Diva with a Twist
Nothin’ floats the sporting world’s boat quite like the boaster who can back it up.
The biggest, Ruth’s called shot (‘32), the boast by which all others are measured;
Then there’s Joe Namath’s winning Super Bowl prediction in ‘69 (v. Colts);
Today we have Richard Sherman, Seattle’s secondary stalwart & primary headline-grabber whose braggadocio and game-saving swat in last Sunday’s NFC title have made him the most talked about man in America in lead-up to Super Bowl 48.
Richard the Lionheart or Richard III (humped & horseless), the jury‘s still out on RS.
The word ‘diva’ comes to mind when Sherm gets miked (Andrews / Fox / 1-19). Fits him like…like one of those god-awful sticky-gloves he & friends wear for cash.
Dick’s not your typical diva. There’s a hint of anger there, in that Randy Moss vane. He lacks that on-field polish, which is surprising, given his background, and syntaxical style of past diva legends like Fred “the hammer” Williamson, Jim McMahon, Deion Sanders, Chad Ochocinco and that cat of the coolest popcorn drizzle, Terrell Owens.
The NFL’s 2013 INT champ (8) holds a communications degree from Stanford and still finds time, even when presumably soaked in celebratory champagne (NFCT), to pen articles for SI.com. The phrase ghost-writer pops to mind here, but I dismissed that out of hand. Pac-12 degree-holders are some of the sharpest tacks in the box (Go Wildcats!).
Like Dallas’ egg-shell diva Dez Bryant, Sherman doesn’t handle disappointment very well (Mike Crabtree’s a bit crabby himself), which is also surprising in that judgment capability may be the most valuable skill one takes away from a letters & science curriculum.
Mike’s post-game, stiff-arm snub of a glad-handing Rich is tolerable. A loser in battle is entitled to a moment to digest and gleeful Rich bounded-up on MC like Byron Hout, this one well meaning (“Hell of a game”) but a bit forced. And then the snub is poor excuse for the Hawkian giving choke-sign, going ballistic (interview) and taking cover behind today’s tiresome “passion” excuse (“In This Corner” / SI / Sherman / 1-20). Ugh.
The bigger story nobody’s talking about is how both of these NFC big-shots apparently did little or nothing to address their single biggest, respective weakness hanging-over from the 2013 playoffs: an inability to close the deal.
San Francisco is still inept in the short-field red-zone late (SB47), as the best Jim & Colin could conjure up was a mini-Hail Mary in their last possession, easily batted away (Rich), while Seahawks once again reverted to fickle form with a prevent-defense (v. ATL ‘13) that allowed 49ers to come dangerously close to taking back the lead late.
But don’t be fooled, sport fans.
NFL & media promos (“Manning – Sherman Will Be a Blast” / SI / 1-27) would love you to believe the big game turns on the battle between bombastic Richard Sherman v. the lordly Peyton Manning. That’s all good fun and diametric, but then you’d believe wrong.
There’s no disputing the likely 2013 MVP is Broncos’ big enchilada, the key cog in their matriculatory machine and the one to watch, but as for Dick, he’s just a tad short in on-field substance to fill-the-bill as Seahawks’ big kahuna.
Like that linebacker who puts sacks ahead of tackles, Sherman builds his rep on the big-play (INT (8)). Maybe his biggest contribution comes by way of his voluminous verbiage which plays no small part in the intimidation game that players & coaches work on the gridiron before, during and after the action.
But on those blue-collar, work-a-day football chores (38t / 16pd) , Sherman’s, well, how should I write it, he’s not full-time (“on an island” / “In This“). That’s not necessarily bad. His routine has become part of today’s strategy. Guys like Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner & Kam Chancellor pick-up slack and figure to be much bigger cogs in SB48.
