Formation | Culture | Mission

Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Marshawn Lynch, aka Quiet Mode

Marshawn Lynch, aka Quiet Mode

***

Welcome, sports fans, to the least compelling Super Bowl of all time!!

Representing the AFC for the sixth time in 15 years, it’s the New England Patriots, fresh off another possible cheating scandal. (Seriously, DeflateGate? Can we please stop calling every controversy _____Gate? Talk about wearing out a once-clever phrase.) The Pats are led by CEO Robert Kraft, a top five NFL villain, Bill Belichick, who probably doesn’t even like Christmas, and Tom Brady, who’s waiting for a high five right now. The Patriots are my least favorite AFC playoff team, but I have to watch them one more time.

In the other corner, representing the NFC (again), it’s the Seahawks and their silky smooth villain, Pete Carroll, and a roster of the league’s most annoying players—Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, Russ Wilson, et cetera. They are my least favorite NFC playoff team this year.

Oh lucky us, both the Patriots and Seahawks made the Super Bowl. Are there any NBA games on Sunday night? No? Not even one? What about the 340 Division I hoops programs—surely two of them have to be facing off after 5pm on Sunday? Nope, not one. Aaargh!!!

So I guess we have to watch this thing. It’s not going away. We might as well make the most of it. Let’s start with an analysis of the matchup, cover a brief history of the SB Halftime Show, assess these two teams according to the Fidelity Factor, and I’ll even make my SB pick for you, free of charge.

***

Before we get in too deep, you should remember that I might miss a lot of picks (I’m 0-for-4 on hoops picks this week), but I don’t miss the big ones. Last year, to everyone’s ridicule, I promised that Seattle would win, and win big, and it happened exactly according to my notes. I’m not trying to say “I told you so,” but when you’re right as infrequently as me, you’ve got to find a way to bring it back up every month.

New England’s Offense vs Seattle’s Defense

This is the matchup of the night. The Pats’ strength is their offense, and the Seahawks’ specialty is their tight D. The Pats scored 30+ points ten times this season, while the Seahawks have allowed an average of 9.8 points over their current eight game win streak. Pats TE Gronkowski might be the single best player on the field (not the greatest player, which includes a player’s lifetime achievements, thus Brady would get this award), and it will be fun watching him try to muscle into and through Seattle’s world-class secondary.

Here’s how our competitors stack up, ranked by regular season stats:

Patriots Scoring: 4th
Patriots Rushing: 18th
Patriots Passing: 9th

Seahawks Scoring (Def): 1st
Seahawks Rushing (Def): 3rd
Seahawks Passing (Def): 1st

Advantage: Seattle

Seattle’s Offense vs New England’s Defense

Now, what about on the other side of the ball? This will be less exciting, because Russ Wilson is a poor man’s Alex Smith, and the Pats’ D is slightly-better-than-average but not exactly hard-hitting. The most exciting thing to watch here: Hawks RB Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, who is possibly the hardest back to tackle not named Jamaaaaaal Charles.

Seahawks Scoring: 10th
Seahawks Rushing: 1st
Seahawks Passing: 27th

Patriots Scoring (Def): 8th
Patriots Rushing (Def): 9th
Patriots Passing (Def): 17th

Advantage: Patriots

The Greatest SB Halftime Show Ever

SB halftime shows are the pinnacle of the love affair between sports and pop culture. While part of me would prefer a standard 20 minute break for three-word interviews with Belichick and basic commentary from thoughtful former players and journalists, this is in fact the most watched TV event of the year, so why not go with it? I like the huge halftime show idea. Heck, why do the players even have to leave the field? They should get a front row seat.

At the founding of the Super Bowl by Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, the Big Game featured a musical performance by a local college marching band. From 1967-1975, marching bands were the main event, although some celebrities appeared as well. In 1976, popular rock bands began highlighting the show, and from ’76-’90, marching bands were relegated to background music for various popular artists (most of these shows were produced by Disney and included large-scale audience participation).

In 1992, the halftime show was a salute to the Winter Olympics, with Gloria Estafan singing and numerous figure skaters performing. The show was not highly anticipated, so FOX aired a special live episode of “In Living Color” during the same time slot, a brilliant move of “counter-programming” that cost the halftime show millions of viewers. So in 1993, in classic NFL form, the league flexed its muscles to make sure nothing would steal their 40 minutes of glory. ’93 was the greatest halftime show of all time, and I can remember it like it was yesterday.

Where’s Michael!? Over there, no over there, wait, OH MY GOSH HE’S ON STAGE!!! MICHAEL! MICHAEL! MICHAEL!

If you’re keeping track, the man just stands there for a full 120 seconds while people go absolutely nuts in the audience and at home. If MJ ain’t the greatest performer of all time, then I don’t know up from down. This SB show will never be topped—ever.

