This is my 13th installment of how I see the Super Bowl, along with the important and fun angles.
A friend of mine says it perpetuates stereotypes that gay men only like the Academy Awards, reality TV or fashion, but the conceit has always been that it's a knowledgeable gay football fan hoping readers, gay or straight, will learn something new to toss out at a Super Bowl party.
WHAT: Super Bowl XLVIII (48 for our non-Roman readers) will be held Sunday Feb. 2 and pits the Denver Broncos (15-3) from from the American Football Conference against the Seattle Seahawks (15-3) from the National Football Conference. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Broncos a slight favorite, though the pointspread will fluctuate and could be around even by kickoff; this shows how close the game is expected to be. The two teams did not play in the regular season.
This will be the "newest" Super Bowl in years in terms of players in their first game. Only four of Denver's 53 players have been in the Super Bowl before – quarterback Peyton Manning, receivers Wes Welker and Jacob Tamme and corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – and none of Seattle's have any Super Bowl experience. This is the first time since the 1990 Buffalo Bills that a team has all Super Bowl virgins.
BUD BOWL: The game matches two teams located in states that have legalized marijuana, Colorado and Washington. Super Bowl 420, the Weed Eater Bowl … insert your pot pun here.
WHERE: The game is being played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., though technically the host city is New York. Both teams are staying in Jersey City, so don't expect a lot of late nights in Manhattan for the players. Rest assured, no A-list parties will be held in Jersey City.
WEATHER: The big news about the location is that it's the first time a game is being played in a cold weather climate in a non-covered stadium. The forecast for game time (6:30 p.m. local) is for the temperature in the mid-20s with a chance of snow showers, which would make it the coldest Super Bowl game ever. I think it's a terrible idea to hold the game outdoors in a cold climate, since weather should not be a determining factor once the conference playoffs are over. But hosting a Super Bowl was an inducement the NFL offered the New York Jets and Giants for building MetLife Stadium.
KICKOFF/TV: The kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. EST, shortly after opera soprano Renee Fleming sings the National Anthem. She is the first opera singer to perform the song at the Super Bowl. Friend of Outsports and my source for all things opera, Jim Allen, has this to say about Fleming:
"She's marketed in the opera world as a sophisticated but unpretentious, non-Diva singer who just happens to be one of the most popular opera singers in the world. She's recorded albums of standards and of pop tunes, she's even been on Letterman to do a Top 10 list.
"She'll show up, do her job, collect her paycheck and go home, no diva antics for her. She'll do OK with that ghastly song, at least she won't take five minutes to sing it like that horror at the 49ers-Seahawks game."
The game will be broadcast on Fox, with Joe Buck calling the play-by-play and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman doing the analysis. Every time Aikman calls a Super Bowl, we get a bunch of Google searches for "Is Troy Aikman gay?" For the record, I have no idea.
What I do know is that Fox is by far my least-favorite NFL broadcast network. Buck is a pedestrian play-by-play guy and Aikman is a master of stating the obvious. Fox seldom uses graphics properly and spends way more time than the other networks inserting promos that are superimposed over the game. Expect many shots of whatever actor/actress is appearing on a Fox show. Plus, Cletus the Robot needs to be deprogrammed.
FASHION NOTE: Denver is the home team and will wear orange jerseys with white pants. The Seahawks will wear their white away jerseys with navy pants with a neon green stripe. It will be a good contrast on TV.
SHIRTLESS FASHION NOTE: Denver wide receiver Eric Decker and his wife, country singer Jessie James, have a reality show on E! They also did a photo spread for GQ magazine they featured a lot of him shirtless, which garnered zero complaints from our readers.
GQ says Decker's jeans are made of "distressed denim." They also cost $215 a pair, which would totally leave me distressed if I had to pay that.
Decker also has cut an ad for Axe hair gel, where he looks great in a suit.
NICKNAMES: The Seattle defense is called the "Legion Of Boom" for its hard hitting and its master of ceremonies is cornerback Richard Sherman, who is loud and has the talent to back it up. Seattle's running back Marshawn Lynch can kick it into a gear that makes him impossible to tackle; they call it "Beast Mode." When Lynch ran for a 67-yard touchdown in a 2010 playoff game against New Orleans, the crowd got so loud it registered on the Richter scale.
