To celebrate Super Bowl media day and all the craziness that goes with it, I thought we should play relativity in terms of Super Bowl storylines. These storylines will be rated on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the story that will get the most publicity and 1 being a story that completely flies under the radar. The comments will reflect whether a storyline should be as publicized as it is.
10 – Anquan Boldin’s unhappiness. It’s a fact that Boldin wanted out of Arizona before the season. He’s making about 60 percent of what Larry Fitzgerald is, and he’s much closer to Fitzgerald than that when it comes to performance. With that as a backdrop, Boldin’s sideline shouting match with offensive coordinator Todd Haley in the NFC championship game takes on more significance. Boldin will be absolutely bombarded with questions about his state of mind throughout the week, to the point where Boldin and the rest of us get sick of it. He’s already tried to make light of the situation, calling the coverage “hilarious.” But this will be the story of the first part of the week.
(P.S. As for why Boldin was out of the game, the best explanation came from Mike Lombardi on Bill Simmons’ podcast on 1/19/08. Take a listen if you want to hear the football-geek explanation of the strategy that left Boldin on the sideline.)
9 – Kurt Warner’s legacy – There’s already been a lot of conversation about Warner and especially about his Hall of Fame credentials. The fact that Warner is only the second quarterback to start for two teams to the Super Bowl (the other, Craig Morton, lost the big game both with the Cowboys and the Broncos) is impressive. Plus, he has two MVP awards. So is he a Hall of Famer? That’ll be a big question on radio row all week long. (By the way, right here it says that Warner isn’t a Hall of Famer yet. A win in this game might be enough to put him over the top; 2 more big years will help even more in that they will mitigate the argument that his career wasn’t outstanding long enough.)
8 – Revenge of Whisenhunt and Grimm. Two years ago, the Steelers had Ken Whisenhunt (offensive coordinator) and Russ Grimm (asst. head coach/OL coach) on their staff when Bill Cowher retired. Both were considered for the job, but Whisenhunt read the tea leaves that he wasn’t going to get the job and pursued the Cardinals job. Grimm waited only to be passed over when the Steelers went outside the organization to hire Mike Tomlin. The coaches have to attend all the media sessions, so some media muckrakers will try to get Whisenhunt and Grimm to express bitterness about that situation. Chances are they won’t, but if someone says something (or something that can be misconstrued or edited in just the right way), the sour-grapes angle will explode.
7- Steelers history. With a win, the Steelers will take the all-time lead with 6 Super Bowl championships. Pundits are already asking if the Steelers are the best franchise of the Super Bowl era, which is a fun parlor game. In the end, it doesn’t mean a whole lot other than pride, but this question without a definitive answer will make for lots of talk-radio chatter all week long and even the week after the game.
6 – None listed.
5- Papa Fitzgerald. In case you haven’t heard yet, Larry Fitzgerald’s father, Larry Senior, is a sportswriter who will be covering the Super Bowl as a member of the media. So on the three media days (Tuesday on the field and then Wednesday and Thursday in the ballrooms), Larry Senior will be among the unwashed masses of reporters trying to get players – including his son – to talk. (Take it from me when I tell you these hordes of reporters are largely unwashed.) This story has already been noticed by PTI and Rick Reilly, and you’ll see Larry Sr. showing up several times this week. The story doesn’t matter when it comes to the game, but it will be a midweek novelty that you’ll be sick of by Thursday.
4- Whisenhunt’s challenge. Because the Cardinals were so bad down the stretch, most notably in a snowy 47-7 loss at New England, people will ask what turned things around. And players will point to a meeting that coach Ken Whisenthunt had with his team before the season finale against Seattle. This is the sportswriter’s best chance to use a cliched metaphor, such as “laid down the law” or “threw down the gauntlet” or something else. Was it important? Seems so. But this important? Probably not.
3- Cardinals history. While the Steelers have a strong history, the Cardinals have a history of futility. With only two championships — one in 1949 and the other a disputed one from 1925 – the Cardinals don’t have much to brag about. I haven’t heard much yet, but someone will bring up the Pottsville Maroons, who some believe had the ’25 title stolen from them. My guess is ESPN’s David Fleming, who wrote a book about the Maroons. This story will be an interesting midweek diversion for football history geeks like me.
2- Larry Fitzgerald, the college years. You will hear a few media, mostly from Big East country, pointing out that Fitzgerald played his college ball in Pittsburgh. Because Pittsburgh really cares about its football in a way more provincial than in other places, this story will seep out a time or two. It won’t be a big theme, nor should it be, but you’ll hear it in passing a time or two this week.
1- The Super Bowl city. Sportswriters always complain. They always sound like babies. Hometown people get offended. This story gets played up every Super Bowl, but it’s really played out. I’ll be skipping those links this week.
Any storylines I missed? Post a comment and we’ll play relativity.