Saturday, January 31, 2015

Big Game, Big Story

Humans, we love our stories. It is something about us, our desire to make connections, to seek out links, to explain, that fuels a need to create narratives. It may be what defines us as humans. Something cannot simply exist. Events cannot simply occur. Things must have a reason. Actions must occupy a continuity. The world must have meaning over and above the obvious.

So, this weekend, there's a big football game. The champions of one group of teams (The Seattle Seahawks) will meet the champions of the other group of teams (The New England Patriots) in a head-to-head match up for all the marbles and bragging rights and rings and bonuses. And there will be music and fireworks and fans painting themselves and expensive commercials that you've probably already seen on YouTube and, I dunno, dancing bears.

And there will be stories.

In the two-week gap between determining the combatants and the game, something needs to fill time, and that becomes the narrative. Who are the white hats? Who are the black hats? Who are the upstarts? Who are the veterans? What does this say about the teams' home regions? What insights do we gain?

Looking at this year, and several past Super Bowls Seattle was a part of, the general feeling is that the mass media doesn't really get Seattle at all. We're quirky. We're tucked away in the northwest. Too much coffee. Too much rain. Young. Technie. Distracted by our phones. Not serious about our sports.

The first Super Bowl Seattle played in was against Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh's aura as a heavy-lifting steel town predominated (never mind that the biggest industry in medical services these days). The coverage was overwhelming about how the Steelers, who had the right stuff, would dominate the other guys, who would be the Seahawks (The Steelers won, confirming this narrative).

The second Super Bowl Seattle played in had a similar vibe. The opponent was the Broncos, under Payton Manning, and in the weeks leading up to the event, the national media treated it as a coronation of Mr. Manning as the Greatest Player Evah (And he IS real good) and the game as just a confirmation of that obvious fact. Seattle defeated the Broncos soundly in that game, leaving the media without a narrative and scrambling.

So you would think that, this time out, there would be a little more love for the Seahawks? Not so much. Most of the week has concentrated on the scandal of whether the Patriots kept their balls properly inflated. There is some real science about this, but pretty much it has gone in the direction you would expect it - people looking for reasons to say "The Patriots' Balls".

Reporting on the Seattle side? Not so much. The most news we get is about how on of our running backs (who IS real good) won't talk to the sports press, and one of our cornerbacks (who ALSO is real good) talks way too much. Our quarterback comes across as a nice, intense, dedicated. talented youngster, which as a result, apparently, makes for bad interviews and bad television (until he starts scrambling in the open and gives every fan in the stadium a heart attack).

So the story is yet again centered on the other team this year, with some factions fitting them for black hats and others being more charitable (in the manner that one expects charity when you are caught with your hand in the cookie jar up to your elbow) . We have not hit the level where the Patriots are playing for redemption quite yet, because that involves actually admitting there was anything wrong in the first place. And I should be happy from the standpoint that while all the news leans on the Patriot side, the previous Super Bowl champions are cruising along, effective underdogs for the very prize they took home the previous year.

And I don't think anyone has caught that particular narrative. Leading up to this, we kept hearing how teams that win the Super Bowl are not even expected to make the playoffs the next year, yet once Seattle did that, that entire line of thought died away. This is a rarity, but in a landscape scraping for any narrative that doesn't involve "The Patrtiots' Balls", I think the media missed the obvious story of a team of individuals coming together to win games.

I suppose I should be OK with the attention on the Patriots, given that the other big story from the media is that our running back (who, I may have mentioned, is real good) doesn't want to talk to them. And I will be watching the game with friends on Sunday. But I think the media blew it this time with their narrative, Again.

More later,