Ever since ’93, halftime shows have been hit or miss. Most of them have unfortunately featured rock stars from the decade or two earlier, and I don’t think any of them even moonwalked across the stage. (The one time contemporary mega pop-stars took the stage, it was a little too… revealing.)

If I was in charge of the halftime show, I guarantee it would be a raging success. Here are a few ideas:

A live middleweight fight between Floyd Mayweather and basically anyone

A “history of hip hop” concert featuring A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and holograms of Tupac and Biggy Smalls

NFL President Roger Goddell doing a Q&A on the league’s domestic abuse policy

NBC anchor Brian Williams actually rapping Snoop Dogg songs

I know, I should get paid for this stuff. Now back to the Super Bowl Preview!

The Fidelity Factor

In every sport, every match, every competition, there is a game within the game. Sport is about more than the players on the field and the plays in the book. Sport is about the complete alignment and focus of an entire organization—from the president to the GM to the coaches to the players to the trainers and equipment managers. A team’s complete commitment to winning the right way is called the Fidelity Factor.

Last year, Seattle was the undisputed holder of the Fidelity Factor entering the game, and it showed. So who is this year’s Factor holder? Let’s look at each team according to the Three Rules of Fidelity Sports.

(1) The Team Comes First

Individual performance must find its place only within the context of teamwork, cooperation, and selflessness. Seattle’s defense gets high marks for playing together, and its offense gets high marks for balance. Who’s the best player on the Seahawks? Russell Wilson? Marshawn Lynch? Richard Sherman? Earl Thomas? It’s probably Beast Mode, but they are so well balanced, it’s hard to predict who their MVP would be if they win. (Last year, it was linebacker Malcolm Smith who won SB MVP).

The Patriots are similar, with great players on both sides of the line. The obvious difference is that there is only one guaranteed Hall of Famer on the field: Tom Brady. He’s a top five all-time QB, and he’s making his NFL-record sixth SB appearance. SIXTH!!! That’s two more than Montana, Bradshaw, and Staubach. So it’s not a knock against the Patriots as a team/organization that they’ve hitched their wagon to their once-in-a-lifetime player, because it’s paid off. In summary, both teams are top five in the NFL in the “Team First” category, but I’m giving the slight nod to the Patriots, since the core of this team has been together an insane 15 years.

(2) There’s No Substitute for Hard Work

Many organizations buckle under the all-too-human temptation of immediate gratification. They say, “we have to Win Now,” and they fire their coach, trade for new players, dump a huge salary on to a young guy based entirely on potential, and generate as much hype as possible. See the 2013-14 Broncos, the 2009-2013 Miami Heat, and the post-1931 NY Yankees. But there’s no substitute for hard work. Win Now is no way to build a program, you have to build it from the ground up. Scouting and drafting. Player development. Coaching alignment. Clear offensive and defensive strategy. Effective special teams. Every trade, every draft, every game, every play. What makes a champion? Diligence in the little things. After all, it’s a game of inches.

So who has the advantage here? Again, it’s close, because both teams are model organizations for building a winner. Sure, the Patriots have exploited and cheated their way to the top; sure, the Seahawks hired Pete Carroll from a program he left in shambles; sure, the Seahawks have a reputation for PED’s; sure, both Tom Brady and Richard Sherman are the among most self-absorbed narcissists on earth. So neither team has played by the rules exactly, but they have put in the hard work to get here. My take? The “Hard Work” category is a draw.

(3) Good Things Take Time

The Seahawks owned this category last year because so many of their players were drafted and developed over time—even if it was only 2-3 years—while the Broncos went out and bought their team in the offseason. (They should have bought a defense while they were at it.) But this year, the “Time Invested” category belongs to the Patriots under the trio of Kraft-Belichick-Brady. Even though I really don’t like New England, I have to respect them. They’re the closest thing to the Spurs in the NFL. (The Spurs have also made the Finals six times in the last 15 years under the Buford-Popovich-Duncan trio.) So the Pats have a slight edge in two of the three Fidelity Factor categories, giving them the overall edge as well.

Fidelity Factor Advantage: Patriots

That brings us to…

The Official Fidelity Sports PredictionTM

Patriots 20
Seahawks 16

New England’s five recent SB appearances have been decided by 3 points (four times) or 4 points (once), and this one will be no different. Look for a Pats commitment to the run early, with a handful of trick alignments and barely-legal substitutions on third and short to snag first downs off the stingy Seattle D. On the Seattle side, I’m expecting 100+ total yards out of Beast Mode and another less-than-average performance by Russ Wil, and I can’t see them getting more than one TD off the NE defense. Team stats will be 50/50 across the board, but if the same comes down to the final five minutes, as much as I hate to say it, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be the difference.

Ugh. What a terrible Super Bowl. Are we sure there aren’t any NBA games on?

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