Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Super Bowl Media Narratives

So the Seattle Seahawks are in the Super Bowl. And they are playing the Denver Broncos. And in the intervening two weeks, all we the fans will have is what we see or hear about in the media.

Here are three media narratives I think we will see a LOT of over the next two weeks - and already  have:

First, "The Manning Narrative." Payton Manning, Payton Manning, Payton Manning. Outside of Seattle, football fans watching media coverage of the upcoming game will not know anyone other than Payton Manning is playing in this game. OK, now some will know Richard Sherman of Seattle...but that's it. No, the media narrative will be all about Manning and his "destiny" to win another title. This has nothing to do with the Xs and Os of football, mind you. I'm talking about the sentimental story and the overall narrative of the pre-game coverage. And you see it right away in who is favored.

As a Seahawks fan this is annoying, sure. But what concerns me is that the last time the Hawks were in the Super Bowl there was an overwhelming media narrative about Jerome Bettis "returning home to Detroit" for his "last opportunity" to get a Super Bowl win. And what happened? An unreal game in which the Seahawks were victims of a number bizarre, unprecedented and unexplainable plays and calls by the referees...costing them the game. And ta-da! Bettis gets his big win and goes out a champ - much to the delight of entire football viewing world outside Seattle. A nice storybook ending to please 95% of the NFL viewing public.

I fear the same will happen with the "Manning Narrative" driving this Super Bowl. The NFL benefits greatly in terms of the masses feeling good about the league if Manning wins the game, so I'm nervous that we may see a repeat of the "thought the looking glass" experience we got in Super Bowl XL. You say I'm crazy and that there could be no "conspiracy" to deliver a game based on what would be best for the league? I say, go re-watch at Super Bowl XL. Unreal. I can't claim to have evidence, just that it happened. Just like gas prices "surprisingly" go down every four years right around the time of presidential elections and then go back up right after...it just happens and its a correlation you cannot ignore. Same with Super Bowl XL. With the new Super Bowl also occurring on Ground Hog's Day, lets hope we don't get a repeat.

Second, Broncos "good guys" vs the Seattle "bad guys." This is how the media will portray it. This is primarily due only to the after-game rant by Richard Sherman when the Seahawks beat San Francisco in the NFC title. Most people think his comments were over the top and calling out the opposing receiver he defeated in the last and pivotal play was just poor. Whatever you think, that's the consensus. Meanwhile, you've got Manning as the "do-gooder." So, is it better to be the good guy or the bad guy? I think it doesn't matter too much and the media have a compulsive need to narrow things down to easily digestible ideas - and good vs bad is about as basic as it gets. Anyway, the perceived "thugs" have won the Super Bowl before.

But, what's odd is that it is ONLY because of the few seconds by Sherman that the Seahawks will be perceived as the bad guys. Actually, the team is chuck full of good guys - starting with QB Russell Wilson and, ahem, also including one Richard Sherman.

Third, the Denver Offense (code for Manning of course) will be the difference in this game. The Broncos offense did have a record breaking year. They are extremely good - mostly their passing game with Manning. But, predicting that Denver wins because of this reverses decades and decades of conventional wisdom - which is virtually always backed up by reality - that it is defense that wins championships. Indeed, regardless of what offenses are fielded, most teams who win the Super Bowl have superior defense compared to their opponent. Their ability to limit even great offenses makes the difference.

And who clearly has the better defense? Seattle...by a lot. However, I think you'll see little attention paid to that and more to the Denver offense as the dominant force in this game. This ties directly into my point #1 above - "the Manning Narrative."

All of this is a bit frustrating from a Seattle fans' perspective, but I think Seattle will field the overall better team - particularly their defense. I think THAT will be the difference. I also think that Seattle QB Russell Wilson is uncanny in his ability to deliver in the clutch, and RB Marshawn Lynch is a hard-as-nails runner who could be a difference maker too.

I'll post a prediction before the game. In the meantime, see if the three media narratives develop as I think they will.

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