You know the eternal story of the Super Bowl. It's an unofficial national holiday during which everyone has some kind of rooting interest, even if they're immigrants raised in soccer countries. We watch the commercials, there's a bigshot musical act as the halftime show, and the game itself sucks beyond belief as the favorite destroys the underdog.
This year didn't leave me with a particular rooting interest. The game was between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, billed as the War Between Brothers. Said brothers would be the Harbaugh brothers, as in Niners coach Jim and Ravens coach John. Now, I like both of these teams a lot. I gave a slight edge to the Niners because their defense is younger and faster, their quarterback is quickly becoming the defining prototype of the new, mobile quarterback, and running back Frank Gore is one of the league's best. Hell, he saved my fantasy team a few times. But the team I was ROOTING for was the Ravens, because I was sickened by the way the media was treating Ray Lewis.
Sometime after the 2000 season Super Bowl - which the Ravens won - Lewis and his posse got into some kind of nightclub scuffle in Atlanta which resulted in Lewis's crew killing two people. Now, whether or not Lewis himself had anything to do with their deaths is a truth which may well be lost to the birds for all eternity. Lewis claimed to have left before the killings took place, and sometime during the ensuing trial he apparently turned rat and tipped John Law off on his budies. Since then, Lewis did get his act together. He found religion and became an important pillar of the Baltimore community. Although we shouldn't be letting him off the hook for having six kids between four women, we can at least be a bit kinder on him since he decided not to play the deadbeat about it. He supports all those kids. Of course, the media latched on to the "did he or didn't he" angle and immediately cast Lewis as the villain, ignoring what he did after that experience, calling him an evangelist loudmouth, focusing on the angle of him being a rat, and generally making the public think he's guilty by hook or by crook.
Seeing that fiasco, I couldn't help but get the feeling that if that very same story had been the story of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the Atlanta killings barely would have been whispered in a long story about the great quest for redemptive life turnaround and the ultimate triumph of Joe Flacco. Why the difference? Lewis is a black linebacker. Flacco is a white quarterback. Flacco plays football's field general, the ultimate cool leader. Lewis's job on the field is to hit whoever has the ball. (He had seven tackles during the game.) No doubt the differences between offense and defense in football lent to the perception and story, but I'm quite certain there were racial politics in play here.
Also, my hometown of Buffalo is more like Baltimore than San Francisco. Buffalo and Baltimore are both violent, crime-ridden hell holes which show up regularly on statistics reports. Both experienced their greatest glories during the industrial boom and were poor by the millennium.
And so the game took off, and the Niners promptly looked like they were going to perform the nastiest tank job since the 2002 Oakland Raiders got their asses kicked all over the field by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There were some very unusual plays, though, which looked like they would have made the game memorable no matter what the outcome. At one point, the Ravens tried for a fake field goal. The fake looked for a minute like it would work, but the Ravens were stopped a yard short of the first down. On another play, Joe Flacco launched a 56-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones, who caught the ball on the ground in front of two Niner backs who apparently forgot that in the NFL, the play isn't over until contact is made. All one of them had to do was put a hand on Jones. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Jones DID remember that, and so the defenders seemed a bit surprised when Jones jumped right up and burned them while launching himself into the endzone.
Mostly, San Francisco seemed to be doing themselves in with penalties. Vernon Davis had a 20-yard reception called back because of an illegal formation penalty on the opening drive. On their following drive, the Niners kicked a field goal to respond to Baltimore's previous touchdown, but that was the last sign of competence from them for most of the following half. Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick also heaved an interception to Ed Reed. The San Francisco 49ers had played in five previous Super Bowls with two different quarterbacks, Joe Montana and Steve Young. Of all that, this was the first time any Niner quarterback ever threw an interception in the Super Bowl.
I missed Beyonce's performance, so I can't write about that. I was enjoying some of the commercial spots, though. The Superstition Bud Light commercial with Stevie Wonder and a pair of Voodoo Dolls was great, and the Joe Montana Stain commercial for Tide was also very cute.
The second half began with Jones scoring a return touchdown on the opening kickoff, reeling the score up to 28-6 and signifying an official blowout. Then the Superdome went dark. What followed was a torturous 34-minute blackout in which the CBS studio guys showed us how useless they really are. They didn't offer anything useful or informative about the game; all they did was give us a few updates about when play would start again. They ran ads to the maximum limit, and yet they didn't give us any insight on what was happening - didn't even try - and they didn't give us any analysis on anything that happened previously. They repeated box phrases, kept giving us updates about the restart time, and were generally vapid as hell.
Meanwhile, down on the sideline, Ravens coach John Harhaugh was visibly flipping out. It wasn't like we could hear anything he said, but I'm sure a seasoned lip reader could interpret a streak of curses which could put New Orleans Voodoo Priest to shame. (Note: That's actually a very inaccurate view of the Voodoo religion, but I like it because it just fits.) After 34 excrutiating minutes of Bill Cowher and James Brown saying jack shit despite them making sounds with their mouths, the game finally got back under way.
The lights may have been out, but the San Francisco 49ers clearly had some sort of fire lit under their asses in the meantime. Kaepernick suddenly became the threat he had been after replacing Alex Smith, and on one drive, he scored a touchdown by making a 15-yard run himself; it was the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. Niners receiver Randy Moss - possibly the most physically gifted receiver in NFL history - hauled in a 32-yarder, and Gore gutted the Baltimore defense for 21 on another play. The Niners started to look like the old Bill Walsh teams as they began hacking away at the Ravens, and the score started to crawl close. 28-13. After that, Gore ran for a six-yard touchdown which cut the acore to 28-20, and the Niners were suddenly back in the game. David Akers missed a field goal, but even that went San Francisco's way because Baltimore's Chykie Brown was penalized for running into Akers. Second chance time for Akers, and he redeemed himself. Now it was 28-23, and what looked impossible before was now looking not only possible, but in fact quite likely with momentum clearly swung in San Francisco's direction.
The Ravens finally responded again with a 77-yard drive during which Anquan caught two passes for 39 yards, but they had to settle for a field goal. The Ravens in fact would not score another touchdown after the Jones kickoff return, and they scored only twice more. With the score 31-23 now, the Niners put another touchdown on the board in just five plays. They also went for the two, but the score stayed at 31-29 after Baltimore broke it up. Baltimore would eventually put up another field goal and take an intentional safety with four seconds left, setting the final to 34-31, Baltimore.
It began with a blowout but ended with a thriller. Ultimately, it was probably Jacoby Jones's 108-yard kickoff return touchdown that did the Niners in. Still, driving back the way they did doesn't leave San Francisco a lot to be ashamed of. Even so, before this game, the Super Bowl win/loss record for the San Francisco 49ers stood at an incredible 5-0. If they had prevailed, that record would be 6-0, so I can't help but get the feeling they were due for a loss.
Being a Steelers fan myself, I really did not know who to root for. Baltimore is the Steelers’ division rivals and 49ers may be the team of my city, but if they win, they would equal the Steelers’ 6 Superbowl Championships. I really did not care who would win, but I did somewhat favor the Ravens by a slim margin. I have to say that the game became one of the best championship games I’ve seen. What a nail-biter! The Ravens led by as much as 22 points in … more