Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl Dissenting Views

A sports-level discussion of why Sunday's game will be the least-super Super Bowl ever is out of bounds for this space. But although I enjoy pro sports, my favorite sports reporting is done with the same healthy dose of skepticism as I try to approach everything that surrounds the actual competition. So it is that, in perfect synch, two of my favorite sports curmudgeons, Bill Littlefield, host of NPR's Only A Game, and Charlie (Charles P.) Pierce, who writes for the Boston Globe magazine and appears weekly on Only A Game and occasionally on the panel of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, call the titans to task for the way they go about their business.

Only A Game has featured the issue of football head injuries on several occasions, calling for the NFL to own up to, and ultimately take responsibility for a problem that's only recently becoming well-understood, but is undeniably real. He levels his criticism of the NFL, advertisers, and everyone else associated with this overblown event in the form of Suggestions For The Super Bowl.

Fair warning -- Charlie Pierce's piece in Slate almost veers into actual sports analysis, but as he lets the air out of the Super Bowl glorification balloon, no victim is spared -- especially the sports media, the Arizona Cardinal team, and NFL management -- and nobody's funnier while excoriating entire industries than Charlie:

We're going to hear about how they magically transformed themselves at the end of the season. We're going to hear about the remarkable comeback of Kurt Warner. We're going to hear about how marvelous it is for the National Football League that a Super Bowl championship is within the grasp of a team so thickly dripping with obvious mediocrity that it's a wonder Charlie Sheen isn't playing left guard. We are going to hear all of this because the NFL and its broadcast partners operate on the very simple premise that everybody who reports—or follows—their sport on television is a paste-eating moron.

Oh, well, at least some of the commercials will be in 3-D.