FORT WAYNE – So now we get two weeks of The Harbaughs, a homespun Depression-era tale starring Jim-Bob and John-Boy and Ralph Waite as Jack “Jack” Harbaugh.
Now we get Joe Flacco: An Appreciation, and Colin Kaepernick – or, “What’s A Guy From Nevada Doing In The Super Bowl? And Why Does He Have All Those Tattoos?”
Now, finally, we get Ray Lewis and God, buds for life. And all the attendant uneasiness that springs not from his religious zeal, but its jarring contrast to a certain homicidal night in Atlanta for which neither Lewis nor anyone else has ever been called to account.
Those are your storylines for Super Bowl XLVII. And for the next two weeks, we media types will beat them into a hideously deformed blob of ectoplasm. You’re welcome.
But you know what?
I look at Ravens-49ers, and I see a few other things.
I see another kid made good from Fort Wayne, Bernard Pollard of South Side, who turned the AFC championship game with a fumble-inducing hit on Stevan Ridley that might yet be echoing over Gillette Stadium.
(This is, of course, the same Bernard Pollard who took out Tom Brady’s knee a few years back with, despite what you’ve been told, a perfectly clean hit. They must have wanted posters out for him from Boston to Providence).
I see a few “Where Are They Now?” bits with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and Roger Craig (or Dwight Clark), because the 49ers-return-to-greatness angle will be another dominant theme. Which is good, because I can’t hear too many times about how Montana looked up from the huddle at a critical point in the Super Bowl one year, and said, “Hey, look! It’s John Candy!”
I see, as an unavoidable tangent to the Fightin’ Harbaughs angle, how much the Ravens and 49ers resemble each other in temperament and style. Both have attitude. Both like to hit you in the mouth. Both, on offense, go over the top when they want to, yet seal games by pounding you with, respectively, Ray Rice and Frank Gore.
Mirror images, as John Harbaugh suggested Sunday night. And that’s as compelling a dynamic as teams with contrasting styles, frankly.
And so I want to see what the Ravens do with the 49ers’ read option, considering how well they shut down the Patriots’ speed no-huddle in the second half Sunday. I want to see whether the Niners lay back or come after Flacco – who, with more wins (62) since 2008 and more road playoff wins (6) than any quarterback in the game, is rapidly emerging as a great playoff QB.
I want to see whether Flacco can validate that in the crucible of a Super Bowl. I want to see whether the Ravens’ defense can stand firm if Kaepernick isn’t victimized by drops the way Brady was in the AFC title game. I want to see, speaking of Kaepernick, whether a kid with just nine starts can survive in the crucible.
Once upon a time, we wondered that about another kid. Like Kaepernick, he’d started only a handful of games (16) before his first Super Bowl. Like Kaepernick, he fell into the job because a veteran incumbent got hurt. Like Kaepernick, he had an eerie, beyond-his-years calm about him.
That kid was Tom Brady. And he won the Super Bowl that year.
I want to see.