February 3, 2006
Tom Brady:
Can't avoid him, even when he's not playing in the Super Bowl: He will do the XL coin flip. (Will his sports hernia cause the toss to sail?)
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Start with the most manufactured drama of the week: Joey Porter vs. Jerramy Stevens, which the media is split between breathlessly covering and meta-covering by complaining about covering it.

The Seahawks TE says something nominally quote-worthy and Porter uses it as license to pop off. Kudos to Stevens for calling the whole episode "ridiculous."

Here's an interesting contrast in styles: Holmgren reeled Stevens in; Cowher joked that it's "Joey being Joey" and let him keep going.

There's no telling how many neutral fans Porter single-handedly turned into Seahawks fans, just to see Porter eat his words.

Bettis Detroit Homecoming! Inside the 5, I'm sure he'll get the ball. Everywhere else, it'll be Willie Parker's game to shine.

Big Ben, Soph Stud: Everyone expects the run; it's on the cool QB to make things happen. (And what's his postgame T-shirt going to say?)

Late-breaking injuries: Troy Polamalu hurt his ankle in practice yesterday and is listed as probable. A feint or a legit problem for the Steelers? He's the X-factor in their defense.

Coaches need wins: Cowher needs to prove he can win the Big One; Holmgren needs to prove he can win without binky Brett Favre.

No respect! Not a peep out of you Steelers fans! Seattle's fans have a case. But even if the Seahawks win, will fans care?

T.O. vs. McNabb: Seriously, how did that sneak in here? Get out of my head!

XL: TV Ads
The most fascinating story about this year's Super Bowl ads is that there's more buzz about watching the ads online or on your iPod or mobile phone than there is about watching them during the game.

Most Talked About Monday: My bet is on MasterCard, which will combine the culturally ubiquitous "Priceless" campaign with MacGyver. It's that buzz-worthy chemistry of celebrity, kitsch and message.

Animals rule: Mrs. Quickie says there has yet to be a TV ad that the presence of a monkey doesn't make funny. I agree, but I'd watch out for bears and beer. Speaking of which...

Beer: Anheuser-Busch takes the Super Bowl seriously. They buy lots of spots and deliver a wide variety of ads. This year, there will be animals, Ted Furguson (Stunt Man) and the obligatory Cedric the Entertainer spot.

Pro FB Hall of Fame: Troy Aikman is a lock (Madden, too?)
Terrible Towels: The must-have accessory at Ford Field?
Pizza delivery: Sunday is the biggest day of the year
Michael Irvin: Likely on outside looking in at PFHOF entry
Mike Martz: Says no to Lions because of money. What a fool...
Two-week layoff: Who else is ready for the game to start?!
Soda: Jackie Chan? Fine. Diddy? If you say so. But Jay Mohr? Really? And Kathy Griffin? Aren't Super Bowl ads supposed to rise above D-list?

Movies: I'm looking forward to "V is for Vendetta," based on the creepy graphic novel. Then again, I am sort of a geek like that. For the rest of you, there's always Tim Allen in "Shaggy Dog." Big hit or big miss: How can you deny the Burger King? He's become a staple of sports-fan culture with those ads superimposing him on real-life NFL scenes. BK is running a 60-second musical epic early.

Skin wins: GoDaddy.com had its ad rejected by ABC something like 13 times. It's like we've never seen busty models selling Web hosting space before. We'll see what they stripped their spot down to -- or clothed it, as it were.

Sports fans' dream: I'm not shilling when I say the Mobile ESPN ad titled "Sports Heaven" will have every sports fan at your party saying, "Shhh! Everyone shut up so I can hear this!" and "Wait, wait: Hit the TiVo and replay that!"

XL: Halftime Show
There's a happy medium between Janet Jackson flashing her breast and Paul McCartney blandly making the Super Bowl safe for killjoys.

The Rolling Stones are an upgrade, and at least there's always a chance Mick Jagger will wiggle his hips and make things interesting.

If there's any controversy, it's that the city's Motown heritage was shunted to the pregame. How can you bounce Stevie Wonder to the pregame?!

XL: The Party
Breaking out the classic tips: (1) Stake out the good chair and (2) grab control of the remote.

You've got to mitigate the potential damage from those lame party-goers who don't care about the game. They say they love the ads, but they still yak incessantly during them.

(Hint: Don't be afraid to use the DVR function.)

Doing a Pick-a-Square pool in your office or at your party? Don't forget to sign up for ESPN.com's Big Game Showdown to compete with me and other Quickie readers.

(Click here and find group name: Daily Quickie Readers.)

XL: The Pick
You might wonder if I can say "root for the Seahawks" and still pick the Steelers to win the game. It's tempting, but that's a soulless way to head into Super Bowl weekend.

Normally, I'd defer to the collective wisdom of the fans, who are picking the Steelers to win by a decisive 60-40 polling margin. In this case, I think they're suffering from East Coast Bias, which has got to be worth at least the current 4.5-point spread.

So in a slow, low-scoring game worthy of the lack of buzz that led up to it, I'll call it: Seahawks 20, Steelers 17.

But here's the thing to remember about low expectations: Rather than a self-fulfilling prophecy, they will make even a mediocre game seem good compared to what everyone thought it would be.

NFL Labor Woes:
Union decertification in 2007 (no salary cap)? Strike in 2008? The only cloud looming over Super Bowl XL is the near-certain future labor battle.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Big Game Showdown
Page 2 Index
XL MVP Candidates
Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers will need passing
Willie Parker
Turf favors Fast over Bus
Alexander or H'beck
If the Seahawks win...
Reed or Brown
Just ask Adam Vinatieri
Tatupu or Polamalu
Best MVP names ever?

Other Sports News:

NBA All-Star starters announced (same 10 you saw in Thursday's Quickie). Dwyane (26 pts) topped East co-starter LeBron last night, 101-73.

Larry Brown fined $20K for not leaving the court after his ejection Tuesday. Should be more concerned about his team's pending mutiny.

CBB Weekend: "GameDay" in Gainesville for Kentucky-Florida (Saturday, 9 ET). Pitt tries to do what Duke couldn't and win at G'town. UConn travels to Indiana.

Edge James out in Indy? "You can read between the lines and from the things I'm hearing, nothing's going to happen."

Casual golf fans have a problem: We're addicted to Tiger. Appropriately in Dubai, Woods shoots a 2nd-round 6-under 66 to take the lead.

Epiphanny "113" Prince admits she was thinking about Kobe when she went on her scoring binge. OMG: Vince Carter was right!

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