Todd: If you didn’t know, it was Lamar Hunt, the late founder and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, who four decades ago gave the pro football championship game its name after watching his daughter play with her Super Ball, a popular 1960’s toy that could be bounced really high.
Want some more trivia? If the Colts win Sunday, Adam Vinatieri will become only the second player ever to earn five Super Bowl rings (Charles Haley is the other). Unfortunately the former Pats kicker won’t be a factor in the game as he is still recovering from three surgeries on his kicking leg since last summer.
If you like rooting for ex-Patriots players, the Saints are actually the better pick with tight end David Thomas, cornerback Randall Gay and running backs Kyle Eckel and Heath Evans (although Evans is currently on injured reserve).
Head coach Sean Payton also has an indirect connection to the Pats, as he was Bill Parcells’ top assistant and quarterback coach in Dallas and helped three different quarterbacks to 3,000-yard passing seasons, including Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.
Before breaking down the Colts and Saints and offering some other sports-related thoughts, I want to clear up a misconception brought up in last week’s column.
It’s true I have a strong disdain for Colts president Bill Polian and that’s why I was rooting for the Jets to beat them. But my loathing is directed more at the Indy front office and not the players on the field. I respect and appreciate what the Colts accomplished to this point, and it’s made me wonder just how much more they could have done if they had been given the opportunity.
Does anyone think that league MVP Peyton Manning would have been unable to deal with the pressure of being 18-0? His poise and decision-making this year has been so good that I could make the argument he’ll be the best coach we’ll see in the stadium this Sunday. I’m also beginning to appreciate why Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth-and-two back in November, even if I still think it was the wrong decision.
Ok, time for a few quick hitters. Staying on football, Dean Pees is out as defensive coordinator of New England, while former special teams captain Corwin Brown (he was the special teams guru of the Bill Parcells era) is the latest to join Belichick’s coaching staff. The Pees departure is odd, because he claimed to leave the Pats for better opportunities, but then winds up taking a job as linebacker coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Doesn’t sound like a better opportunity to me.
Vince Wilfork says he won’t be happy if the Patriots place the franchise tag on him. In other news, I was just offered a 300 percent increase in my pay to do the same thing I’ve done for the last six years, but I think I’m going to stage a holdout. All kidding aside, I’ve heard the Patriots have supposedly offered Wilfork a $20-25M deal and he gave them the Rex Ryan salute. As much as I think the Pats really need him next year, they also shouldn’t cave in to his demands. I’m also starting to think this situation won’t have a happy ending.
Staying with the NFL, it appears that moving the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl and holding it in the host city did little to make the game more interesting. Between the Colts and Saints and all the other players nursing injuries, many of the notable names did not play, which must’ve saddened ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden.
Next year the game is moving back to Hawaii but it will remain the week between the conference championships and Super Bowl. I think it’s time for commissioner Roger Goodell to face the facts and either replace the game with an NFL skills competition or flag football contest because that is all the game has devolved into anyway. My only question from the game is whether the potent offenses of Indy and New Orleans can top the 41-34 final.
We can count on death and taxes 12 months a year, but there are also two events that are just as certain to occur each and every February. The groundhog will always see his shadow, even if the sky is completely covered with clouds, and the BC and BU hockey teams will play on the second Monday (except every third year when they play on the first Monday, which frankly isn’t as much fun).
I say instead of relying on a rodent to tell us that New England winters last forever, why don’t we all line up in front of Fenway on Feb. 12 and wait for the big truck full of baseball equipment to pull out of the garage and head down to Fort Myers? Rumor has it that if the truck sees its shadow, it goes back into the garage and the players will be responsible for bringing their own bats and balls to spring training.
It is tough getting through these winter months, so if you’re looking for a spectator sport to tide you over till pitchers and catchers report, why not try indoor lacrosse? A couple weeks back I attended a Boston Blazers game at the Garden and enjoyed the experience. Indoor lax is a bit different from the traditional outdoor version, featuring a faster pace, fewer players and more hitting, but if you like action it’s worth checking out.
Speaking of the new Boston Garden, I’m officially calling last weekend’s events a royal flush for the building’s regular tenants. The Bruins and Celtics were both polite and entertaining hosts to their purple-clad visitors from Los Angeles, as the Kings and Lakers escaped with narrow victories. At the rate the B’s and C’s have been losing of late, both might be better off being passive at the trade deadline.
Finally, the World Champion New York Yankees picked up a Winn last week without even playing a game. Meanwhile, Johnny Damon is still looking for a baseball home. Not sure how Sox fans would react if he returned but they need not worry about that as the outfield is currently full.
Mike: Ahhh, the Pro Bowl, without a doubt the most meaningless game EVER played. I’m a huge football fan, and I tried to watch it, but my eyes were glazing over about 30 seconds in. The only halfway interesting thing about it was the fact that the quarterbacks on the AFC side were miked, and you could hear the coaches talking to them through the helmet radios and then hearing the same play called in the huddle. But even that got old after the first two times they showed it.
