Previewing Super Bowl Week: Five Storylines
So now begins the diffusing of Deflate-Gate
The shelf life for any thought-to-be-salacious NFL storyline sort of evolves as follows:
1. Story gets broken by one of Adam Schefter (ESPN), Jay Glazer (FOX), Chris Mortensen (ESPN, correct 32.5 percent of the time), or Ian Rapoport (NFL Network) and tweeted out.
(1a. Whoever doesn't break the story tweets as if they did and covers themselves by including the words "sources say" in his tweet.)
2. Sports radio and SportsCenter obsess over the story for the next two or three days, both becoming a huge brick and mortar version of a can of lighter fluid.
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3. Fatigue sets in, and the topic evolves from "[fill in name of scandal]-Gate" to how sick we all are of discussing "[fill in name of scandal]-Gate".
4. Saturday Night Live and South Park race to see who can clown the scandal first.
And that's where we were this weekend on Deflate-Gate, when Bill Belichick called his press conference Saturday to show off his newfound science knowledge, and presumably SNL had to scramble to rewrite its script that day. Here's how it went:
Pretty glorious. South Park is now on the clock, with the over/under set at 23.5 for the number of jokes about "balls".
It would appear that the Patriots (and society) are all ready to move on from this Deflate-Gate thing and get to the game itself, which is actually a fascinating matchup to break down, with some compelling storylines. Let's begin the preview process, by beginning to close the door on Deflate Gate.
Here are the early storylines this week:
1. The Patriots arrive today in Phoenix, so now begins the diffusing of Deflate-Gate. Actually, that began on Saturday.... I think we were all pretty surprised when Bill Belichick called a press conference for Saturday to voluntarily address the media on Deflate-Gate. Not really surprised so much because he did it on a Saturday (I don't think Belichick distinguishes the days as "weekdays" or "weekend days".), but more surprised that he did it at all. Belichick calling a press conference voluntarily is like a middle aged man dialing up a colonoscopy for fun. It doesn't happen. (At least it shouldn't happen.)
It was a move straight out of the gangster playbook, basically Belichick taking the focus off of Tom Brady, putting it on himself, and saying "You guys can all go suck it, this team is the best team in football." It was an aggressive move that someone totally comfortable with themselves and their process would do. It was Mel Gibson in Ransom doubling the bounty on Gary Sinise. It was Tony Soprano telling Johnny Sack to "go fuck [himself]" when Sack wanted Tony to give up his cousin's whereabouts. It was awesome. (All except Belichick's wearing a half sleeve windbreaker over top of a dress shirt. What was that?)
2. We should have a clear picture of the Pats' marching orders on "what to say" within about eight seconds at Media Day. Media Day is Tuesday, and despite the Patriots' collective best effort to keep Deflate-Gate from becoming a focal point, this will be the first thing that all of them --- Belichick, Brady, Gronk, EVERYBODY --- will be asked about. My guess is they've all been given a "go to" phrase to use as a verbal tennis racquet to smack the questions back at the reporters like tennis balls.
SIDE BAR: Most likely to screw up and forget the "response phrase" -- 3. LeGarrette Blount (also, most likely to respond by punching someone) 2. Robert Kraft (he's an old man, he forgets stuff) 1. Gronk (because Gronk)
3. As we move onto the game, we start with this being a matchup of the last two Patriots head coaches. Can you imagine if you had the Back to the Future DeLorean, and you could go back to this week in the year 2001 and tell Patriots fans that in 14 years Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick would be facing off in the Super Bowl? And also tell them that Carroll would be the defending champion and Belichick might be the greatest coach in league history? Think about it -- the Patriots were coming off Belichick's first season, a 5-11 snoozer, which followed Carroll's three year stint place holding an average to mediocre football team, where Carroll was best known for a sideline demeanor that could best be described as "fan who just won contest to coach the team." Back then, they were the ex husband and current husband of a borderline hideous hag. Now, they're both married to smoking hot rockets with fake cans. Amazing! Oh, also.....
4. Lost in a sea of deflated balls is that this is a potential "drop the mic" game for Tom Brady. ....on your DeLorean trip, you would be able to tell Patriot fans that they'd be winning three of the next four Super Bowls. And they'd be like "DAMN, Bledsoe finally got it going on, huh?!?" And you'd be like "Nope, with that scrawny backup dude from Michigan. Kid's name is Brady." And then those chowds would be like "FAHK YOU, HEH? STAWP IT WITH YOUAW PATRIOT NAWNSENSE....SAWX SEASON IS ALMOST HEEYAH....NOMAAAAHHHHHHH!!!"
5. The biggest mismatch between opposing units belongs to the Patriots. I haven't made my prediction yet on the game, but in beginning to break down the matchup, I like to look at the "one thing that one team may not be able to overcome" or "one thing that is easiest for the other team to take away." The 2014 Seahawks no longer have Percy Harvin (traded early in the season) or Golden Tate (signed with Lions as a free agent). Their top big play guys in the passing game are Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse (both very pedestrian, despite the very high opinions they hold of themselves), which was enough -- with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson running the ball, and a lights-out defense -- to secure the one seed in the NFC again. However, they finally played a team in Green Bay last week who made them pay for 56 minutes for a lack of ability to instill fear in the passing game. Targeting Kearse resulted in a pick four times before the winning touchdown in overtime. The biggest Seahawks passing play before that was a wheel route to Lynch in the fourth quarter. The Patriots best unit on the team might be their secondary with two really good to great corners (Browner and Revis) and a Pro Bowl safety (McCourty). If the Patriots offense establishes a rhythm (or God forbid, Seattle play turnover machine again), it may be tough for Seattle to keep up.
So let's get this thing going. It's Super Bowl time. Two great teams, two great coaches, let's do this... LIVE FROM PHOENIX, IT'S SUPER BOWL WEEK!
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