Saturday, February 05, 2005

I hear there's a football game tomorrow

It happened some time this morning, while I was sipping a latte and flipping through a left-behind copy of yesterday's USA Today at a nearby coffee shop. I finally got Super Bowl Fever. Now, approximately 30 hours before the big game, I can't wait to watch it. (And I mean the game, not the commercials.) The last two weeks have been torturous; I hate the extra week the NFL places between the semi-final games and the Super Bowl. It just gives the national sports media more time to write irrelevant stories about what players like to wear, what sorts of insults they're hurling back and forth, how reclusive the coaches are, what kinds of movies they like to watch, blah blah blah.

A loudmouth like Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell wouldn't have received anywhere near the attention he's gotten over the past two weeks if it weren't for all this time that needed filling. Mitchell's been flapping his yap to anyone with a camera or notepad, trying to sell himself as an important player and taunting the New England Patriots, and the story-starved media laps it up like water. How significant has Mitchell been for the Eagles? He had 22 catches in 16 games this season. That's roughly one catch a game.

Here's how I like to look at that: that's only one more catch per game than I made, and I sit on my fat ass every Sunday, watching football on TV, figuring out whether I should actually cook or order a pizza for dinner. Yet from all the attention this guy has gotten the past two weeks, you'd think he'll actually influence the outcome of the Super Bowl. He might play a part in one interesting aspect of the game: the players he's been taunting, such as Rodney Harrison, might knock him unconscious when they get the chance. Can I make a bet on that, Las Vegas?

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots just sit back, waiting to play in the game, knowing that their actions on the field will speak louder than words away from it.

I think the Patriots are going to win this game, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just trying to be daring and swim against the current. The two-week break also gives people enough time to convince themselves that anything can happen, ignoring the cold evidence they've been given over the past 20 weeks or so. I'm not saying the Eagles can't win this game. They're obviously very good, and know exactly how difficult it is to get to the Super Bowl. They won't want to squander this opportunity. And with Donovan McNabb, the Eagles have a special player who is talented enough to beat a team by himself.

But the Patriots know they can be considered one of the better teams in NFL history if they win tomorrow, and I think they want that. Their eyes are on the prize; all the other stuff like media attention and commercial endorsements doesn't matter to them.

Tom Brady will finally avenge his loss to McNabb back in 1998 when Michigan played Syracuse. (McNabb looked like one of the greatest players of all time that day.) It will be a close game, maybe coming down to yet another Adam Vinatieri game-winning field goal. Patriots 27, Eagles 20.

Another Super Bowl note: here's a column from one of the four writers who have covered every Super Bowl, the Detroit News's Jerry Green. He thinks Jacksonville's ineptness at hosting this year's game will make Detroit look better next year. I hope you're right, Jerry.