Denver's 300-pound defensive lineman Terrence Knighton is nicknamed "Pot Roast," a name he got while playing in Jacksonville after he opted for pot roast over shrimp alfredo on a team flight.
SUGAR HIGH: Lynch loves Skittles, and Seattle fans shower the field with them when he scores.
INSPIRATIONAL: Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman is the league's first legally deaf player. He reads lips to understand plays and does not move until he sees the ball snapped.
TRAIL OF TEARS: Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno can cry better than anyone in the NFL. "Not uncommon at all," he told Sports Illustrated. "It's always been that way for me, all the way back to high school and college." This video of him this season in a game at Kansas City went viral:
QUARTERBACKS: Russell Wilson is Seattle's second-year quarterback, ultra-polite off the field and heavily engaged in charity. He seems like a very nice person. His Denver counterpart is … hmmm … need to look it up. Somebody called "Peyton Manning."
The Papa John's and Buick pitchman set the NFL record this year for touchdown passes and yards thrown in a season. Manning drives to each home game in a Buick (naturally) with teammates Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme. Before the AFC Championship Game, Tamme said they listened to love songs on the radio on the drive over. "Beautiful stuff," Tamme said. How cute.
Wilson, 25, is 12 years younger than Manning, and as a young player attended the quarterback camp Manning and his family run. "I love him to death," Wilson says of Manning. Geez, we have a game where both teams seem to really like each other; what fun is that?
On the field, the quarterbacks are a total contrast. Wilson is young and mobile, capable of keeping plays alive with his athleticism. At the same time, he can be inaccurate and prone to making mistakes befitting a second-year player. In comparison, Manning moves like a statue but he makes up for it with a very quick release and a savant-like ability to figure out what the defense is about to do.
The way the two calls plays is also illustrative of youth vs. experience. Wilson gets his plays called in by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, with limited ability to change the call. Manning gets two plays suggested to him by coordinator Adam Gase based on the game situation and he gets to pick one or change to something different depending on what he sees the defense do before the snap.
OMAHA! During the game, listen to the sound on the field when Denver has the ball. Manning will yell out codes that could either be a play or dummy signals to fool the defense. His favorite is "Omaha," which he has used 60 times in the playoffs. It usually has to do with when to hike the ball, but not every time, so teams are best to ignore it. The people in Omaha, Neb., love it though, and locals raised $25,000 for Manning's charity after he said it numerous times in the AFC title game. Manning can also be heard saying "Marshall" in honor of one of his young twin sons, or "Hurry, Hurry!" to get the play run quickly.
THE COACHES: If you like silver daddies, these two head coaches are for you. John Fox, 58, coaches Denver and Pete Carroll, 62, coaches the Seahawks. Fox is a jovial sort who suffered a major health scare when he needed emergency heart surgery in November. He missed four games while recuperating. Carroll is a big rah-rah guy who is always fist-pumping and high-fiving and his players love his style. USC football fans are not as enamored, since Carroll fled Southern California and college football for Seattle and the NFL right before SC got hit with major NCAA sanctions.
THE FANS: Both fan bases are passionate and give their teams an edge; the two teams went a combined 18-2 playing at home this season. Denver fans turn their city orange during game day and have been well-trained to stay quiet when the Broncos are on offense so the players can hear the play call.
Seattle's fans are known as the 12th Man, a term trademarked by Texas A&M University, where the tradition started in the 1920s. The Seahawks pay Texas A&M a small licensing fee each year so they can continued to use the 12th Man. Since a football side has 11 men each, the idea is that loud fans can become the 12th man and influence the game. It seems to work in Seattle, where the fans set a world record this season for loudest crowd. Before each game, someone famous with Seattle roots raises the 12th Man flag. My favorites were the guys who toss salmon back and forth at Pike Market. Rapper Macklemore is a Seattle native and huge Seahawks fan.
THE GAY ANGLE: Unlike past recent Super Bowls, there is not much of a gay angle here, with few cases of players saying anything pro or con about gay issues. Seattle punter Jon Ryan was very vocal last Super Bowl when San Franciso 49ers player Chris Culliver made anti-gay remarks; Ryan said Culliver needed to be suspended. In contrast, Seattle lineman Chris Clemons, responding to Jason Collins coming out in the NBA, said a player coming out openly would be a "selfish act."
