just two games really aren't enough to tell us that the Colts have suddenly become one of the best defenses in football. And, as we expected, the Colts defense regressed a bit against the Patriots -- better than it had been most of the season, but not as good as it was in the first two playoff games."
Still more football! Hmmph. Don't these guys know I have a theme going?
We're almost through it. Hang on, we can get there together. We'll talk some football Friday, and then it'll be two more days, and then, after only about 23,100 seconds of pregame show, we'll get to that moment we've all been waiting for: That final update from the two sideline reporters.
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