I would describe Super Bowl Week — not the game itself, but the buildup to it — thusly: Thousands of journalists bound by custom and formula all writing and saying basically the same things while trying unsuccessfully to repackage them for an audience that not only has already heard these stories, but is sick enough of them to scream.
In other words, pretty much what I am doing right here with my Super Bowl Week primer, a list of top 10 story lines, a national cheat sheet for my media brethren set to descend locust-like upon New Orleans for the upcoming 49ers-Ravens game.
Your Friend the Media will plumb the soul of the Canton-bound Lewis and wonder aloud if he is the greatest defensive player ever. Coverage of him mostly will be breathlessly rosy, although some — the Serious Journalists Who Know It Isn’t All Fun and Games — will be unable to resist the temptation to revisit the 2000 murder indictment, later dismissed in exchange for Ray’s testimony against two other men. (These same Serious Journalists also will be writing densely this week about the league’s concussion crisis, a story no less important because nobody cares to read about it.)
My hope? After a million floral retrospectives and odes to Lewis’ swan song have been reverently crafted, Ray casually mentions the day after the game that he has changed his mind and isn’t retiring, after all.
For an offshoot, there also will be much contrasting and comparing of the Harbaughs with the N’Awlins-based Mannings: Peyton, Eli and patriarch Archie. (It’s why I have bought stock in media use of the phrase “first family of football.”)
My hope? A major news outlet (thinking Yahoo!) will have the exclusive, intriguing interview with heretofore unknown third brother Jasper Harbaugh, but it will turn out Jasper never existed and was the work of the same guy who duped Manti Te’o.
This also is where hundreds of columnists looking for an easy day on account of a tee time lament the “media excess” and “circus atmosphere” of Media Day, unbothered by the irony that they are contributing to that excess by writing about it.
The peg for Raven Joe Flacco: Is he “elite”? This will be the game that anoints or denies him. Unless perhaps the Ravens win even though Joe had a really crappy game, in which case a reevaluation of the word elite might be necessary.
The peg for San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick: The Breath of Fresh Air. Nine games ago, this guy was most known for his tattoos, but now he’s a pass/run wunderkind. Watch an enterprising columnist visit a New Orleans tattoo parlor (say, Tats ’R Us) to discuss Kaepernick’s body art with an eclectic local ink god — only to discover that 14 other enterprising columnists are there doing the same thing.
Any host city offers this contrast, dare say New Orleans more than most. This is where the serious writer notes that champagne, lobster and shrimp the size of kittens are being served at the Commissioner’s Party while, six blocks away, a family of 11 displaced by Hurricane Katrina lives in squalor battling over a can of tuna. (If the actual conditions are not quite squalor, well, this is why God invented embellishment!)
Bonus: Brigance played four seasons for the Dolphins (1996-99), so he qualifies to fill the coveted Hometown Angle role for South Florida reporters trying to “localize” the Super Bowl for their readers.
A journalist’s research would likely also include three or four Hurricane cocktails at Pat O’Brien’s, a fact that would be omitted from one’s “color piece” but be deftly hidden on one’s expense report.
That last thing is pure speculation, of course. I’m not speaking from experience or anything.