If you are looking for the good guys Sunday, forget it.
For much of the country unencumbered by regional rooting interests, this Super Bowl Sunday is offering no easy choice to those wanting to be on the side of goodness and apple pie and the American way.
That’s because this game doesn’t offer clear choices good and bad, right and wrong. Instead, Super Sunday’s match-up is about two super villains facing off. It’s the Joker against the Riddler. It’s the shark from Jaws against the bigger, meaner shark from Jaws 2.
This one is offering you the loud, obnoxious, arrogant, uncooperative, “thuggish,” crotch-grabbing Seattle Seahawks against the cheating New England Patriots coached by a scowling enigma of a man whose hoodie might or might not be hiding horns protruding from his skull.
It’s the bad guys versus the other bad guys.
“People hate us because, you know, when you talk a lot of smack, people usually hate you,” Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. “But when you talk a lot of smack and you back it up, they hate you even more.
“I think that’s what it is. People hate [Richard] Sherman because he says he’s the best corner, and he plays like the best corner. So, it’s just like one of those things where people just hate us because of who we are. But we embrace it. I like it. I like when people hate us, because our stocks go up, our jerseys are higher selling. It’s pretty cool being hated.”
All right, so perhaps I am exaggerating a tiny bit. Both the Seahawks and the Patriots have individuals who are actually quite likeable and worthy of admiration.
Russell Wilson, for example, is a walking, breathing saint.
New England’s Vince Wilfork recently rescued a driver from an overturned vehicle, Devin McCourty works diligently for Boston charities in the fight against sickle cell disease, and Chandler Jones’ father is a pastor who reared his sons in church.
Yeah, whatever. Those guys are obviously the exceptions.
The Patriots are evil.
You want proof?
The NFL is currently conducting an exhaustive investigation into the fact the team used footballs in the first half of the AFC Championship Game that were under-inflated by as much as two pounds per square inch. Under-inflated footballs are easier to throw and grasp, according to multiple former and current players.
“Deflategate,” as the scandal has been dubbed, has resurrected the idea that the Patriots cheat — an idea proved during 2007 when the team was caught taping opponents’ defensive signals against NFL rules.
That offense, dubbed “Spygate,” cost the Patriots a first-round draft pick and a $250,000 fine. Coach Beelzebub, rather, Belichick was fined $500,000. The NFL noted the Patriots had been engaged in taping opponents dating back to 2001 — which coincidentally synchs up with when the franchise began its current run of dominance.
And it doesn’t escape anyone that since Spygate ended New England’s taping of opponents, the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl.
“In my opinion, it behooves the Patriots to win this time because that’s the only way they can prove they don’t need to cheat to win it all,” NFL Network analyst and former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
It should be noted the Patriots deny all the Deflategate allegations. But it should also be noted FoxSports and ProFootballTalk.com have reported the NFL’s investigation has zeroed in on a New England locker-room attendant who apparently took the 24 game balls for that fateful title game from the officials’ dressing room and instead of delivering them to the field went into a bathroom first.
There is videotape evidence the attendant’s detour into the bathroom took 90 seconds, per ProFootballTalk, or plenty of time to replace the inspected and approved footballs with under-inflated ones.
Yet despite the mounting case against them, the Patriots and their fans are on the offensive. Owner Robert Kraft held a news conference to begin Super Bowl Week in which he demanded the NFL apologize to the Patriots, Belichick and Tom Brady if its investigation proved inconclusive.
A truly gangster move.
Fans, meanwhile, have been attacking the Indianapolis-area reporter who broke the Deflategate scandal. He was quoted as saying he has been threatened and the amount of anti-Semitic insults has been withering.
Does this make the Patriots the bad guys?
Well, did I mention former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial started Thursday? Did I mention the Public Policy Polling survey in which the Patriots have the lowest favorability rating of any NFL team? Did I mention that Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner last week noted Seattle had a couple of injured defensive players, including Sherman, and said New England receivers should target those weak spots during Sunday’s game?
None of this surprises. It definitely does not surprise the Seahawks, because although they have not been accused of cheating, they aren’t exactly carrying a pristine reputation into Super Sunday.
“I would expect nothing less. This is the Super Bowl. What do you expect?” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said of Browner’s remarks. “I understand the fans want it to be classy, said publicly, and everything to be said politically correct, but that is the truth of the matter.
“We want this game just as much as they do and they want this game just as much as we do. I expect nothing less from Brandon Browner. We go after them in an aggressive fashion just as much as they are going to go after us. It sounds ugly. But that’s the way it’s going to be.”
The Seahawks understand the Patriots and don’t mind their reputation because they’re busy handling their own business.
Sherman graduated from Stanford. He is able to discuss multiple topics having nothing to do with football. He said he’s going to consider a political career once he stops playing.
But he is often described in some circles as “thuggish” because he is also brash, aggressive and a trash-talk king.
During this Super Bowl Week, Sherman was critical of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and got into a verbal battle with Kraft over a party Kraft hosted prior to the AFC title game at which Goodell was a guest.
Every Sherman media availability was an event during Super Bowl Week because one never knew whom Sherman would target next.
Every Marshawn Lynch media availability was also an event because Lynch, who hates speaking to the media, battled the NFL over having to fulfill the league-mandated interview sessions or face a fine.
The first couple of days, Lynch repeated phrases such as, “I’m here so I won’t get fined” as his answer to every question. But by Thursday he was clearly angry the interviews were still happening.
“All week I done told you all what’s up. And for some reason you all come back and do what you did,” Lynch told reporters. “I don’t know what image you all are trying to portray me, but it don’t matter what you all think, what you all say about me. Because when I go home at night, the people I look in the face, my family, that I love, that’s all that matters to me. So you all can go make up whatever you’re going to make up.”
Personally, the only question I wish Lynch would answer is why he insists on celebrating great touchdown runs by turning to his opponents and grabbing his crotch. He has done it multiple times and, at the risk of sounding like an old dude, I believe it is unprofessional, obscene and disrespectful to opponents and fans alike
Would Lynch do that move in front of his mother? His wife? His daughter or sister?
He is obviously a very good player and, by all accounts, a great teammate. I was told by a Seattle source that when assistant coach Ken Norton Jr. returned to Seattle after being away from the team following the death of his father, one player met him at the airport to offer support.
That story serves as stark counterpoint to Lynch’s low-class, crotch-grabbing celebrations, but few people know that side of him. Instead he is publicly portrayed as something of a villain.
And that’s a narrative that fits the teams in this Super Bowl.