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If you didn’t know, the nation’s largest annual TV-centered celebration is happening this week. The Super Bowl has legitimately joined the ranks of most holidays, and is one of the most important pop-culture weeks of the year.
Economically speaking, the National Football League trumps all the other professional sports leagues. Last weekend’s Pro Bowl (the All-Star game for NFL players), which football fans universally treat as no better than a game of two-hand touch, drew a higher Nielsen TV viewership rating than any of the World Series games. Experts predict that 75 million pounds of chicken wings are being stored right now in McDonald’s freezers nationwide, all in preparation for Sunday snacking.
This, of course, is the week real sports fans dread. Super Bowl Week is the one week of the year when non-sports-fans pay attention to sports, and the game itself seems to get lost under everything else. Media organizations that don’t specialize in sports are notorious for trying to squeeze in sensational, entertainment-heavy news coverage (for instance, check 2008’s TV Azteca media day coverage, including sideline reporter and swimsuit model Ines Gomez in a wedding dress, proposing to New England quarterback Tom Brady).
In that tone, here are a few of the storylines non-sports organizations will use to beat you over the head this week:
The Harbaugh brothers are ready to fight each other! Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is paired up against John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, who also happens to be his older brother. It’s the battle for ultimate bragging rights. In fact, whichever brother wins should retire after the game, because for the rest of time, the losing brother could never do anything to make up that ground (aside from maybe landing on the moon).
Who will Jim and John’s parents root for? Will they root for Jim? Or, perhaps, John? Jack and Jackie Harbaugh have the ultimate double-edged sword in their hands this week. For fans of betting on the Super Bowl, pay attention to the over/under on how many times the camera will show the parents Harbaugh during the broadcast. If it’s set at 100 times, take the over.
Will Ray Lewis, the Super Bowl MVP linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens . . . in 2001 . . . steal all the attention away this week? The theatrical player with an interesting character arc is bound to have at least one half-hour special devoted to his story on Sunday.
Is Joe Flacco really an elite quarterback? And how, by the way, is quarterback elitism quantified? The need to rank quarterbacks (arguably the most important position in modern sports) may be one of the few moments of sports chatter that sneaks through on Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers quarterback, is the next big thing. He can run, but doesn’t have to. He can throw like Tom Brady on short routes, like Flacco on the deep ball, and like Aaron Rodgers on everything in between. And he was drafted in the sixth round last season.
Commercials! Sweaty, burly men give each other high fives and hold their beer labels prominently pointed toward the camera. Chimpanzees pretend to be human. Internet companies put all their advertising money on one yearly spot.
A few other quick side-stories you might see:
Will Randy Moss, the guaranteed Hall of Fame receiver and current 49ers ultra-veteran backup, make an impact in the game?
How does Alex Smith, the jilted QB, feel about Kaepernick taking his job?
And just how many nachos can one nation consume?