And now they want to move it back to Hawaii, but keep it in the week before the Super Bowl? Not a good choice. I actually felt that it was a good idea to play it in the same site as the Super Bowl, kind of a kick off to all the hype. Moving it back to Hawaii makes it even more irrelevant in my eyes. I’m with you Todd, just forget the game and make it a skills contest.
Speaking of meaningless events, I can’t believe it’s almost time for the Red Sox truck to begin making its annual jaunt to Florida. The fact that the Sox (and the media) have turned this into an event shows me just how out of control things have gotten here in Red Sox Nation. It’s just a truck, get over it! Save me the breathless reports of some glorified U-Haul being packed up with the belongings of overpaid athletes going on a nice trip to Florida in February (always the most miserable time of year in New England), I just don’t care. Let me know when the spring training games start (yes, even the ones against BC and Northeastern) and I’ll start to care. Until then, I just can’t get excited about a stupid truck!
I saw that you mentioned the Beanpot Todd. Is it just me, or has that event gone down in popularity over the years. I can remember the 80s when that was one of the toughest tickets in town, and the building was packed to the rafters with screaming fans. Now, the crowds just seem flat, and when I turned on the BU/Northeastern game, I saw tons of empty seats. I’m not saying the Beanpot is going away anytime soon, but I think it’s gone from a huge must-see event to one that is more for the hard-core college hockey fans in the area.
Getting back to football, do you think there will be thousands of Viking fans surrounding the team’s headquarters waiting to see if the black smoke comes out of the chimney signifying that Brett Favre is coming back for another season? That’s another story that the national media traditionally deems as a huge one, but once again, I just don’t care. Make up your mind and let us know by training camp Brett, until then, have fun making commercials.
Speaking of commercials, I see that good ol’ Brett is going to be in a Super Bowl ad this year. It’s nice to see that despite the fact that he blew it in the NFC title game, that the old warrior will have a presence at the Super Bowl. I wonder if he’ll include his teammates in the ad much like Tom Brady did in a very funny ad a few years back.
Super Bowl XXIV Predictions
Todd: The Colts and Saints combined to start the season 27-0, finished the regular season 0-5, went perfect in their domed homes during the playoffs and now take their offensive shows to the great outdoors of Miami’s newly-renamed Sun Life Stadium. Have to love the irony of that name with the weather they’ve had in South Florida this week. Why does it seem like the Colts always bring the rainy weather? They won the only rain-soaked Super Bowl three years ago.
Two irrelevant stats that help make my pick look good: the team wearing the white jerseys in Super Bowls has an all-time 26-17 advantage and has also won the last five games (the Saints will be wearing white). Also, the AFC/AFL is only 9-12 when they’ve been the designated home team, as the Colts are this year.
A more relevant fact is that defensive end Dwight Freeney might miss the game with a torn ligament in his right ankle. At best Freeney won’t be 100 percent, and that combined with playing on a slow and soggy grass field will have an effect on Indy’s pass rushing attack.
Whatever the case, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning should combine to put on the greatest passing display the Super Bowl has ever seen. Good luck to both defenses, especially the ball-hawking Saints D that will attempt to force Peyton into making mistakes.
I’m sticking with my preseason pick of the Saints, as Brees gets the ball last and drives his team for the winning touchdown. Not only would a Saints win be great for the city of New Orleans, but it might make the Pats season a little more palatable given how badly they loss to them this season.
Saints 34, Colts 31
Mike: Hey, do you think they can change the name of the stadium again before kickoff? I’m sure some company (I’m looking at you Budweiser) could pony up the bucks to make the switch.
Anyway, this is a rare treat, a Super Bowl matchup featuring the two top teams in the NFL. Forget about the late-season stumbles, those happened after the Colts and the Saints (and I’m still having a tough time getting my head around the fact that the Saints are in the Super Bowl) had already clinched the top spots in their conferences and had little to play with. Both teams have showed that they could turn it back on in the postseason and now we as fans get a treat on Super Bowl Sunday.
All things point to this being an offensive slugfest, with both teams marching up and down the field, so I expect this to be a 3-0 game. Just kidding, I think this one is going to meet all expectations as two elite QBs will be trying to one-up each other on the biggest stage in football.
I really don’t have a rooting interest here, as I would be happy to see either team win. But since I have to pick a team, here I go. Like Todd, I think it’s going to be a close one, but I see it going the other way…Colts 31, Saints 28.
Mike Higgins and Todd Bloniarz have been observing Boston sports all of their lives. In their professional lives, Mike is the sports editor for Current Publishing and Todd has called and covered games for various outlets ranging from high school, college and even the Boston Red Sox for one memorable inning on NESN.