As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
If a Super Bowl article will be published the week after the game, it must discuss the game’s results; to write said article before the game is even played, is pure lunacy – don’t be a lunatic.
This is certainly a commandment of sports journalism, right? It is etched on a stone tablet somewhere, likely chiseled in unison by Shirley Povich, Grantland Rice and Frank DeFord. Michael Wilbon probably has the scrolled rule displayed in a shadowbox in his writing room. John Feinstein doesn’t seem like the tattoo type, but if he got inked, a script tattoo of this rule on his forearm could be the choice. Hey, there are worse decisions that can made - like renaming a football team the Commanders. Sheesh…
The rule makes sense. Who would read a post-Super Bowl article that isn’t about the biggest game on the planet? The gamble is at least someone. And so far, that someone is you! Gracias.
After inadequate consideration, I’m breaking the rule. It is more a suggestion. Guidance. Admittedly, this approach has led to trouble at times in my life, but this seems like a safe space. So away we go, for good or ill, as Hunter S. Thompson would say.
The bet, assuming you didn’t actually bet, is very few readers had an emotional investment in the game’s outcome. Neither team even registers on the Tom Brady Hate-able scale. And there just aren’t that many fans of the Los Angeles Rams or Cincinnati Bengals in this area. Despite a massive inventory of sports fans, I know exactly one for each team. Not an adopt a Joe Burrow or I love the Rams’ new uniform fans. Real ones. My Bengals fan remembers Kenny Anderson and Chris Collinsworth – the player, not the announcer. The Rams dude owns a Roman Gabriel jersey. Does that validate their fan-cred? Thought so.
It’s one of those Super Bowls that was just entertainment; the result really didn’t matter to most. The participants’ stories always matter, though - and there were many.
Two years ago, Burrow, poor soul it seemed, was about to be drafted by the 2-14 Bengals. One year ago, he was rehabbing an awful knee injury that threatened his 2021 season.
Calvin Johnson failed. Even Barry Sanders failed. And for 12 difficult seasons, QB Matthew Stafford failed to lift the Detroit Lions out of NFL purgatory. A trade to the Rams last offseason wasn’t just a second chance. It was a rescue.
Odell Beckman Jr. found his career adrift earlier this season after a series of injuries and a failed tenure in Cleveland resulted in his release. He was signed by the Rams in November – a career resuscitation. Well…maybe. That knee again. Ouch.
Rams head coach Sean McVay, one-time tight ends coach in Washington, escaped the evil, career-crushing clutches of Dan Snyder for sunny southern Cali and the in-it-to-win-it Rams.
Ja’Marr Chase ignored all theories and excuses regarding rookie wide receiver struggles in the NFL and just took over.
Cooper Kupp went from non-descript Eastern Washington University to a third round draft pick, to blowing out his knee in his second season (2018), to this year, where he produced perhaps the greatest single season by a wide receiver in NFL history.
Joe Mixon, after an ugly assault of a young woman in 2014, was given a second chance by the Bengals and has seemingly rehabilitated himself as a person.
Rams RB Cam Akers blew out his Achilles in July, dismissed the normal recovery timeline and fought his way back for the team’s playoff run.
And then there is former Bengals and current Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth. Age? Just a number. The dude is starting at left tackle in the Super Bowl at age 40. He is also the reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Forget the commercials and star-studded halftime show. Forget the game itself. It’s impossible not to read that scroll of stories - the good fortune, the dedication, the obstacles overcome, the typecasts ignored, the prioritization of others – to see the relevance to everyday life, and to feel anything but inspired.
Super Bowl LVI was super indeed.