By Alex Tronnes Jan. 28, 2013 11:00 AM EST
With the 2013 Pro Bowl wrapping up from Hawaii last weekend, we find ourselves just one day away from arguably the biggest game in sports, the Super Bowl. The nations sports media masses have descended upon the beautiful city of New Orleans this past week to cover all the possible story angles leading up to the big game, and this years match-up seemingly has more plot lines than a Quinten Tarantino flick. The Super Bowl usually has its' share of drama, but this year we may be in store for a true storybook ending no matter the winner.
Before I go on to highlight the five biggest story lines in my mind, I want to first congratulate the players in Hawaii for their effort in perhaps saving the Pro Bowl game. It has become an obsession the last couple of seasons for the media to bash the Pro Bowl and talk of it's undoing. So much so that League Commissioner Roger Goodell even stated "If we cannot accomplish that kind of standard (of high play), I am inclined to not play it". Yes the competition level may not be the same in Hawaii as it will be come Sunday evening in the Superdome, but that should be expected from an end of the year All-Star game. The fact is the Pro Bowl is still a great experience for younger players, a chance for one last snap for retiring players (see Jeff Saturday), and overall still an important honor for players (just ask their agents around contract negotiation time). The Pro Bowl needs to stay and I think this year's effort will help in doing just that.
But enough soap box talk over the game that matters little. Time to list A-Train's top 5 story lines of Super Bowl XLVII.....
#1.) Brotherly Love
It's no secret the biggest story in this game is the match-up of two brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh coaching against each other in the Super Bowl (the first time such a situation has happened). During this past week every possible angle has been looked at with regards to this brotherly rivalry, but I'd like to take a minute to look at this situation a little deeper. It's easy for us as fans to sit back and be entertained by the notion of two brothers facing off on the biggest stage in all of sports. Whether it's because we have siblings and can relate, or just because the story adds an interesting dichotomy to an already enthralling game.
To really understand how captivating of a social analysis this could be, look no further than the Harbaugh brother's parents, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh (that's a lot of J's). Think of how proud they must be as parents, especially Jack being a veteran football coach himself. Now fast forward to Sunday night when the game clock reads 00:00. One son has reached the pinnacle of his professional life and has cemented himself in football history next to the best coaches of all-time. Meanwhile the other son has just suffered perhaps the most devastating lose of his coaching career. Sure you can say the losing coach will be happy for his brother, but that won't make up for the heartbreak being experienced by 53 men inside that losing locker room. If there was ever a "parenting 101" book, I'm sure nowhere in it was a section on how to deal with this kind of emotional roller coaster.
Not trying to put a negative spin on what has become a fun story leading up to the game, but wanted to make sure we all have a good perspective on the kind of emotions that are going to be on display at the conclusion of the night. One thing's for sure, the post game handshake at center field will be one of the most intriguing moments in sports history. Let's just hope the brothers can find eachother through the impending sea of reporters and snow storm of confetti that will be descending on midfield as well. If all else fails they can at least catch up at the next family reunion...
#2.) Big Play Ray Goes Away
I feel that my generation has been somewhat spoiled being able to bear witness to the career of Ray Lewis. When the Ravens drafted him out of Miami in 1996 I was just eight years old, and only beginning to discover the beauty of the National Football League. From the moment he stepped on the field as a rookie, Lewis made an impact being selected that season to the All-Rookie team. That was just the first accolade of many for the standout middle linebacker.
17 years later it is almost a unanimous fact that Ray Lewis is the greatest linebacker to ever play the game of football. His 13 Pro Bowl and 10 All-Pro selections are both records for an inside linebacker. Perhaps more impressive, he's been selected twice as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, including the 2000 season in which his Baltimore Ravens team went on to win Super Bowl XXXV, where he was named M.V.P. of the game.
Often the murder trial is brought up when talking about Ray Lewis, but it's my belief that if someone has made their way through the judicial process and charges were dismissed then it should only be right that we move past it. Besides we're talking about Ray Lewis the football player. If we have a problem with the justice system in this country, that's an argument for a different day.
So Sunday will (allegedly) be the final game in Ray Lewis' illustrious career. It's only fitting that one of the sports greatest ever will be leaving the game on the biggest stage and something tells me that Ray will be saving his best for last...
#3.) Brady and Manning Who?
