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Title Belts and Sweat Pants

In a few short days, the Patriots and Eagles will face off in the most dramatic embarrassment of riches this young century has seen, otherwise known as this year’s Super Bowl.  The NFL certainly didn’t need this.  Unlike professional baseball or basketball, the NFL knows that its championship game will be a ratings colossus each and every year.       Even when the game is lopsided (Broncos vs. Falcons), or features two teams from small markets (Raiders vs. Buccaneers), everyone still tunes in.  Meanwhile, if the Spurs and Nets play for the NBA title, suddenly everyone has a dentist’s appointment they’re late for.  The NFL has no problem drawing viewers to its premier game, which is why they appear spoiled hosting the Eagles and Patriots, which promises to be the greatest Super Bowl match-up of my lifetime.  The best team in the NFC will finally play the best team in the AFC, and one of them will go home with the coolest trophy in sports.  What do you get the sports league who has everything?  You get them a Philly-New England Super Bowl.

        This Sunday’s game, as great as it is, is just too close to call using traditional methods.  The most important intangible, the number of UC-Riverside alumni on each team, is out the window because none of the Eagles or Patriots played their college ball at the Harvard of the West.  The next key factor, the skeleton in the closet, is too close to call.  The Patriots used to have a center as their mascot, but Philly fans cheered when Michael Irvin went down with a spinal injury.  Hard to say which one’s worse.  As far as Super Bowls go, the Eagles are the new hotness, while the Patriots are old and busted.  But these Pats have never lost a playoff game, while these Eagles always seem to come up short in big games.  Even flipping a coin isn’t this even.  

        Because the biggest game of the year appears to be a toss-up (and because most people watching the Super Bowl have no idea who most of the players are), I’m breaking the game down individually.  Here are the 10 key people to watch come Super Bowl Sunday:

        10)  Bill Belicheck, head coach, Patriots

        I know, I know: how are you supposed to watch a head coach, right?  Well, given the amount of genius talk surrounding Belicheck right now (Mike Shanahan has 2 Super Bowl rings also), he’ll show up on your TV more than enough times.  The real thing to watch here is Belicheck’s attire.  Each and every week, he shows up on the sideline wearing all sweats.  Old ratty sweatshirt, sweatpants, sweatband, you name it.  If he ever loses all of his hair, I have no doubt that Belicheck will opt for a sweat-toupee.  He’s a living reminder of one of Jerry Seinfeld’s best quotes: “You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You’re telling the world: ‘I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.'”

        But because he’s playing in warmer weather than he’s used to, and with it being the Super Bowl and all, I’m a little worried Belicheck might dress up for the occasion.  Maybe a windbreaker with the sweat pants, something like that.  Which would be a shame, because then most of the country wouldn’t get to see his sweatshirt that looks like it’s used as an oil rag 6 days out of the week.  And once that’s gone, it’s much harder to picture Belicheck sitting in his den in only his tighty whities, devising game plans and painting model warships until his wife comes in to remind him that the game starts in 20 minutes.  That’s half the Belicheck magic, gone.  So please, Bill, wear the sweats.  Do it for the people.

        9)  Jeremiah Trotter, linebacker, Eagles

        Trotter’s a good player, and he’s made some big plays for the Eagles this postseason.  But that’s not why I want you to watch him.  In college, my roommate Robert and I always used the same teams in Madden- he used the Eagles and I used the Redskins.  But my roommate refused to call any player by their real name, instead making up fake first names for each player, so that Roman Phifer became “Michelle” Phifer and so on (the Charlotte Bobcats also became the “Robertcats”).  It was here that Jeremiah Trotter earned the name “Harry Trotter”.  I now defy you to watch the Super Bowl and not laugh every time Trotter makes a play.

