Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Super Bowl leftovers: Notes, observations and some facts about things seen and heard during Super Bowl week in New Orleans …
1. The Super Bowl has grown out of control. Two years ago at Super Bowl 45, Arlington, Texas, city fire marshalls inspected thousands of portable bleachers erected at the last minute in Cowboys Stadium and declared them unsafe. Thousands of ticket-buyers were displaced and offered refunds plus vouchers for a future Super Bowl. Sunday in the Superdome, a power outage delayed the biggest TV event of the year for 34 minutes. NFL officials denied the Beyonce halftime show blew a gigantic fuse, but it was the most elaborate indoor light show ever seen at a football game. The NFL keeps having to justify soaring ticket prices (face value was $850 and $1,250 this year) with entertainment spectacles at halftime. It keeps cramming more seats in stadiums, risking safety conditions, to maximize revenue out of the Super Bowl. I think the event has gotten too big and needs to be scaled back.
2. The best seat to view a Super Bowl is in front of a TV. I covered 27 Super Bowls in a row, and have watched the last two at home. There is no comparison. The far better perspective of watching on television vs. sitting in the press box will eventually chase reporters home on the day of the game. There are also worsening logistical issues at force, such as long security lines to get in, suffocatingly crowded interview areas and locker rooms and increased travel expenses. There is still great value in attending Super Bowl week for the access to players and coaches, but I can see the day when only – or mostly – reporters from the competing teams actually attend the game. Do movie critics need to travel to Hollywood to review a film?
3. The most riveting, inspiring event of Super Bowl week was the Steve Gleason press conference. Gleason is the former New Orleans Saints player stricken with ALS. He attended a press conference to announce a $350,000 donation from Chase Bank to the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living, which seeks to make life richer for ALS patients through technological advances. Gleason steered his battery-powered wheelchair up a ramp to the stage with the touch of a finger and spoke in a synthetic voice generated by an eye-powered computer screen. Devoted friend Scott Fujita assisted Gleason with a hand-held microphone and leaned one arm on his wheelchair throughout the 60-minute event. Political commentator Mary Matalin, one-half of the New Orleans power couple that includes husband James Carrville, wept throughout the press conference and screening of a powerful public service announcement. Showing off his still-sharp wit, Gleason broke up the audience when asked what was the most humbling aspect of his terminal disease. After a delay to point his eyes to each keyboard letter to spell out a response, Gleason’s pre-recorded voice finally stated in computer monotone, “Having someone wash my balls. Next question.”
4. Jim Nantz and Mike Lombardi must be very good friends. The CBS announcer sought me out in the Media Center and issued a passionate, stirring defense of Lombardi as one of the great minds in pro football today. Nantz went so far to state to me that Lombardi was responsible for discovering not one, but both Harbaugh brothers, and giving each his coaching break in the NFL – John with Philadelphia and Jim with Oakland. I recovered from that revelation just in time to hear Nantz relate the same info on the CBS broadcast of the Ravens-49ers game. If Nantz's lofty opinion of Lombardi is justified, then it shouldn't be long before the Browns are good again.
5. Quarterbacks with big arms – not necessarily with quick feet – are at a premium. Passing windows are tighter than ever because players are bigger, faster, stronger. It’s nice to have a quarterback who can run from fearsome pass rushers. But the big arm, displayed by Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, never goes out of vogue. Quarterbacks who possess the big arm and quick feet comprise the new breed. These include Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin 3 and Russell Wilson. Me? I’ll take the classic dropback passer with the big arm.
6. Jim Harbaugh was another coaching genius to bite the dust. The San Francisco coach’s ranting and raving on the sideline was borderline Bobby Knight. If there were a chair on the 49ers’ sideline, Harbaugh would have flung it across the field. The next time somebody criticizes a stoic Browns coach, bring up Harbaugh, who was on lunatic fringe. Then, with the game on the line, the 49ers’ play selection on four downs was as dubious as anything we’ve seen from Pat Shurmur, Brian Daboll et al. Kaepernick’s legs were not used and the pass selection on downs 2-4 was awful. A back-pedaling fade on fourth down? Really?
7. Did you consider the possibilities of the final play? After expending a few seconds and then conceding a safety, the Ravens set up the final play of the game with a free kick. The 49ers lined up returner Ted Ginn Jr. to field the kick. What a story it would have been if Ginn, a native Clevelander, had taken that kick to the house and denied the Ravens a Super Bowl win. Ginn would have been a civic hero for a lifetime.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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