Who Should I Pull For In The Super Bowl?
Normally, before the NFL conference championship games are completed – I already know who I am pulling for in the Super Bowl. It is usually fairly cut and dry. Had the Broncos won their game, I would be pulling for them simply because I’m a Peyton Manning fan. Remember Colts fans, he played for my Tennessee Vols before he ever donned a helmet with a horseshoe.
I’ve never been a big Atlanta Falcons fan, but I really like Mike Smith as a coach. I also like their quarterback, Matt Ryan. My allegiances shift around from time to time. When you get old enough, you learn that the team you adored as a kid really offers you no reason to be a fan of today. One of my favorite teams growing up was the Dallas Cowboys. They had timeless classic uniforms (still do) and I idolized quarterback Roger Staubach and Head Coach Tom Landry. Nowadays, with the meddling of owner Jerry Jones and the overpriced mediocrity they put on the field – I find myself pulling against them, more than for them.
Most times now, I pick and choose my teams based on the coaches, quarterbacks or a few players. Being the superficial person that I am, I also will let a team’s uniforms sway my thinking. I suppose it’s from growing up a Cowboy fan, but I always despised the Washington Redskins. But when Mike Shanahan showed up a few years ago, I began quietly pulling for them. I liked Shanahan from his days at Denver and always felt like he got a raw deal in his short stint with the Raiders. When he brought back their classic yellow pants from the sixties and seventies, well…that’s all it took.
This year, however, I find myself in a dilemma. I don’t care for either of the Super Bowl teams. As a Titans fan, there is just absolutely no way I could ever pull for the Baltimore Ravens. Call me biased, short-sighted or just plain stupid – I don’t care. In Nashville, the Ravens represent the Evil Empire and Ray Lewis is Darth Vader. Is it because of the double-murder charge he side-stepped over a decade ago? No. Is it because I consider him quite the hypocrite for fathering six children with four different women, as he quotes scripture on media day? No. Is it because I’m tired of the media hype since he announced his pending retirement? No. Those things are all worth disliking him over, but my reason for disliking him is far more shallow than that. It’s because he single-handedly knocked the top-seeded Titans from the playoffs in 2000, and the Ravens took the Titans rightful spot in the Super Bowl against the Giants. Do I need any other reason to dislike a player? I don’t think so.
Most of the players and coaches are gone from that Ravens team. They have since gone through several quarterbacks since the unspectacular Trent Dilfer, and they have a new coach. I have no problem with quarterback Joe Flacco and I think Head Coach John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the league. But they all still wear that insidious black bird, and that’s all I need to see to know I can’t pull for them.
So I’ll pull for the San Francisco Forty-Niners, right? Well, it’s not that easy.
When the 49ers were tearing up the NFL in the eighties, it took a while for me to become a fan – but I did eventually jump on the bandwagon. Mostly, because I grew to appreciate watching Joe Montana (who I still believe to be the greatest QB to ever play the game) and I also learned to appreciate the greatness that was Coach Bill Walsh. But by the time the 49ers Super Bowl years were almost done, Walsh and Montana were long gone. They were replaced by George Seifert and Steve Young, neither of which ever grew on me.
Then the Niners hit a skid in the late nineties. In 1998, they went 12-4. The following season, they were a dismal 4-12. From 2003 until 2010, the Forty-Niners were a very forgettable 46-82. I didn’t dislike them, I just never thought about them. They were completely irrelevant. Being about two thousand miles from Nashville and being so bad, we never heard anything about them unless they hired a coach. Steve Mariucci was replaced by Dennis Erickson, who gave way to Mike Nolan who was succeeded by Mike Singletary who was fired during the 2010 season and replaced by interim coach Jim Tomsula (who??).
In the meantime, former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh (brother of John) and part-owner of Panther Racing was winning in the Bay Area with the Stanford Cardinal. In 2010, he led the Cardinal to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Orange Bowl where they crushed Virginia Tech 40-12. The Forty-Niners came calling and he didn’t even have to change cities. Since his arrival with the Niners, Jim Harbaugh has compiled a 24-7-1 record. The man can coach.
This year, Harbaugh went against the philosophy of most coaches. Starting QB Alex Smith suffered a concussion just past the halfway point in the season. Enter backup QB Colin Kaepernick, who performed admirably. But when Smith was ready to return, Harbaugh chose to stick with Kaepernick. Hmmm…
You can’t argue with the results, though. Kaepernick has been dynamic in leading them to the Super Bowl. But if you look at the quarterbacks I look up to – Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Joe Montana and Peyton Manning – you’ll notice a common trait. They were all players who excelled on the field, and carried themselves professionally off the field. I’m showing my age and how utterly shallow I really am, but I can’t get past the guy’s multiple tattoos. George, surely you wouldn’t let someone’s appearance affect which team you pull for, would you? Yes, I surely would. Shallowness allows me to make a judgment on first appearances. If I don’t like what I see right off the bat, it usually isn’t worth the time and effort to keep digging to try and find something I like. I’ll just go with what I see. I realize this shows what an old and out of touch grump I am, but I also know there are many out there that agree with my dislike of tattoos.
But it’s not just his love of ink that gets on my nerves – it’s the way the media has been carrying on a love-fest over him for the past couple of months that is wearing me out. The media loves players that come out of nowhere. Sometimes, they go on to greatness and sometimes they quickly return to obscurity. Kurt Warner came from nowhere and led two different franchises to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady was a seventh round pick, but is a lock for Canton. Scott Mitchell was mercifully forgotten about, as were Babe Laufenberg, Steve Bono and Dieter Brock. If Colin Kaepernick puts together a Hall of Fame career, I’ll gladly eat my words. But my bet is that win or lose this Sunday; he will go the way of Clint Longley, Bubby Brister or Jay Schroeder.
Unlike many, I’m not that intrigued that two brothers are coaching against each other. It’s no fluke – they are both excellent coaches. I think there is a good chance that we may see the two of them square off in the Big Game again before it’s all over. Once again, the media hype is doing me in on this angle.
OK, so we’ve got one team with a coach I like and a good guy at quarterback. But they have a bad guy at linebacker and they are called the Ravens. Can’t do it. Then we have another team that I’ve never been crazy about with another coach I like. They have a good guy at linebacker (fellow Tennessean Patrick Willis) and a guy who at least looks like a thug at quarterback. It’s not possible for both teams to lose, is it? Do I just not watch? Who do I pull for?
It all comes back to IndyCar racing. See, I told you there was a racing tie-in. Jim Harbaugh has been involved with Panther Racing since its inception, and has been with them through their twenty-eight wins and two championships. He is no figurehead like Joe Montana was in 1995 when he had a brief association with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Although he is generally busy throughout most of the racing season with his day job, he usually finds time to attend the Indianapolis 500 – and he actually knows what he is watching. He attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1976 and has been a fan ever since. He gets it when it comes to the Indianapolis 500.
So in my frantic search to figure out a reason to pull for one team over the other, I’ve decided to base it on which Harbaugh brother has a closer tie to the IZOD IndyCar Series. And before today, you thought I was only kidding when I claimed to be shallow and superficial.