        8)  Rodney Harrison, safety, Patriots

        This week was filled with bizarre events.  Leonardo DiCaprio won a lifetime achievement award at age 30, McDonald’s launched a new campaign featuring the slogan “I’d Hit It”, and Freddie Mitchell called out Rodney Harrison.  For those of you unfamiliar with Mitchell and Harrison, this would be like if I had called out my dad when I was in middle school.  Harrison is about as scary as my dad, and he’s a hell of a lot faster.  Just watching Harrison’s interviews on TV are intimidating.  Factor in Harrison’s well-earned reputation as one of the league’s dirtiest head-hunters, and Mitchell figures to be in for a long day.  Which brings us to number 7 on our list….

        7)  Freddie Mitchell, wide receiver, Eagles

        I’m not sure which is more bizarre: the fact that one of the most overwhelmingly mediocre receivers in football says he “has something” for Rodney Harrison, or that the same receiver wears a championship wrestling belt in public.  That’s right, Freddie Mitchell has dubbed himself “The People’s Champ”, and has taken to wearing a Ric Flair belt after games.  He even has someone walk around carrying it for him on the sideline.  The best part of this isn’t that Mitchell doesn’t start for his own team, or even that he was a backup to James Thrash just last season.  No, the best part of the Freddie Mitchell Experience is that anyone, literally anyone, can run up on Freddie Mitchell and take that belt from him.  If the Eagles’ punter wanted that belt, he could have it.  Mitchell is wire-thin, and he’s walking around with a heavyweight championship belt.  I love it.

        By the way, the whole championship belt thing is just old by now.  In the last 2 years alone, everyone has shown up on TV with Ric Flair’s belt, from Mitchell to Clinton Portis to the Detroit Pistons to every rapper to ever appear on BET: Uncut.  Find something new already.  Or at least wear the old Hogan WWF belt, just for originality’s sake.

        6)  Adam Vinatieri, kicker, Patriots

        If this year’s Super Bowl is anything like New England’s last 2 trips to The Big Game, expect to see Vinatieri attempt a crucial field goal late in the game.  New England’s kicker has clinched their last 2 titles with 4th quarter field goals, and this game figures to be a close contest as well.  If you’re looking for a drinking game this weekend, have a beverage every time Vinatieri touches the ball.  Field goals, extra points, kickoffs- everything goes.  To give you a frame of reference, Vinatieri touched the ball 10 times in last year’s Super Bowl, so be sure to assign a D.D. before playing.

        5)  Brian Dawkins, safety, Eagles

        Need a reason to root for the Eagles?  Here he is.  Brian Dawkins is Philly’s answer to Rodney Harrison, a safety who hits like a baseball bat and isn’t shy about it.  Part of me wants Philadelphia to win just so we can see another post-game interview with Dawkins, who tried out for the WWE after winning the NFC Championship.  I kept waiting for him to get to the part about his 24″ pythons, but it never happened.  Given that they haven’t actually won anything yet, absolutely no one on the Eagles should be wearing a championship belt.  But if one guy can get away with it, it’s Dawkins.  The man honestly believes he’s Wolverine.  Plus, his eye visor just makes him look mean.

        I’d love to see a showdown between Dawkins and Harrison, regardless of the activity.  Even if it’s a backgammon game, I don’t care.  I’d pay to watch those 2 go head-to-head.

        4)  Tedy Bruschi, linebacker, Patriots

        Tedy Bruschi is just his government name.  His real name is Beeeeeeeeeeeast.  Aside from being the most fun linebacker to use in this year’s Madden, Bruschi just plays like an out-and-out animal.  When he retires, the first highlight they’ll show of Bruschi will be him stripping the ball from the Colts’ Dominic Rhodes in this year’s AFC Divisional Playoff.  Rhodes caught a pass from Peyton Manning, only to have Bruschi arrive at the same time and take the ball from him.  Bruschi plays every snap that way, which is what makes him so fun to watch.

        3)  Donovan McNabb, quarterback, Eagles

        McNabb is one of those guys who’s impossible to hate.  He’s a great player, he has fun playing the game, and he seems like a great guy to be around.  In fact, “Dunnavin” is the reason Terrell Owens wanted to play for the Eagles in the first place.  McNabb reminds me of Steve Young, a likeable quarterback who came close to a title 800 years in a row before finally reaching the Super Bowl, once his team bought everyone they could find.  In fact, this Eagles group is the only team that’s ever reminded me of the 1994 49ers, which is still the best team I’ve ever seen.  The defense was improved through big-name signings (Norton & Dent for the Niners, Kearse & Trotter for Philly), 3 members of the defensive secondary are going to the Pro Bowl (same as the ’94 Niners), and one talkative superstar is heralded as the final piece of the puzzle (Deion / T.O.).  When you think about it, the Eagles almost seem destined to win the Super Bowl this season.  Almost.

