Beginning with coaches, story lines cover all angles

February 04, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

MIAMI -- I am so ready for this Super Bowl, aren't you?

You aren't? C'mon, why not?

(With all due respect, Baltimore fans, please stay out of this one. We know where you stand and we understand, but this is about a bigger picture.)

There's so much going on tonight at Dolphin Stadium, you can't help but be pulled in by something. So many story lines, classic ones and new ones (even if some have been worn to a nub by now). So many X-factors to make you really nervous about turning away at the wrong time. So much potentially really good football, from either team or both teams.

Plus, Prince at halftime. The unofficial odds against his performing "Soft and Wet" are currently at 500 to 1; of his introducing his surprise guest, Miami's own Luther Campbell, 1,000 to 1. But you never know.

Where to start?

At the beginning, literally - the "first" angle. Apparently, some people have grown tired of hearing about Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears being the first black coaches to get to the Super Bowl. Uh-huh, and after about a year, moon landings started to be taken for granted, too.

Among the other precedents being set by the appearance of Dungy and Smith is this phenomenon: The viewer interest in significant segments of the population, here and around the world, will hit new peaks - and much of that population won't care who wins.

Many have echoed the thoughts of Doug Williams, former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, who said last week at a reception for a new book about him and his black quarterback pioneer brethren, Third and a Mile: "Everybody's asking me who do I want to win, and I tell them, `It doesn't matter. We win either way.'"

Those who aren't bored by transformative moments in American culture will feel much the same way. But even putting that aside, there's plenty more to pay attention to.

There's the story line that's as dusty as the aforementioned one is fresh: the redemption. Peyton Manning's, to be exact. You may recall it from previous Super Bowls, John Elway's and Steve Young's, to name a couple.

So much success, so much falling short of the ultimate triumph, so much catharsis from finally reaching the big stage, so much absorbing drama watching him try to slay the final dragon.

Go ahead, act as if you don't care how that turns out.

Then there's the fact that two relatively new teams are here, at least two that haven't been at this plateau in a long time. (Not to mention two that haven't been there three times in the previous five years, haven't had their stories told more often than Grimm's fairy tales, and aren't nicknamed "Patriots.")

Chicago fans have been haunted and teased by the ghosts of the 1985 Bears, who 21 years later are still so bad that they know they're good, blowin' your mind like they knew they would. Indianapolis fans, punished by the Curse of the Mayflower Van for 23 years, don't even have that reference point, cheesy or otherwise. One team is going to break a long drought.

There's the Joe Namath-'69 Jets factor. The Colts have held steady as seven-point favorites since the matchup was set, fairly big for a Super Bowl. It's largely from the premise of AFC superiority - one conference so much better than the other, thus the champ of that conference should win in a walk. Sound familiar? Even with the spread not budging, plenty are suspicious of overrating the Colts and underrating the Bears.

Include the Bears among them. They're one of the few teams in any sport that can legitimately play the Rodney Dangerfield card. They're edgy from two weeks of being asked how they could possibly halt the Indy steamroller. Especially with a quarterback like Rex Grossman, who apparently isn't qualified to carry Peyton Manning's trading card in his wallet, for fear that he'd hand it to a stranger walking by on the street.

The stealth underdog with the chip on the shoulder is a good reason to watch.

So is the strength-on-strength matchup, the Colts' offense against the Bears' defense. Even if you're tempted to make a beer run when Grossman and the Bears have the ball, you'd be insane to do it when it's the other way around. It's a possible touchdown on any given play, going either way.

That any-given-play factor can't help but keep you riveted. The Bears' Muhsin Muhammad said last week that he annually checks out the Super Bowl records to see if his 85-yard touchdown reception from three years ago, when he was with the Panthers, is still there. Then he acknowledged that if it were to fall, it could happen in this game because of all the weapons on hand, including himself. It's worth noting that such weapons abound on every unit - offense, defense and special teams.

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