Bernstein v. Rostropovich
Because Seattle can’t be trading blows with Denver’s strong arm, defense is their Sunday punch. But their bellwethers, the ones to watch this Super Duper are star back Marshawn Lynch & young QB Russell Wilson who must step-up his game against this caliber a’ competition to keep it close.
This Big Bowl marks the second straight SB where NFL’s two contrasting QB styles are pitted against each other in contest for America’s most expectant trophy, the Lombardi.
Manning carries the banner for the high-falutin, timed-tested, sit-tite pocket passer, the League’s Beau Brummell, as it were, while the NFC offers up another sophomore superlative in Seattle’s Russell Wilson who represents the latest football fashion craze and would-be usurper to the pocket-man, the run quarterback, aka, “flash QB,”
In a game that’s come to be known as a quarterback league, such diametrically opposed styles become fodder for unbridled speculation about the changing nature of the game.
Ever since the single-wing tail-back lost its chic in the 40s, run-QB has been an occasional curiosity (Kapp / Douglas) or the simple athletic outburst of those signal callers with energy to burn, i.e., Steve Young & Randall Cunningham.
In their early days, Randy & Steve fit the profile: pass-capable but ready to run at the first hint of trouble and not getting too far in the process (playoffs). Both had their best years (’98 / ‘95) when they finally harnessed the fear-flight, embraced pocket poise and realized it was easier, more productive & safer to fly (pass) rather than run the gauntlet of hazards downfield with their legs.
But because the college ranks are crankin’ out flash QBs like so many widgets, there will be no shortage of scamper-cats any time soon, whether NFL fans like it or not (the kids eat him up with a spoon as jersey sales a-test (Griffin / Tebow / Manziel?)).
Michael “Botticelli” Vick might get credit for ushering in the single-wing’s rebirth.
After Mike’s matriculation at VT, cut-corner coaches across the land began tossing out their playbooks and riding their young signal-caller’s ‘athleticism’ to victory, knowing it to be the easiest way to get their ticket punched to the championship game & Heisman immortality (Young / Manziel / Tebow / Newton). Good for State U., bad for the Combine.
Excepting those enduring quarterback factories like Alabama & USC (ND’s still finding itself), run QB’s became as common on campus as keggers and cut-rate book buy-backs.
Run-QB is at heart a soloist, like a master cellist (Rostropovich (d.‘07)), he hits his high note going it alone. Though Wilson’s pass stats rarely wow and run total can trend high, he appears to have a better grasp of pocket poise than others of his ilk (Kaep / RG3).
Flash man trips the breaker when he gets flighty, killing a synergistic balance in football.
On offense, quarterbacks make the exchange, pass it and use mobility to salvage the play, RBs run it & block while receivers haul in the aerials, decoy and score. Every time flash-man rabbits that’s just one less carry, one less catch for staff. Who doesn’t want touches?
If run-QB translated into big success, Bobby Douglas would’ve led Sayers & Butkus to a Super Bowl and Vick would’ve been a ring-ing endorsement of his craft. Close off the run-option (not easy (GB)) and he’s more often a deer-in-the-headlights, unsure how to buy time, survey the terrain (read) and impose his leadership through thought (pass).
As for Peyton, he’s as one-dimensional (pass) as Colin Kaepernick (run), but then Manning’s is one big dimension.
The elite passer is a Leonard Bernstein (d.‘09), orchestrating his offense as a symphony of sectioned performers (cue Sam Spence here (“Pony Soldiers”)), where a complimentary run game adds a key note to make beautiful music. It’s pro-football 101.
In college they’ve found a different way to the promised land, but in the pro circuit, fans, young and old, will expect…demand three things from their NFL signal-caller:
1) passer proficiency;
2) field intelligence (survey & audible), and
3) pocket constitution (no fear).
While I don’t expect pocket-passer to go the way of the dodo bird (1662), it’s possible, maybe even likely, run-QB could be a majority some day, given the supply & demand.
