No brotherly love in New Orleans Super Bowl
OPINION: For three and a half hours this Monday (NZT), the United States will grind to a halt for the biggest event on the American sports calendar - the Super Bowl.
The two best American football teams in the country, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, will duel in New Orleans as they attempt to etch their name on to the famous Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The lead-up to the Super Bowl is always full of hype and anticipation, but what has struck me most about this decider is the amount of sub-plots surrounding the game.
You only to have to look at the two coaches for a dramatic storyline - they are brothers.
For the first time in Super Bowl history, two siblings will coach against each other, with Ravens coach John Harbaugh trying to plot the downfall of little brother, 49ers coach Jim, who is a year younger.
To their credit, the Harbaughs have kept things pretty quiet publicly, preferring to deflect the attention on to their players, who will ultimately be the ones who decide the contest.
You've got to feel sorry for their parents, who have already said they will remain neutral for the game.
The American media have been captivated by the quirky occurrence, dubbing the game "The Har-Bowl" and covering off every possible angle. The USA Today newspaper did a nice piece talking to other leading United States' sports siblings, like the tennis-playing Williams sisters and Nascar drivers Kurt and Kyle Busch about the difficulty of squaring off against a family member.
One of the reasons I'm most looking forward to the Super Bowl is Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who will bring the curtain down on his stellar 17-year NFL career, win or lose.
Lewis has been with the Ravens since entering the league and will go down in history as one of the greatest players in his position. He is one of the characters of the NFL, as evidenced by his customary pre-game entry "squirrel dance" and is also a gifted orator and natural leader.
If you want to hear some gold quotes about the meaning of life, check out Lewis speaking in a Ravens' press conference on ESPN over the next few days.
Lewis won an NFL title in 2000 and it would be a fitting end to his career to see him go out a winner on Monday.
The 37-year-old Lewis and the Ravens have defied the odds to even get to the Super Bowl. He appeared to suffer a season-ending tricep tear earlier in the campaign against the Dallas Cowboys, but managed to recover, returning for the start of the playoffs.
The Ravens began the playoffs as the fourth seed in the AFC, but have kept the dream alive for Lewis over the past three weeks, which included upset away wins over the higher ranked Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
Not many people would have predicted the Ravens and 49ers to meet at the start of the season. Like the Ravens, the 49ers have had to overcome some tough obstacles, including a 0-17 deficit away to Atlanta in the NFC Championship game a fortnight ago.
It should also be intriguing to see which quarterback can best spark his offensive line into action. Defence has been the hallmark of the Ravens franchise for years, while the 49ers gave up the second fewest amount of points in the league during the regular season.
The quarterbacks are a major talking point, with Baltimore's Joe Flacco shedding his inconsistent tag to carry his team during the back end of the season.
San Francisco's charismatic playmaker Colin Kaepernick, who was a virtual no-name at the beginning of the year, has been brilliant for the 49ers since winning the starting job from Alex Smith when he was injured.
They've won seven of their past nine games, and with Kaepernick's ability to run the ball from anywhere, mixed with his passing precision, the 49ers will rate themselves a major chance of victory.
- The Southland Times
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