Parity not so super
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

Over the next two weeks, the NFL has to face one cold, hard fact about its present condition: Parity and hype are conflicting concepts. Parity is good for the regular season and the first rounds of the playoffs, but it loses its shine as the playoffs progress. As proof, look at the past few Super Bowl matchups -- there's always someone new, and the buildup is always less than compelling.

Tom Brady
This time around the Pats won't be playing the role of underdog.
And this year, parity has bred Patriots vs. Panthers; pretty similar to Bucs-Raiders, Pats-Rams and Ravens-Giants. Hype can't find any traction in this unsettled terrain. It might be thrilling in Charlotte and Boston; but everywhere else, it might as well be a midseason battle for first in the AFC North.

What a bummer Sunday turned out to be. Two weeks of exciting playoff games -- exciting for the stupendous ways in which teams managed to fail -- gave way to two forgettable championship games. They were so pedestrian we can't even find a good reason to fire a coach today.

Last week, everyone wanted to string up Mike Martz and Mike Sherman; but this week, we can't summon the energy. Tony Dungy? Ah, hell -- you did what you could with what you had. Belichick's just smarter than everybody else. And see you next year, Andy Reid. Oh, by the way, think about drafting a receiver when you get around to it.

It might be hard to get started, but we'll try to hype the Super Bowl. After all, it's a law. Over the next 12 days, you'll read about the matchups -- Fox vs. Belichick, Hochstein vs. Buckner, Delhomme vs. Bruschi. (It's early, though, and you'll probably need first names for the next week or so.) Can the Panthers find a way to repeat their stunning performance in the NFC title game by getting a solid and injurious cheap shot on Tom Brady? After befuddling Peyton Manning and the Colts' offense, will Belichick be popping champagne in the film room after watching the first reel of the Panthers' offense? Will Ricky Manning Jr. become this year's ... wait, who was that guy from last year ... Dexter Jackson?

And, finally, we promise to make every attempt to discover just how much 370-pound Ted Washington eats on game day. Ted will be asked to play the time-honored role of Gilbert Brown and Tony Siragusa in our desperate attempt to create some seamless Super Bowl storylines. It's our pledge to you.

By the time Delhomme looks over the line at Bruschi with Stephen Davis and eight tight ends lined up in the vaunted Carolina flex-T triple wishbone, you'll forget all about the commercials.

This Week's List

  • Since revisionist history and internal squabbling gave Jon Gruden the credit for Bill Callahan's taking the Raiders to the Super Bowl last year, here's a question: How much of John Fox's credit is George Seifert going to get?

  • As always, Nutella proves to be a trailblazer in the field of marketing and de-marketing the world's greatest athletes: McDonald's is the latest corporation to drop Kobe Bryant.

  • Nothing against Donovan McNabb, but here's one good reason to welcome the Panthers to the Super Bowl: Rush Limbaugh is finally out of football for the season.

  • Biggest surprise of the weekend: Marvin Harrison, the man who is always always always open ... not open at all, like almost never.

  • Just for the heck of it: Jack Squirek.

  • Because, just a hunch but I'm guessing this isn't legal in all 50: Don't the people who line up to get an autograph from 14-year-old Michelle Wie feel just a little skuzzy?

  • One of the great existential questions of our time: Is Steve McNair really, really tough for playing with so many injuries? Or really, really fragile for getting so many injuries in the first place?

  • It's called having something to fall back on: Anticipating the end of his baseball career, John Burkett has entered the world of professional bowling.

  • Nostalgia corner: Remember the good old days, when baseball managers were the only guys who got roasted for their bad decisions in the postseason?

  • Just in case someone in St. Louis has forgotten: The Rams, three plays in the final two minutes of regulation.

  • Just in case anyone in Wisconsin has forgotten: fourth-and-26?

  • And finally, a sight we simply don't need, for any number of reasons: Ruben Studdard, apparently in solidarity with our men and women in uniform, wearing nine yards of camouflage.

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.



    Tim Keown Archive

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