But as long as there are talented passers, unafraid to stand tall, take hits, read D, dictate action with their brains and content leaving the run-game to men built for it, such QBs will always be favored on draft day. Only when run-QB starts hoisting Lombardi with the same frequency that has pocket-man since AFL’s Sid Gilman (SD) aired-it-out in the 60s, can one declare fear-flight a defining trait of the best in prof’l quarterbacking.
Kick in the Teeth
I guess it was just a matter of time before the real Roger Goodell appeared.
And I’m not smiling, not anymore, anyway.
I’ve been a backer of the NFL Czar, believing him, for the most part, a bold pragmatist as shown in his supportive statements on the Redskins logo, holding a Super Bowl outdoors (MetLife (NJ)) and talk of rooting out a prevalent PED plague. I believed these signs of a cufflink who cared about more than just stacks o’ cash, testament to leadership we hope to find in the Oval Office: an economic stimulator but defender of integrity & continuity.
But Rog tipped his hand with this latest floater and he’s holding the hammer (2-7).
In recent news the NFL’s Competition Committee is poised to replace the long-standing extra-point kick-conversion after touchdowns with a convoluted alternative “proposal” in mind (“Report: NFL“ / SI / 1-20 / Axson).
A few years back it was OT rules that got a thick make-over, last week a flurry of reports on playoff expansion and now more hate on kickers with EP abolishment (kickers have been in football longer than the forward pass). All this tinkering and still no movement from NFL or DeMaurice Smith (NFLPA) on the blood-testing front. Some swell guys.
If fan comments are any indication the extra-point changes would not be welcome.
Can’t help but think Roger’s revelation is somehow connected to Nike’s recent assumption of the League’s lucrative apparel contract (‘12), one of America’s most influential agents-for-change, who view tradition, continuity and creativity (“Fear the Fork (ASU)”) as just old, tired, worn-out concepts best suited for the trash bin.
“When in (America),…”
One and one-half years from now the NFL will be pitching its next Super Bowl with the Roman numeral L, better known as 50. The fanfare surrounding it’s 50th birthday will surely be plentiful: lots of remembrances and lists 50 long, none honoring the letter L.
Super Bowl L: slightly curious, pleasantly understated and…kinda’ silly.
So why does the NFL stay fixed on the Roman numerals (XLVIII)?
Maybe it’s tradition and consumer identification.
But since when have NFL brass cared about continuity? Their contract with Nike is proof no one at the top gives a rat’s hinder about consumer familiarity nor history. Besides, in the beginning, the AFL – NFL tussle was called “Championship” w/ no Romans in sight.
Maybe they think the Roman numerals carry some kind of cachet. But how cool can something be if nobody KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS!?
Maybe their retention honors the late Lamar Hunt or Pete Rozelle who may’ve wanted their inclusion in perpetuity? That’d be sweet but it’s not good enough. Clarity matters.
It’s time to do what’s right, practical, non-ridiculous and adopt Super Bowl numbers.
If the Vatican can find cause to move forward (English Mass / ‘64), so too can the NFL.
Cherry on Top: SB.48 Pick
Denver Broncos v. Seattle Seahawks: 2-2 Fox 6:38 EST
Every NFL season boils down to one thing: who’s the best at closing the deal. Apart from that rare blowout, this means the team that can dictate flow early, create cushion, sustain momentum and remain composed if unexpected befalls (reclaim a lead). The Seahawks are a talented, inspired group but in the post season lack a knack at building 1H leads and closing w/conviction. Their strength: diversity of leadership.
Denver’s no one-trick pony itself, w/fine D (“Pot Roast” B-), nice run-combo, good corps but banks on Pey-dirt to set tone, who, if walled, is a maestro. Low TOs & stout STs are givens to victory, but Seattle must pressure-cook PM from start to finish to keep it real, Russ hopeful & pocket poised. Broncos’ identity runs deeper and they win SB.48.
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credit: Beau Brummell / 1805? / Hollyl / wc.cca
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.