More than any sporting event this side of Air Bud, the Super Bowl is where we go for cinematic, overproduced sports theater. CBS will have 62 cameras on hand, bringing sweeping panoramas, close-ups, high-definition snot-rockets—everything you could want from a staged drama, except live and unscripted. There's even a gun in the first act. Let's treat the game like the narrative factory it is and get caught up.
Jack and Jackie Harbaugh:
Jack is a former player—one year for the AFC's New York Titans in 1961—and coach, most notably at Western Michigan ('82-'86), and Western Kentucky ('89-'12). The pair met as freshmen at Bowling Green in 1957, married in 1961, had John in 1962, and Jim in 1963. They spoke expansively at a media day press conference this week covering basically everything that's ever happened to them. Surprise, it's a family of football coaches, so the answers were mostly about football, but Jack did reveal enough to suggest that his sons' manic, wordy intensity is genetic:
Jim Harbaugh: Younger than his brother by 15 months and crazier by half, Jim is a former University of Michigan and NFL quarterback, a Heisman trophy finalist in 1987, a Pro Bowl selection in 1995 with the Colts, three-year coach of the Stanford Cardinals, and a one-time star of Saved by the Bell, opposite Screech. He once backed up Ryan Leaf, and was Marques Tuiasosopo's quarterbacks coach with the Raiders. A fiery weirdo who, in the grand tradition of NFL head coaches, will be touted by the media as flawless and, more dubiously, fully human, if he wins the Super Bowl. Co-owns an IndyCar team.
• Gay Lip Readers All Over America Are Upset With Jim Harbaugh
• Jim Harbaugh Knows What The Kids Like
• Jim Harbaugh Is A Crazy Person
• Jim Harbaugh Is A Crazy Person, Part II
• Jim Harbaugh Hates Rookies
• Jim Harbaugh Put All Of His Players' High School Photos Above Their Lockers
• "Find The Asshole, That's Where That Knuckle Goes": A Young Jim Harbaugh On How To Play Quarterback
• Jim Harbaugh: The Sexier Harbaugh
John Harbaugh: The type of Harbaugh that will deign to wear a suit to a mid-week Super Bowl ceremony and smile every once in a while. Considered law school after college, but decided to coach under his father at Western Michigan. John was a special teams coach for the Eagles for nine years, then briefly defensive backs coach before getting his first head coaching job with Baltimore. He was chosen over Rex Ryan, and both of them were only in the running because Jason Garrett had already passed on the offer. When it happened, a local columnist wondered, "Who in blazes in John Harbaugh?" The AP noted that at that point in the process, "The only other viable candidate for the job was New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer." Who in blazes is Brian Schottenheimer?
• John Harbaugh Likes When His Team Throws A Few Punches
• John Harbaugh Explained Losing To The Seahawks By Saying "Football" Nine Times In 30 Seconds
• John Harbaugh Explained An Upset Over The Jets By Asking, "Where Is The Philosopher Of This Age?"
• John Harbaugh Pissed Off Todd Haley During A Preseason Game
Colin Kaepernick: As of week 9, a test of obscure college football knowledge; as of week 10, the savior of the San Francisco 49ers and challenger for most exciting quarterback in the league. When he's on the field.
• 49ers Backup Colin Kaepernick Opened Up The Playbook And Shot Down The Bears Last Night
• Who Is This Hack Who Wrote About Colin Kaepernick's Tattoos, And Why Is He Such A Racist Dicktroll?
• Colin Kaepernick Wrote A Letter To Himself In Fourth Grade Predicting That He'd Become A Pro Football Player
• Rick Reilly's Column About Colin Kaepernick Is The Smarmiest Story Of Super Bowl Week
Patrick Willis: Consensus excellent linebacker and cool guy. His Wikipedia page contains this passage:
Born in Bruceton, Tennessee, Willis grew up in abject poverty and had to take care of his younger siblings. By the age of 10, he worked full-time on cotton fields. He left his home, a double-wide in a trailer park just outside of Bruceton, with his two brothers and sister as a 17-year old, when his alcoholic father turned increasingly violent. The siblings moved in with Willis' high school basketball coach.
Mike Singletary, who knows his linebackers, once called Willis the next Ray Lewis (in terms of talent and impact, not the likelihood that he becomes an ESPN pundit).
Torrey Smith: Maybe the best reciever for a franchise used to dropped passes, Smith is outperforming the higher profile and far better compensated Anquan Boldin in some important facets of the game (catching bombs, in particular, the lifeblood of the Baltimore offense). Soldiered on despite the death of his little brother hours before a Sunday Night Football game this season.
• The Ravens' Torrey Smith, In The Safest Place Imaginable, Ran For His Life When The Earthquake Hit
• Torrey Smith Wants You To Know He Wasn't Tim Tebow When He Was In College
• Torrey Smith's Brother Died In A Motorcycle Crash/Torrey Smith Makes Diving Touchdown Catch
Ray Lewis: Could we possibly say anything about Ray Lewis that we haven't already? Tune in after the Super Bowl to find out! Until then, click the links below to read about the most hated man in football, and then see the comments below those posts to read about the most loved man in football.
