Friday, February 6, 2009
Sports Q&A: Super Bowl Edition
Was Santonio Holmes a worthy selection for Super Bowl MVP?
Yes, Holmes was a worthy selection, but one could easily make a case for James Harrison. Like Holmes, Harrison accounted for one touchdown, but took a much more difficult route to get there, navigating practically the entire Arizona offense to score on a 100-yard interception return. You could argue that Cardinal left tackle Mike Gandy cost Harrison the trophy. Gandy was called for holding two times on Harrison, which cost Harrison one, and maybe two, sacks. As it was, because of those penalties, Harrison's statistic line was pretty empty, save for the interception return.
Of course, it's hard to deny Holmes the award. He repeatedly made big catches, and of course made the winning catch with a spectacular grab in the corner of the end zone, snagging the pass and getting two feet down as he went out of bounds. Most importantly, he maintained possession, and this time, the police didn't need to get involved.
Both Harrison and Holmes followed amazing paths to reach the pinnacle of pro football. Harrison wasn't even drafted, and was cut three times by the Steelers before he became the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year and nearly the Super Bowl MVP. Truly, it's a rags to riches story.
Holmes, prior to the big game, admitted that he sold drugs on a street corner as a youth in Belle Glade, Florida. That, my friend, is a "dime bags to riches" story. And I thought it quite appropriate that the public address system blared Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down on the Corner" as Holmes was handed the award.
What was the turning point of the game?
Without a question, Harrison's 100-yard interception return, which likely resulted in a 14-point swing. Had the Cards scored a touchdown, they would have gone into the half with a 14-10 lead, and possession to start the second half. It's surprising that Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn't call for a "jump ball" to Larry Fitzgerald instead of the quick slant, which is a risky call from the one-yard line with the offense and the defense in such tight quarters. The lob to Fitzgerald, at worse, would have been an incompletion. It's a play that will haunt Kurt Warner for a lifetime, and that single play will probably be the reason Warner returns for another season (he'll most likely make the announcement after emerging from a cave that just recently had a giant boulder removed from it's entrance), or retires from the game (which would be called a "Christian 'Bail'").
Why did the Cardinals lose this game?
There are at least three reasons. One, penalty yards. Two, James Harrison return yards. Arizona probably faced more 1st-and-20 and 2nd-and-20 downs in Super Bowl history. And, the Cardinals had 100 yards to chase down a guy who probably squats half a ton, and they couldn't get the job done. Here's some advice: if you're trying to bring down a six-foot, 242-pound linebacker, go for his ankles (side note: Harrison will score two touchdowns next year as a fullback in short yardage situations).
Three, Ben Roethlisberger's scrambling ability, also known as the "Ben But Don't Break" offense. Arizona consistently got pressure on Roethlisberger, and even recorded two sacks, but they never could track him down once he scrambled out of the pocket. That inevitably led to breakdowns in coverage, and subsequent big gains. That's through no fault of Arizona's defensive backfield; for the most part, their coverage was pretty good until Roethlisberger took off. And, as Santonio Holmes has shown on numerous occasions this year, he's extremely dangerous when plays break down. Holmes and Roethlisberger make a fearsome combination on unstructured plays.
Does this win make the Steelers the NFL's greatest franchise?
If we're judging by number of Super Bowl wins, then of course the Steelers are the greatest franchise. Super Bowl XLIII was the Steelers' sixth championship, one more than the Cowboys and 49ers, and the sixth championship gives them "one for the other thumb." And for hardcore fans who pierce a part of their body for each Super Bowl win, then the true test of their fanhood is upcoming.
Does Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed have the coolest hairdo in the NFL?
Absolutely, Reed's zany hairdo is tops in the NFL, and second only to Nick Nolte's mugshot 'do as the coolest in America, with apologies to disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagovovich.
Reed's hairstyle asserts his individualism, and it also makes him recognizable in public. Without the style statement, no one would recognize Reed. I guarantee that after he introduced his new hairstyle, Reed signed his first autograph, and people actually started to believe him when he said he knew Ben Roethlisberger.
Sadly, with recognition come the perils of fame. It's only a matter of time before a photograph of Reed and a bong hits the airwaves.
Is Larry Fitzgerald the league's best receiver now?
Without a doubt. Next year, you can expect the Cardinals to give the opposition even more "Fitz." But seriously, Fitzgerald's playoff performance not only put him in the record book, but it likely will place him at the top of fantasy draft boards, as well as on the cover of the Madden 2010 video game. Fitzgerald's No. 11 jersey will also top jersey sales next year, and he will be the new face of Citizen watches, because, unlike Eli Manning, Fitzgerald is unstoppable. Everyone wants Fitzgerald to succeed, except Rush Limbaugh.
