The Superbowl is finally here, Pittsburgh’s Steelers vs the Arizona
Cardinals live in all its glory from Raymond James Stadium, usual home
to the now coach-less Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
(MIDDAY Feb 2, ESPN on SKY)
Ah, sweet Tampa, Florida’s sweaty armpit.
If you want to live in Florida, don’t have the bucks for Jupiter or
the Intracoastal, or the sophistication to handle Miami, then Tampa my
son is for you.
Miamians make fun of Tampa. Jacksonvillites make fun of Tampa. Hell,
people from ORLANDO make fun of Tampa. Its bordered by swamp on one
side, and the shallow salty waters of the Gulf Of Mexico on the other.
It’s a redneck beach town that somehow has pretensions to being a
first-rate city, when really its full of barely successful real estate
agents and bottom-of-their-class dentists driving leased Corvettes.
Sort of like the Browns Bay of Florida.
And then there’s the strippers.
Tampa strippers used to be the best in the US.
So good, I was once persuaded on a bet to drive the 4 hours from Miami
to check them out. They were, I had to admit, the very best looking
half naked women I had seen to that point.
But then Vegas heard about this challenge to their Official City Of
Decadence crown and swept in and bought all the good ones up.
Now, there are still the same incredible number of titty bars (about
as numerous as Starbucks circa 2006) but the quality has flattened out
So instead of this:
You’re more likely to get this:
And if you think its not having an effect on the game, you’re wrong.
Holding a Super Bowl in a tinpot city with bad strippers in the middle
of a media led recession is like having your 21st in Invercargill on a
Sunday evening in August 1973. It’s just not meant to be like this.
The entire point of the week off is for players to get themselves into
trouble with hookers, preferable transexual, and for several celebrity
parties to get completely out of hand. This year? Not even Sean Combs
As of writing no-one interesting has been arrested, zero unfortunate
photos have hit the net, media day fizzled, no one is heading to
divorce court, and thanks to neither Dallas or the Giants making the
trip, there’s been no gunplay of any kind. What is this? A Superbowl
or a Wal-Mart company picnic?
If I was producing this for NBC I’d have a production assistant out at
the team hotels armed with 9mms and a boatload of gossip. “Anquan? Hey
Anquan? Larry Fitzgerald just said you fakin’. He calling you a pussy.
You gonna stand for that? Hell no you ain’t. Look, I just happen to
have this loaded 9 with me….”
On the football field things are just as serious.
These are SERIOUS teams, coached by SERIOUS men. The Arizona Defensive
Coach is called Russ GRIMM for godssakes.
Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin has always been low key (although he rocked a
Wesley Snipes look off the charter jet) but with Arizona’s Ken
Wisenhunt turning up his Bill Cowher-lite impersonation to 11, you
know this is going to be a battle as much of will as skill.
There are a thousand subtexts here, the best of which is that this is
really the Super Bowl winning Steelers assistant coaches of 2004 vs
the Steeler coach of 2008.
Tomlin is in a no-win situation. If he wins, well he took over a well
coached team (hint: built by the guys he just beat) and he was
If he loses, then the story is that Pittsburgh made a terrible mistake
in 2007 in passing over the geniuses that just took Arizona
(ARIZONA!!) to Superbowl glory a mere 2 years later.
Yep, it sort of sucks to be Mike Tomlin right now, because his fate is
in the hands of one man.
No sir. We are talking about Big Ben Roethlisberger.
Yep, you, you big lug. In 2004 Big Ben absolutely SUCKED in his first
Superbowl, but won because Pittsburgh still had the Bus, and the other
quarterback was Matt Hassellbeck.
He has no such cushion this time. Kurt Warner has been here before
(twice) and has the ring to prove it. Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker-led
running game is solid, but not great, and Ben is the team’s best short
yardage rusher. And Arizona are coached by his old offensive
coordinator who knows him well. Uh-oh. If he has a bad Ben day, and
he’s due one, Pittsburgh are toast.
Yes Ben, toast is yummy, but its still a bad thing.
In his defense he showed again in the Championship game that he is one
of the best ‘scramblers’ in the game, so if he can use those skills to
avoid the Arizona pressure then Pittsburgh will score points, and lots
of them. Arizona are a zone defense team, who are always vulnerable
when a play breaks down and its every man for himself.
(Actual football insight in this column! Thank you Gregg Easterbrook!)
With Arizona its all about the offensive line. If they can hold
Pittsburgh off that extra second to let Kurt make his throws then
again Pittsburgh is toast.
Human gazelle Larry Fitzgerald is the best receiver in football right
now, and he has one of the most accurate guys to ever play the game
throwing him the football.
Last year’s Super Bowl did not actually turn on David Tyree’s
incredible helmet catch (but Asante Samuel, if I ever meet you I will
punch you in the face) but in the terrible play of the Patriots
celebrated offensive line who parted like the Red Sea and let Tom
Brady try and play from underneath a 400 pound defensive end all day.
If that happens to Arizona, then its Pittsburgh all the way.
Both teams are well coached.
Both teams have great defenses. That’s why they’re here.
Both teams have capable offenses.
One team has history on its side.
One team has no historical baggage to worry about.
One team has a receiver who is a legendary low blow hitter, and the
other has one that belongs in Cirque du Soleil.
Both QBs are playing for their second rings.
Both are automatic for the Hall of Fame if they win.
One would be the ONLY QB ever to win Superbowls with two different
One team is looking to rise above all others in the history of the
game, and the other is looking to finally get a 60 year monkey off its
You know, writing that list, I’m finally getting a little excited.
It’s on baby.
I really, really really REALLY want to pick Arizona, I just wrote a
column that is significantly in Arizona’s favour, they have AWESOME
– but I just can’t.
PITTSBURGH 24, ARIZONA 21
Yes, its that close.
My new Superbowl tradition is to go to the Saddle Ranch Chop House on
Sunset. I’d always avoided it because it seemed a themed tourist trap,
but I couldn’t help notice that the carpark was always wall to wall
with flamboyantly pimped Astons and Bentleys. People just in fromToledo don’t tend to drive those. And so for the Superbowl in 2007 I went there and found out why.
Yes ma’am, I WILL have another pitcher of margaritas. And my regards
to the table of Mexican gangsters at the end of the bar. You know, I
never realised how good flames on a Racing Green DB9 could look.
Its a great place to watch any sport, but Superbowl Sunday is
The next round is on me.
– Mark Tierney