Perhaps an intriguing storyline as any has been the play of the two starting quarterbacks in this game, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick. Both players have taken different routes to get to the Super Bowl and both represent a positive sign for the NFL. We all know it's a quarterback driven league and to see two young signal callers (Flacco 28, Kaepernick, 25) reach the big game, is big news for the future of the league. The Tom Brady's and Peyton Manning's of the world aren't going to be around forever, and the emergence of these potential stars is another highlight of this Super Bowl.
First there's Flacco. Coming into this, his fifth year in the league, expectations were high. But luckily for the Ravens it seems Flacco's potential is even higher. In a contract year Flacco has responded to the critisism he occasionally gets from media pundits by passing for the highest yardage total of his career. Couple that with a seemingly flawless run through the playoffs knocking off both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road, and the future looks bright for the "dull" Flacco. He has a cannon for an arm (just ask Broncos Safety Rahim Moore) and if he can survive the onslaught by San Fransisco's front seven Sunday, we may be in for an spectacular aerial show inside the Superdome.
Colin Kaepernick's road to the Super Bowl is perhaps even more fascinating. An adopted child who thrived at any sport he played his whole life, Colin turned down a potential career playing Major League Baseball to follow his dream of being an NFL quarterback. A dream he predicted coming true while in the 4th grade, writing a letter that foresaw him playing for the 49ers or Packers when he grew up (Colin went on to beat the Packers in the playoffs this year leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship game). Kaepernick's play on the field has the potential to revolutionize the way the Quarterback position is looked at, and his combination of solid passing and electric running ability will surely be on display Sunday night.
We could be whitnessing the next generation of great NFL quarterbacks in this Super Bowl. No matter who ends up winning Sunday, Flacco or Kaepernick, I believe we all win as fans. The league is an ever evolving environment, and these quarterbacks are two great examples of the excitement this league has to look forward to...
#4.) Welcome Back to "Nola"
I can't write this article without showing love to the city of New Orleans. As far as Super Bowl hosts go, New Orleans is at the top of it's class. Only Miami has held as many Super Bowls as New Orleans (10), but perhaps no city can match the type of culture and energy on display in the "Big Easy". For those of you who have been there, you understand what I'm talking about. Nowhere else will you find such a perfect mix of great food, soulful music, beautiful weather and lively parties as you will in "Nola".
To add to all those points is the fact that this is the first Super Bowl the city has hosted since the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. It is truly a great thing seeing the big game return to such a deserving city, as it will serve as the ultimate redemption story for the residents that have been through so much. If there's three things New Orleans does best, it's celebrations, shrimp and Super Bowls, and so far they aren't disappointing down in the Bayou.
#5.) Get "The Freak" A Ring
This is the storyline I've been following the closest being an avid Minnesota Vikings fan. Back in 1998 I witnessed a star born in a Thanksgiving day game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. Randy Moss was in his rookie season and had a score to settle with the Cowboys after he felt they had lied to him about their interest in drafting him. In that nationally televised game Moss only had three catches. But those three catches totaled over 150 yards receiving and all three were touchdowns. As an impressionable 10-year old I had found my new favorite player, and team. Moss went on to have an undefeated career against the Cowboys, winning all seven match-ups and totaling over 700 yards and 11 touchdowns in those games, showing that when motivated, Moss was next to impossible to contain.
From a historic standpoint only Jerry Rice has more career receiving touchdowns and 100-yard receiving games than Moss, and he comes in at 3rd on the career receiving yard list. "The Freak" was also the leading scorer on the top two offenses of all-time, the 2007 New England Patriots, and 1998 Minnesota Vikings. He is no doubt a sure fire Hall of Famer but he's missing one thing....that elusive Super Bowl ring. Nothing would give me more satisfaction then seeing Moss cap off his enchanting career by winning on the sports biggest stage.
The last few years have been turbulent to say the least for Moss but he seems to have settled into a good role on a great 49ers team. The work he's put in with young wide receiver Michael Crabtree has already started paying dividends and the veteran perspective he is able to put on things is invaluable to a team making a run at the Lombardi Trophy. In no way has this season been a statistical explosion for the once dynamic receiver, but with his ring in sight we will surely be seeing a motivated Randy come Sunday night, and just ask the Cowboys what that could mean....
So there you have it. The top-5 Super Bowl storylines according to the A-Train. No matter who ends up on top after the final whistle blows fans will be remembering this game for a long time. This could easily end up being a defensive struggle like none we've ever witnessed before but for my offical prediction I'm having faith that the young guns at quarterback will rise to the occation.....
49ers win an epic battle 34-31