We just finished watching one of the most memorable Super Bowls in history, even though all of those memories aren’t good ones if you’re a Seattle fan. There was plenty of excitement and suspense and lots of great plays and lots of goofy plays, and it all added up to a terrific show. According to the Nielsen ratings, Super Bowl XLIX was the most watched game in history, with more than 114 million viewers, and New England and Seattle gave them their money’s worth.
But it was hard to really enjoy the game, simply because I had no rooting interest, and there’s a big difference between watching a big game as a disinterested observer and watching it as an invested fan.
It was different two years ago, when Joe Flacco and the Ravens were in the Super Bowl and there was a clear rooting interest. Other than that, it’s been a long time since I really cared who won the Super Bowl. In fact, it dawned on me during one point of Sunday night’s game that in this Super Bowl, and most of the recent ones, I wanted one of the teams to lose more than I wanted either of the teams to win. My rooting interest was purely negative. Take last year’s Super Bowl, for example. I didn’t care about Seattle, but I didn’t like Denver – I was sick of the Peyton-is-god stories — so I pulled for Seattle, although there was no real passion in it.
And that’s what made this Super Bowl so tough. I disliked both teams and it was hard deciding which one I disliked the most — the Seahawks were cocky and disrespectful and the Patriots were aloof and haughty, and none of those are endearing qualities.
With the Seahawks, it starts, of course, with cornerback Richard Sherman, an outstanding player and teammate. But for some reason Sherman feels the need to demean opposing players, even good ones. He did it in this Super Bowl when he mockingly held up his fingers to signify the number 24, which is the number of Patriots cornerback Darrell Revis, who got beat for a touchdown. It’s one thing to pound your own chest, but when you take cheap shots at a competitor – especially a respected All-Pro like Revis – it just shows a complete lack of class.
Sherman did the same thing last year in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, when he batted away a last-minute pass that was intercepted in the end zone to effectively end the game. Afterward, Sherman openly denigrated 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, another good player.
Actually, what really bothered me about Sherman’s antics last year was how he was boasting about and being praised for a terrible play. Anybody who has played defensive back at any level knows that one of the cardinal sins is to bat a ball into the air. Even at the high school level coaches run drills where DBs are told (OK, screamed at) to get on top of the ball and knock it down, not get under it and bat it into the air where a receiver can grab it. And that’s exactly what Sherman did. He was just lucky that one of his teammates and not one of the 49ers was there to catch the ball. If a 49ers player had grabbed the deflected ball in the end zone and the Niners had won, then Sherman would have been pounded by the media and fans instead of doing Campbell’s Soup commercials. Such is the difference between winning and losing.
The Seahawks have another player who is hard to root for, and you saw plenty of video of him in the week leading up to the game, even if you didn’t hear him say much. For some reason, running back Marshawn Lynch refuses to talk to the media and he’s plenty surly about it. Nobody is going to feel sorry for the media and they shouldn’t, but Lynch’s refusal to do what his contract says he should do, his complete disregard for the fans who pay his million-dollar salary, as well as his immature crotch-grabbing antics, also shows a lack of class.
As for the Patriots, it’s always hard to root for a team that wins so much (unless, of course, it’s your team), but it’s also grating how they go about their business. Their coach isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy and that’s OK – he doesn’t get paid to be warm and fuzzy. But Bill Belichick has always played loosely with the rules of the game to see how much he can get away with, whether it’s being vague with injury news or secretly taping other teams or letting a little air out of the footballs.
Now, we’re not saying Belichick had any involvement or knowledge of the deflated football controversy, but he has created an atmosphere where it seems to be OK to push the outside of the envelope a little bit when it comes to the rules.
And what’s particularly annoying about what the Patriots do is the fact that they don’t need to do it. They already have a great team – why do they need to cheat? You can see a team like, say, Jacksonville, bending the rules because they want to be competitive, but if you’re already the best, why bother?
The same thing irks me about steroid use in baseball. You can almost understand a scuffling minor-league player with an uncertain future and a family to feed juicing up for a chance at stardom and big bucks. But when Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez does it – guys who are already Hall-of-Famers and zillionaires – that’s just pure greed.