Super Bowl Focus
Since the Green Bay Packers battled Kansas City Chiefs in January of 1967, America has been in love with the Super Bowl, the game and also everything that comes along with it. Super Bowl 46 hangs in the balance this Sunday and while many events surrounding the the NFL championship seem to have changed, the game remains the same.
For football fans, the Super Bowl is the culmination of a grueling season filled with hard fought gridiron wars, plotted and planned by the best and brightest minds in the NFL. For the players, it is a chance for the league's brightest stars to etch their names in the record books as winners on sport's biggest stage. It is redemption and destruction, victory and inhalation, ecstasy and despair for the world to see. It is football at its finest and if your team happens to be in the game, it can be one of the most memorable events of a lifetime.
For many others however, it's a good reason to party on Sunday afternoon.
Yes, there are two very different groups who it seems equally love the NFL's biggest game. There are those who live and breathe football, from the early days of mini-camp through the final minutes of the big game. Those who worship fall Sundays with an almost religious fervor. The stat nerds, the fantasy geeks, the clones. In ever growing numbers, these fans are legion. On the flip-side, there is the casual fan, whose attachment to the game has more to do with a good reason to party than anything having to do with the actual game. What is interesting about this split in fans is the fact that both parties seem to love the game equally. Here is an overview to the way these two factions participate in and effect the Super Bowl.
Only for the Super Bowl will you see someone who for the rest of the year really doesn't care for football go out and drop $200 on a Tom Brady jersey, mostly because he happens to be the only player they know on either team. Football it seems has definitely become America's pastime and with that comes definite economic spoils, a large portion of which is supplied by the casual fan.
The sheer numbers put up around the game are staggering. This year, adverting executive will be paying a record $3.5 million for a 30 second advertising spot. As a side note, according to the Chicago Tribune, a major portion of this year's ads will be focused on the baby boomers, so get ready for plenty of investment and erectile dysfunction ads. What is more staggering than the cost of those 30 second spots is the fact that most in the industry feel they are worth it. A CNN Money Market blogger reported this week that just over 50 percent of those who watch the Super Bowl watch the commercials as well, far above the percentage for regular programming. When you calculate that in with the sheer number of views, the spots become worth their weight in golf for those who can afford them. As for the host city, there are reports that the Super Bowl can be worth as much as $500 million to a city and that accounts for significant issues with leakage and crowding, because no matter their size, most cities simply can't handle the Super Bowl.
Yes, because of casual fan interest the host the biz and especially the league are raking it in over the big game. Even with exorbitant ticket prices and merchandise galore, the NFL continues to find new ways to ring that last bit of cash from their prize heifer. This year for the first time the league sold tickets to the once "sacred" media day event. While those around the league have long joked that a five-year-old with a microphone can get credentialed for media day at least the fans were locked out. This year, for $25 roughly 7,300 fans were ushered in given an ear piece and allowed to listen to some of the most ridiculous questions a "reporter" might ever ask. But the questions are not what the league is selling, its access and in a time when safety is all important due to the war on terror, access is at a premium.
The broadcast and the biz:
The Super Bowl more than any other event transcends the game and turns its participants into entertainers, if you don't believe this just check out the tele in the weeks leading up to the game. Already, Tom Brady's hosting gig on Saturday Night Live has become a jealous spot for other players around the league and watch how many make their own appearance in the future. While NBC has been lagging in the Nielsen ratings for some time, the game provides them with a week long opportunity to get their primetime product out their and snatch the league's casual fan.
To do this NBC will not only saturate the game throughout their week's programming but will also start it's pre-game extravaganza at 2 p.m. Eastern time making sure that every facet of the game as well as Tom Brady's hair is well accounted for. Again, the celebrity cook-off featuring players and coaches as well as home tours with the player's wives is also as one could guess tailored for the the casual fan.
This it seems is the one part of the Super Bowl which is played essentially the same as it was in 1967, just the players pulling their chin straps tight and leaving it out on the field. More substance than style, the pre-game insanity is stripped away and the game is put in the hands of the players.
