Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Super Bowl Narratives

If there is something that makes humans human, it is our ability, no, our desire to find patterns. To make connections. To tell stories. It is something we are very good at, such that clouds become herds of horses, smatterings of stars become legendary heroes, and a handful of stats indicate the economy is going great/going to hell in a handbasket due to the high ethics/moral bankruptcy of those involved.

And now, the Superb Owl. Championship game of the NFL. And that is not just enough, of course. It must have deeper meaning than merely men contending for a prize, and as a result, we see the rise of the Narrative. 

This year, the game is between my hometown Seattle Seahawks and the Peyton Mannings. Yes, it really is the Denver Broncos, but despite the fact that Denver has a plethora of excellent players (none of whom come to mind at the moment), every bit of coverage is going to be about the legendary quarterback who is going to a Superbowl representing a completely different city than his last time.  In fact, we can use a Manning-base Bechdel test here - You have to find an article that a) is about the Broncos, b) is about a player who is not Manning, and c) does not mention Manning and that player's relationship to Manning. Have fun.

Note that even our local weather expert, Cliff Mass, falls prey to this - comparing how well the Seahawks as a team do in aggregate against how well Peyton Manning does in sub-zero weather. Sigh. 

On the other side, the Seahawk articles will follow the traditional overlapping trinities found at this time of year. One player is chosen from the following categories - Quarterback, Running Back/Receiver, and Defender. There will be other players who are very, very good at their jobs, but we look at those positions, and then overlay the approved personality traits - The Cute One, The Loud One, and the Tough One.

Think I'm kidding? Look no further than the championship Steelers of my youth, with Bradshaw (Quarterback, Loud), Franco Harris (Cute (well, suave), Receiver), and Mean Joe Greene (Tough, Defender). It is a pattern, one the Narrative  thrives upon.

And if you have to talk about a fourth player, you talk about the kicker. The kicker is the Ringo of the holy trinity, and doesn't need to have a singifying trait. 

So, for the 'Hawks, we have Wilson (Cute, Quarterback), Sherman (Loud, Defender), and Lynch (Tough, Running Back). We have a lot of extremely talents players (Kearse, Baldwin, Tate and the holy ghost of Harbin who will player a full quarter sometime this season), but those first three will be the stories. Along with the "character" of the team.

See, the last time Seattle went to the Superbowl (against Pittsburgh), the team was considered too NICE to be there. Seattle was a bunch of reasonable nerds with pocket protectors that would be mugged by the smashmouth, down and dirty, hard working type of football that Pittsburgh played. And indeed, that narrative played into a couple questionable calls that Seattle remembers bitterly to this day (Not that this seeking of redemption will be part of the Narrative - the Narrative does not like to examine the mistakes of the Previous Narratives). 

This time, the Narrative is shaping up the other way. Seattle is the black hats. We're the bad boys, the loud mouths, the chippy trash-talkers. The coach looks the other way for violations and the team has been heavily penalized. They are the scrapyard dogs, the fans are loud and obnoxious, they play nasty. They are almost ... Oakland. This is an 180 degree flip from the last time. But don't ask the Narrative about this - the Narrative moves in its own, private ways.

So look for these things in the next week as the hype engines fire up, and the sports folk talk about Russel Wilson's boyish good look and how uncouth our team is. And most of all, the Narrative will be how it will all be for naught as Peyton Manning and his team, the Peyton Mannings, cruise to victory. Until they don't.

More later,