Super Bowl Storylines
There are only a few days in the year better than Super Bowl Sunday — and I’d probably argue even fewer if my Philadelphia Eagles ever make it back to the Super Bowl. And even though the Super Bowl is rarely the best football game of the year, four of the last five Super Bowls have been decided by less than a touchdown and with two teams as evenly matched as the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens — a close game seems likely again.
With two weeks between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, the media looks for every possible angle that isn’t the Pro Bowl to cover — and from the Harbaugh brothers to Ray Lewis’ retirement to gambling (an estimated $10 billion will be wagered on the Super Bowl) and hot wings (Americans will eat an estimated 1.23 billion wings this weekend), there are certainly no shortage of topics.
No one likes to lose to their brother at anything, so imagine losing to your brother on the biggest stage in sports. And when the Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh take the field against the 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh on Sunday, only one Harbaugh brother will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the game. Sure the Harbaughs have said all the right things leading up to the game about each other, but losing the Super Bowl to your brother would have to sting just a little bit more.
John, the older Harbaugh, served on the Philadelphia Eagles staff for 10years prior to landing the Baltimore Ravens job. Since taking over in 2008, Harbaugh has led the Ravens to at least one playoff win each season and has an impressive 54-26 regular season record and 8-4 postseason mark.
A former NFL quarterback, Jim Harbaugh served as the head coach of San Diego University and most recently Stanford University prior to taking over in San Francisco last year. In two years, Jim Harbaugh has transformed the 49ers and led the storied franchise back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.
While Jim Harbaugh has been great in his first two years with the 49ers, John Harbaugh and his Ravens have far more big game experience and that will certainly be a factor in the outcome. And as an older brother myself, there’s no way I’d ever give an advantage to the younger brother — just ask mine.
Ray Lewis’ Retirement
If there’s been one angle that has run its course and then some in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, it’s Ray Lewis’ retirement. And no one is shoving this story down our throats more than Ray Lewis himself — as long as there are cameras and a throng of reporters Ray cries, he prays, he cries some more, he chants, and yes, cries again. If it seemed even the slightest bit genuine I’d tolerate it; but every single tear and chant seems way too contrived and calculated to be real. Even Saturday Night Live joined in on the Ray Lewis fun this past weekend.
That being said, there has not been a more feared or respected defensive player in the NFL over the past 17 seasons than Ray Lewis. Regardless what you think about Lewis off the field, between the lines he was one of the best and will certainly be a first-ballot hall-of-famer in five years. The Baltimore Ravens boast one of the best linebackers in the history of the game in Lewis; but on the other sideline, the 49ers’ Patrick Willis and former Penn State star NaVorro Bowman are arguably the two best linebackers in the game today.
And if gambling were legal, there is no Super Bowl prop bet more guaranteed to hit than the over on: if interviewed following the game, Ray Lewis mentions “God/Lord” over/under 3 times. Three, really? Have the oddsmakers listened to any Ray Lewis interview in the last four weeks?
Super Bowl Parties
Even non-football fans count down the days to the Super Bowl every year because of the world-famous commercials and of course, the Super Bowl parties. Now I know it’s always been Super Bowl Sunday, but in the name of parties and productivity, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if it were Super Bowl Saturday? No work gets done on the Monday after the big game.
Mostly all Super Bowl parties have the same assortments of chips, dips and light beer — but it’s the hot wings that can make or break a party. Luckily, here in the greater Harrisburg area we have tons of great places for hot wings. Some of my favorite places for hot wings in the area are Arooga’s, Zembie’s, the Eagle Hotel, Flinchy’s, the Brewhouse Grille and Black N Bleu. I’ve yet to try the recently opened Buffalo Wild Wings on the Carlisle Pike, but I’ve heard good things. One piece of advice, if you plan to order a lot of wings, call your favorite place in advance.
Looking to serve a team specific dish at your party? I’d recommend the Hot Old Bay wings from Black N Bleu for the Baltimore Ravens and Rice-a-Roni (the San Francisco Treat!) for the 49ers.
Steelers fans won’t care to read this section, but I pick the Baltimore Ravens to emerge victorious in Super Bowl XLVII. Whether you consider him elite or not (does it really matter?), Joe Flacco knows how to win playoff games. He’s already won more road playoff games than Joe Montana, Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre; and in his three wins this postseason, Flacco’s thrown for 8 touchdowns, no interceptions, and over 280 yards per game. Flacco’s number one deep threat, Torrey Smith, should be able to get behind the 49ers secondary as Atlanta’s Julio Jones did early in the NFC Championship game for a few big plays and the Ravens defense should have enough speed to keep Colin Kaepernick from making big plays with his feet.
And with all things equal, football is an emotional game and the Ravens have been playing at another level since Ray Lewis announced his retirement. I pick the Ravens over the 49ers 27-21.