Fitzgerald will also be hailed as the second coming of Bob Marley, and will be crowned king of Jamaica.
How was the halftime show?
For a halftime show lacking nudity, it was pretty darn good. Bruce Springsteen and crew gave an energetic performance even though they appeared to be dressed for mourning (I haven't seen that much black clothing since Johnny Cash's funeral). Springsteen even threw in some guitar-twirling tricks that would make Steve Vai jealous, or relevant. And Clarence Clemmons was sporting the greatest outfit ever for a cowbell player.
Should replay officials have taken a look at Arizona's final offensive play, in which LaMarr Woodley caused an apparent Kurt Warner fumble as Warner was in the act of passing?
Any time a turnover is the last play in a game as close as Super Bowl XLIII, it should be reviewed. I know coaches can't challenge in the final two minutes of the halves, but Ken Whisenhunt should have thrown his red flag anyway, if only to cause a delay and give replay officials time to come to their senses. Not that the call would have been overturned; it probably wouldn't have. But judging by some of the replay decisions we've seen this year, you never know.
In addition, a booth replay would have given NBC time to squeeze in several more commercials. And a replay would have silenced the conspiracy theorists who insist the officiating was biased in favor of the Steelers.
What was the best commercial?
As usual, it was a beer commercial. This time, though, it wasn't a Budweiser or Bud Light commercial. Personally, I'm sick of Clydesdales and Dalmatians, and Bud Light's "Drinkability" campaign lacks one thing — laughability.
I'm going with Miller High Life's one-second spot in which their spokesman simply said "High Life." It was short and grabbed your attention, assuming you didn't blink. Most of all, though, it served an as early endorsement for Santonio Holmes as Super Bowl MVP.
Of course, there were other intriguing spots in between all the ads for movies I'll patiently wait three years to see on video. There were the two GoDaddy.com ads, one featuring Danica Patrick showering (yeah, I know what you're thinking: it's too bad A.J. Foyt doesn't endorse GoDaddy.com), the other spoofing drug hearings in sports with a heavy-chested beauty defending accusations that she had been "enhanced." The provocative and suggestive commercials demanded attention (now I know what they mean by the term "pop-up" ad), and came with a teaser promising "unrated content" on the website. For those who eagerly surfed over the web site, the grainy video of Patrick lapping a friend was surprisingly a disappointment. As a rule, I prefer pornographic web sites unsullied by ads bullying me into purchasing domain names.
NBC's ads for upcoming shows were pretty funny, including the "LMAO" bit, Jerome Bettis' clothesline, and the Celebrity Apprentice piece, in which Andrew "Dice" Clay calls Donald Trump "Donnie," which is sure to get him "fired," as well as a reality show of his own.
The McMahon and McHammer "Cash4Gold" commercial was a beauty, and solidified MC Hammer's status as the "celebrity" who has become more famous for not being famous anymore. I now know how Hammer lost his fortune — he was actually dumb enough to send his gold through the mail to one of these "send gold, get cash" outfits, only to find that they "never received" his mailing.
As for disappointing ads, my vote goes to Gatorade's "G," probably one of the most uninspired campaigns of all-time. You could see the disappointment in Peyton Manning's eyes when he closed the commercial with the quote "That's 'G.'" If you've got Manning in an ad and you don't provide him with a comical line, then you've failed him, consumers, and your product. How many people do you think went out and bought Gatorade "G" because of that ad? That's "Z"-ro.
What lies ahead for the Cardinals?
If Warner is in a Cardinal uniform next year, and Matt Leinart is in a baseball cap (or hot tub), then Arizona has the necessary ingredients to sweep their NFC West division games, win two or three more games, and make another run that culminates with the Super Bowl. I believe Warner will return, but it will be on his terms, which will be a huge, one-year contract. Not only is God his co-pilot, He's also his agent.
Offensively, Arizona is sure to show more of as commitment to the running game with Edgerrin James. And if they can satisfy Anquan Boldin with a contract extension, then they'll again have the best three wide receiver tandem in the league.
Defensively, linebacker Karlos Dansby's contract is a priority, and the defensive line could use speed-rushing end.
While it's doubtful that Warner, Boldin, and Dansby will be back, Warner should be the priority. With Warner, the Cards could easily take the NFC West again and make another playoff run, although they might want to earn home-field advantage for the NFC championship instead of having it fall into their laps.