As for Denver, I can't find an example of a player or coach saying anything about gay issues. We did have Eric Decker tweet to his thanks to the gay fans on Outsports who named him the world's hottest athlete.
Update: I spoke too soon. The day I posted this, Broncos defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said "it would be hard" for some players to accept a gay player.
ENTERTAINMENT: Bruno Mars, backed up by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will be the halftime entertainment. Since I can't name one song Mars has done and have never liked the Peppers music, I don't have much to say and will use halftime for a food break. The only question will be whether Flea gets shirtless in 20-degree temperatures.
THE COMMERCIALS: You can preview Super Bowl commercials on a zillion sites and they usually bore me, but one I will watch will be David Beckham for H&M underwear:
"In the spot, David is accidentally locked out of a photo shoot on a rooftop wearing only his underwear. With no way down, he goes to great lengths to find a way back inside, performing all his own stunts in the process. Fans will see Beckham zipline across rooftops, scale buildings and navigate tricky obstacles all in his signature briefs. The commercial culminates in one of two unexpected ways – with David either "#Covered" or "#Uncovered."
Voting ends Feb. 1 and the winning spot will be shown in the second quarter. My guess is that Beckham will be uncovered, but since this is network TV, the nudity will be all suggestive.
FOR THE EYES: Hotness is in the eye of beholder, but here are some of my favorites this year:
THE GAME: This is the most intriguing Super Bowl in years. The teams have identical records and were the best in their conference from Week 1. It is the first Super Bowl since the 1990 season that matches the highest-scoring team (Denver) against the team that gave up the fewest points (Seattle). In the five times that has happened, the better defense won four times.
On the flip side, Seattle's offense and Denver's defense have both been average in stretches and much better than average in other stretches. This matchup may be where the game is won.
On offense, Manning loves to spread the ball around to receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas. Each of the them had more than 10 touchdowns this season, an NFL record for a team. Pitted against them is Seattle's Legion of Boom defense, the hardest team in the league to pass against. Richard Sherman is a shutdown corner and Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas give the Seahawks the best safety tandem in the NFL. Manning will have to work to pass on these guys.
Up front, Denver has not allowed a sack this postseason, due to excellent offensive line play and Manning's quick release. But Seattle's front seven – led by Michael Bennett, Red Bryants, Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril – is the best line Denver has faced all season. If Manning is constantly harassed, this will bode well for Seattle's chances.
The wild card will be the running game. Denver's tandem of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball has been excellent, as has the run blocking, led by guard Louis Vasquez. Seattle is susceptible to the run if they drop back and play pass, and Manning is an expert at switching plays at the line to give his team the best matchup.
On the other side, Denver's defense has played great in two playoff games, holding San Diego and New England to a combined three points in the first three quarters of each game. Terrence "Pot Roast" Knighton has been a force against the run, and Shaun Phillips has been an effective pass rusher. The defense playing this well is a shock given that five of Denver's best 11 defenders are injured. Seattle will not have an easy time running against this group, though Marshawn Lynch is famous for a bunch of 2-yard runs followed by a 50-yard touchdown romp when he gets into "Beast Mode."
Seattle should have more success throwing the ball against a Denver pass defense weakened by injury. Russell Wilson should be able to buy time with his arm and the key will be for him to be accurate in throwing to the likes of Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate. The Seattle offensive line has been a mess at times, so keeping Wilson upright will be key. The wild card here is receiver Percy Harvin, a dangerous speedster who has missed virtually the entire season due to injury. He is ready to go in this game and even if he breaks one big play, that could be enough.
On special teams, both kickers – Matt Pratrer of Denver and Steven Hauschka – are excellent, with Prater having the stronger leg. Seattle is much better at covering kickoffs and punts and has a better return game. Denver's Trindon Holliday is a puzzle, capable of returning any kick for a score or fumbling the ball away.
THE PICK: Before the season I took Denver over Seattle in the Super Bowl and I see no need to change it. Manning will make enough plays and Welker in the slot catching passes will be the X factor. Denver's defense will do just enough to hold down Wilson and the Seahawks. Broncos 23, Seahawks 20.