        2)  Tom Brady, quarterback, Patriots

        The Gap can just save their money, because they don’t need to air any commercials during this year’s Super Bowl.  Brady is a walking advertisement for the company, and he’s perilously close to becoming more well-known for being pretty than for winning games.  Of course, when this means you get to date Bridget Moynahan, life could be worse.  The main reason Brady doesn’t command multiple Super Bowl-winner type respect is because he makes it look so easy.  He’s drawn comparisons to Joe Montana because of this, but even Montana had an air about him that suggested he was cooler under pressure than most could ever hope to be.  Brady seems like just a normal guy off the street, in part because he was a backup in college and wasn’t picked until the 6th round of the draft, and partly because he seems to like it that way.  After a Patriots win, the lasting memory of the game seems to be a Vinatieri kick or a Bruschi turnover or Belicheck’s mastery of the opposing offense.  Very rarely does Brady appear to be the difference-maker.  But don’t be fooled.  Brady is an outstanding quarterback, he’s just sneaky about it.  So be sure to watch him, and appreciate just how sneaky good he is.

        1)  Terrell Owens, wide receiver, Eagles

        Terrell Owens is the bizarro Tom Brady.  He’s good, he knows it, and he has no problem telling you about it.  Owens hasn’t played in a game since breaking his ankle over a month ago, so it’s unclear how big a part he’ll play in Sunday’s game.  But here’s what I do know: if T.O. finds the end zone on Sunday, it promises to be the greatest touchdown celebration of all-time.  Owens has overtaken the star in Dallas, pulled a sharpie out of his sock on Monday Night Football, and played with pom-poms in San Francisco.  The man is a showman; these were merely regular season appetizers.  You know T.O. has something special lined up for the Super Bowl, when the whole world will be watching.  And given Dunnavin’s tendency to feed Owens the ball early and often, you can bet he’ll get a touchdown somehow (I’ll break it down SAT-style – Owens: Eagles wide receivers ; Shaq: Fu-Schnickens).

        Earlier this week, the Eagles’ team doctor refused to clear Owens to play in the Super Bowl due to concerns about his ankle.  Which raises the question: why did he bother asking the doctor in the first place?  If he was going to play anyway, why even ask?  And what did he expect to hear?  Would you trust a doctor who said, “What is that, a broken ankle?  Yeah, be sure to put some weight on that.  And do you know any 250-pound track stars who can jump on that for you?”

        I’m surprised Owens’ ankle was even able to break, given that his Sharpie should have acted as a splint, and he has enough muscles to pad every bone in his body (not that he’s ever messed around with the “earclay” or the “eamcray”).  The one concern I have with Owens on Sunday is that he’ll try to do too much, coming back after having missed so many games.  When Owens tries to force things, he’s prone to silly mistakes, and his silly mistakes have a habit of landing in the hands of opposing defenses.  If he’s healthy, Owens is the most exciting player to watch on the field.  If he’s not healthy, he could become the favorite player of everyone in New England.  Because he changes the entire game so dramatically, T.O. is the number one player to watch come Super Bowl Sunday.

        My prediction: Patriots 27, Eagles 24.  

        I can’t pick against the Patriots until someone actually beats them.  Vinatieri wins it in the 4th quarter.

By sign_arenas

Ray was born and raised in the Bay Area, and has been addicted to the local sports scene since Luis Polonia was roaming left field for the A's. You can always pick him out of a crowd by looking for the guy in Warriors gear. Ray is the Oakland Sports Examiner at Examiner.com, and his work can be found at:

http://www.examiner.com/x-12984-Oakland-Sports-Examiner

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