I don’t think there is any question that the Super Bowl, which will be played Sunday in Indianapolis when the New York Giants and New England Patriots square off in the indoor playground called Lucas Oil Stadium, has become America’s No. 1 sporting event.
At least with the public.
In a strange paradox, though, if you ask most sportswriters, covering the NFL championship gamel, no matter which teams are in it, the Super Bowl will be far down on their list of favorite events to cover.
I was reminded of this last month when I was given a copy of a Vanderbilt University alumni magazine and in it was a panel discussion featuring several Vandy alums who are now recognizable names among sports media. (There are more than you might think for a school known for its engineering department and high academic standards).
Buster Olney, who does a very good job covering baseball for ESPN, was among them. The others I didn’t really recognize, but for the record they were Dave Sheinin, a national baseball writer at the Washington Post; Mark Bechtel and Lee Jenkins with Sports Illustrated; Tyler Kepner, a baseball writer with the New York Times; and Clay Travis, a columnist for FanHouse who also hosts a daily radio show in Nashville.
Asked what sports event was overly hyped and they all answered the Super Bowl.
“The run-up to it is just mind numbing,” Olney said. “Some people don’t get baseball; I’m like that with the Super Bowl. I don’t want to hear anything about it for two weeks beforehand. When the game comes, I’m excited, but the two weeks leading up to it drive me nuts.”
Travis hit it just right.
“Tons of people watch the Super Bowl who have no idea what’s going on,” he said. “Millions of people are watching who didn’t care about any of the four teams that were playing two weeks earlier.
Of course, you may have noticed the baseball influence in the job descriptions of the group.
Could that be coloring their opinions?
Maybe, but I don’t think so.
Many years ago when I was a bit more active in sportswriting than I am now and traveling to attend various events, like the Super Bowl, I did a sampling of various national writers at the Masters asking them what their favorite event was.
Since we were at Augusta at the time, many mentioned it as their favorite. A couple picked the World Series. The NCAA’s Basketball Tournament and Final Four also got support. Nobody, if I recall correctly, chose the Super Bowl.
One of the main reasons was all the buildup and over-analysis that is done in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. It does and on and on and on, becoming repetitive after about one day. Or one hour.
Meanwhile, both the World Series and the Masters have built-in drama with different things happening every day that impact on the next day’s story.
Masters week starts on Monday after the conclusion of the previous week’s golf tournament on Sunday. You have a couple of days to talk to the likely contenders, who all pretty much have more interesting things to say than anybody on either of the two Super Bowl teams.
On Wednesday you have the Par 3 tournament, which is kind of a fun, relaxing afternoon, and then the real thing starts on a Thursday. Every day from there through Sunday evening things are happening every day with new contenders emerging and favorites dropping out of contention seemingly every couple of hours.
Same thing with the World Series.
In the days leading up to the Series, you have the league championship series going on to determine exactly which two teams are going to be in the event. Then, once the Series, starts you have the drama of the games going on every day (except for the breaks when the teams swap ballparks). You never know when a new hero (Hello, David Freese.)
Of course, not every game is going to be as dramatic as last fall’s Game 6, which was one of the greatest in baseball history, and you can even have a four-game sweep which takes a lot of the mystery out of it. Even then, though, new heroes and goats are going to emerge.
The Super Bowl, meanwhile, rarely comes even close to living up to its hype. And even when it does, the hype itself has taken away much of its appeal. Often, it’s up to the cheese dip to save the day.
Of course, I’ll be watching when the Giants beat the Patriots. If I didn’t, I’d have to turn in my Man Card. But if you told me I could only pick one, I’d go with the NCAA tournament.