To review this year's contest, the Sun Advocate interviewed our own sport's authority Kevin Scannell as well as Castle Country Radio's Jordan Buscarini, the host of his own local daily sports talk radio program, Drive Time Sports, and a truly massive fan in his own right.
"While all the hoopla is whatever, the game is for the fans and the game is what I care about," said Buscarini over the phone earlier this week. "And this should be a great game."
Their breakdown of Super Bowl 46 is as follows:
Buscarini: Despite that fact that Eli Manning has been the best quarterback in the fourth quarter this season (15 touchdowns in the 4th quarter; and NFL record), on top of having an 8-1 TD/INT ratio in the playoffs, the nod goes to Tom Brady here. Brady has propelled the Patriots back to the Super Bowl, despite the fact the Patriots' defense ranks 31st in passing and 17th in rushing. Oh, he also threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 TD's this season and has three super bowl rings.
Scannell: Both Tom Brady and Eli Manning have won the big game before. Brady has more experience playing in the Super Bowl, but Manning has played well down the stretch and is getting hot at the right time.
Advantage - Patriots
Buscarini: The Giants are statistically the worst rushing team in the NFL, averaging just under 90 yards a game, while the Patriots rank 20th. Expect the Giants to run the ball more than New England simply because its in their best interest to keep Tom Brady off the field. Brandon Jacobs also averaged four yards per carry against the Patriots in the regular season, another performance like that will be needed if the Giants are to have a chance.
Scannell: With a one-two combo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmed Bradshaw, the NY Giants have the edge. Both big and strong backs, they can be counted on for helping the NY offense control the time of possession. Also when the running game gets going, it helps open up holes in the defense for Manning to try and exploit.
Advantage - Giants
Buscarini: Both quarterbacks have the ability to make their targets better wide-outs. Wes Welker has tallied 554 catches since joining New England, and an NFL best 113 grabs from the slot this year. But this season Victor Cruz leads the NFL in slot receiving yards and averages over 12 yards per catch in the slot position. However, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are Tight Ends that continue to give defensive coordinators nightmares.
Scannell: Brady has weapons to pass to at every position on offense. Wes Welker and Deion Branch, while not the biggest targets on the field, can rack up catches and yards quickly. Add in tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and the offense becomes more dynamic. Stopping both of them will be key for the Giants, especially with how effective Gronkowski is in the red zone.
Advantage - Patriots
Buscarini: As bad as New England's defense has played at times this year, New York's secondary has gave up an average of 255 yards per game. New York's defense must do a better job of putting pressure on Tom Brady, the last time these two teams met, the Giants they tallied two sacks and only three quarterback hits. "I'll give the edge to the Giants as far as defense goes, just because of the depth on the ends with Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora," explained Buscarini.
Scannell: Since falling to the Washington Redskins 23-10 on Dec. 18, the Giants have won five straight games while allowing just 20 points or less in each game. The defensive line has consistently gotten pressure on the opposing quarterbacks and is playing at their best right now. If the defensive line can get pressure on Brady early without the use of blitzes, then the Giants can put more attention towards shutting down the Patriots passing game.
Advantage - Giants
"I learned long ago that you do not pick against Tom Brady. He is the best at taking advantage of an opposing team's weakness. The Patriots did a fantastic job of protecting Brady the last time these two teams played and I expect much of the same this go around. Vince Wilfork will create enough havoc up the middle to disrupt Manning's timing, all while Tom Brady picks apart the Giants secondary to get his fourth ring and third Super Bowl MVP. Patriots 34-17," said Buscarini.
While Scannell was a bit more political in his final pick, he is going with the tough pick. "While it is difficult to pick against Tom Brady and the Patriots, the edge may have to be given to the Giants, simply due to the way they are playing right now. Their defense has improved considerably when they were in danger of missing the playoffs and in their three playoff games they have helped carry the team to victory. With Eli Manning leading the offense the Giants seem to have everything working at just the right time. Giants 34-31.
So, there it is, a split decision from our experts and a split decision about what this game actually is - entertainment or sport - put on for the fan or the casual viewer. In a time when the media and the events we cover happen to be ever changing due to the digital age, it seems as though the answer is both and that is what makes the Super Bowl what it is. An event with a little something for everybody.