• Here's A Picture Of Ray Lewis Hanging In Effigy Near Pittsburgh
• Ray Lewis Is A Complicated Problem Who Played Football With Simple Greatness
• Bonnie Bernstein Explains Ray Lewis's Crimes With An Unfortunate Parable About Middle Schoolers Smoking
• Once The Ravens Season Is Over, Ray Lewis Will Be Bristol Bound
• Ray Lewis Thinks Those PED Allegations Are A "Trick Of The Devil"
• Ray Lewis Would Prefer You Stop Asking Questions About His Murder Case, Because "This Is God's Time"
• How Two Newspapers Wound Up Staging The Same Sob Story About The Ray Lewis Murder Case
• Wes Welker's Wife Took To Facebook To Say Some Unkind Things About Ray Lewis
• The Hater's Guide To Ray Lewis
Joe Flacco: Is it possible to be an unlovable oaf? Flacco is sometimes goofy and sometimes an endearingly bold passer, but there are few who wear the confidence necessary to be an NFL quarterback more awkwardly. Be honest: If the Ravens win, will watching Joe Flacco hoist the trophy warm your heart? Didn't think so. Rarely is an underdog story—he went to Delaware, or something—so unmoving.
• Joe Flacco Wants A Little Recognition For Not Having Achieved Anything Noteworthy Yet
• The Ever-Inflating Joe Flacco: "I Think I'm The Best"
• Joe Flacco, The Big-Armed Oaf Who Saved Baltimore
• Joe Flacco's Father Summed Him Up Pretty Perfectly
• 2014 Super Bowl Host Committee Wonders Why Joe Flacco Dissed His Home State Of New Jersey
Michael Crabtree: Hey, the 49ers have a player acquitted on criminal charges as well. Crabtree's questioning for sexual assault two weeks ago wasn't nearly the distraction many thought it would be—no details were released, Crabtree said he was "disappointed" by the allegations, and everyone moved on—unless you're rooting against the 49ers, in which case you can yell about it all you want.
• OK, Just How Did Michael Crabtree Slip To No. 10 In The Draft? (He Is, Evidently, A Dick)
• Michael Crabtree's Adviser Has Quite The Shady History
• Is Michael Crabtree The Devil? Michael Rosenberg Thinks So
• San Francisco Police Investigating 49ers Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree For Alleged Sexual Assault
Roger Goddell: Roger Goodell hovers over this game like a persistent fart wafting around a dinner party. He's hated by the locals, was a constant presence during the bye-week media festivities, and, as a sleazy lobbyist for a dangerous and corrupt organization, he's basically the Wayne LaPierre of the NFL. Ray Lewis may be a grandstanding God-squadder minimizing his own role in a double murder, but Goodell is a large-scale malcontent, carrying water for obstructionist approaches to concussion research and waving his stick around, as New Orleans knows, in increasingly imprecise circles. Hopefully they'll cut to him picking his nose in a skybox.
Alex Smith: During last year's playoffs, Alex Smith was tossing game-winning touchdowns and finally playing like the number one pick that he is. Now, he's a living cautionary tale, a walking rejoinder to the oft-repeated myth that a player won't lose his spot because of an injury, and, because the injury was a concussion, a reminder that the NFL's health crisis is forever just off to the side, literally. The worst part, though, is that nobody cares: His replacement is more fun than he is, the 49ers are better off without him, and the media is waving off the guilt from forgetting about a guy who's career was half-buried by a head injury by noting that, hey—he might just have a shot at a one-year contract to be a game-manager for a team in dire straits. Seven completions shy of the all-time leader board, Smith got dumped for a guy who could lap him in a 40-yard dash. It "sucks," and you could hardly blame him for sticking his leg out and tripping a certain tattooed 49ers quarterback. If he could get his leg out fast enough.
Terrell Suggs, wily vet, right about Skip Bayless, alleged spousal abuser, newly married...NaVorro Bowman, perhaps the best player on the vaunted 49ers defense, but he doesn't have a dance, so he only gets one line...Michael Oher, Sandra Bullock's son...Bernard Pollard, who eschewed pants and makes a living injuring Patriots ... Matt Birk, an aging, white, ivy-league educated millionaire with a retrograde stance on gay marriage. GOP 2016?...David Akers, the least reliable kicker in football, and a runner-up to Alex Smith for most anguished player on the sidelines...Ray Rice, underused but excited running back, as likely as anyone to break through the intimidating Niners defense...Greg Roman, Niners' offensive coodinator and the breakout assistant coach of this year's playoffs ... Jay Harbaugh, Jim's son, who's interning for John...The Smiths, Justin and Aldon, two key cogs in the San Francisco defense, one a large old veteran lineman, the other a quick blitzing linebacker voted the team's MVP by his coaches.
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms: In a recent feature in Capital New York about Phil Simms, the discourse around the announcer was summed up thusly: "To his fans, Simms is smart and infectiously enthusiastic. To his critics, he's a strident know-it-all." We respectfully disagree: His critics think he's "like a robot someone threw a glass of water on." Add that to Jim Nantz's weird tradition fetish and love of pomp and you could write the script for this duo within a "FOOTbaalll" of accuracy.
• Phil Simms Just Gets Worse And Worse
• Here's Every Instance Of Phil Simms Saying The Word Football In A Single Broadcast
• Jim Nantz Is Getting Married At Pebble Beach Today
Jim Nantz Divorce Trial Gets Its Own Sad Play-By-Play
New Orleans: The most debaucherous and tempting Super Bowl location since, oh, 2010 in Miami has the added benefit of being a city united against Roger Goodell. It is the biggest football pageant of the year, in a city recently accustomed to postseason football, and even more recently robbed of a season's worth of success during the crest of a franchise talent boom because of a shady bounty system and a disproportionate and overly broad censure from Goodell. New Orelans has responded with typical panache—what other city is appearing in a headline with the words "giant vagina float"?—and unreserved vitriol. There will be fans of both teams in the house, but hopefully enough New Orelans natives are in the Superdome tonight to audibly boo Goodell during the trophy ceremony. The post-game festivities should be fun too.
See here for tonight's open thread.