As a general rule, the average devout sports fan tends to have a healthy skepticism about the Super Bowl, as an actual sporting event with actual sporting value. Sure, the game itself is important — being for a championship and all — but all that surrounds the game (the two weeks — two weeks! — of media saturation, the commercials, the Beyoncé) can be so oppressive and suffocating that by the time it finally arrives, you find yourself eager for the whole thing to just end already. Some years, the matchup is so compelling that it drowns out all the hype and easy storylines; Giants fans have been fortunate enough to have experienced this twice in the last five years. This is not the case this year.
After San Francisco’s comeback against Atlanta and Baltimore’s surprisingly relaxing stomping of Tom Brady and New England, Super Bowl XLVII will feature brothers on opposing sidelines. John Harbaugh of the Ravens against Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers. (Also, of Saved by the Bell.) For years, a potential Eli Manning–Peyton Manning Super Bowl has been the focus of easy storyline hypesters, but the brothers Harbaughamazov sneaked in the back door. Because there is nothing more fun than watching an intense battle between two people who would look alike if we could see them behind the play cards they’re using to hide their face because coaching in the NFL turns people into paranoid lunatics.
So, prepare for endless — and we mean endless — stories of how the two brothers competed against each other as kids, what their Thanksgivings are like, the sacrifices their parents made along the way, where those parents will be watching the game, so on, whatnot. The Super Bowl exists by feeding off easy, digestible hooks — it is definitely the Today show of sporting events, the Yahoo front page of third-grade reading level — and two brothers coaching against each other is going to be jackhammered into your brain constantly for the next fortnight. The game is being broadcast by CBS, which means at some point, Jim Nantz is already practicing some sort of Cain and Abel riff, in between Masters rhapsodies.
All told, though, we still might take the Harbowl business (particularly if Jim does this again) over yet another Ray Lewis, American Hero episode. Though the reaction of Lewis and some of his organizational teammates afterward yesterday was another excellent reminder that football players are extremely weird. (He wasn’t any more normal before the game either.)
Anyway, you have two weeks to forget that the key play yesterday involved a fumble caused by a man’s forearms involuntarily flexing because of excessive force to the brainstem. Good luck.
Ed. Note: To remind, posts from the old The Sports Section blog now appear on Daily Intelligencer. Hi, everybody!