Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Face The Face

Five days before the Latest Game To End All Games, and you can already hear the roiling murmurs of whiny from the nation's press corps and Blogfricans, especially the ones who have been to the carnival enough times to complain that the popcorn is too greasy. Dallas is cold. The town isn't really a vacation spot, especially in February. Steeler Fan is fat, and Packer Fan is morbidly obese, and both fan bases redefine painful whiteness in our time. But that's really not the problem with this game, at least from the perspective of people who would rather write about personalities, rather than athletics.

Here's the plain, simple and ugly truth behind what's going to be a surprising amount of bitching about this match-up; there really isn't anyone on the field for people to root *against*.

Sure, Ben Roethlisberger is a reprehensible quasi-rapist... but since there were no charges, and he doesn't behave like an asshat on the field, it's just something you have to remember. (Let's face it; if Jay Cutler had Big Ben's off-season rap sheet, Bear Fan would have set him on fire, mostly because Bear Fan is looking for any excuse to set Cutler on fire. And I don't much blame them.) Hines Ward may be the dirtiest WR in the league, but it's a *fun* kind of dirty, with cleat-leaving blindside blocks that appeal to the reptilian mind better than anyone else who has ever played the position. If either of these guys played for your laundry, with Roethlisberger's record of getting to the Super Bowl and Ward's highlight reel of terror, you'd love them.

And those two are, frankly, the biggest "heel" candidates in the game. The other 20 Steeler starters are downright adorable. Troy Polamalu makes fun of his hair for money, and is sincere in his religious beliefs. The young wideouts haven't put up enough numbers yet to become divas. Rashard Mendenhall is a joy to watch; power, speed, ornery. TE Heath Miller is the club's best clutch performer, and still stays in to block most of the time. The linebackers are cheerful purveyors of violence, and as an Eagle Fan, I'd give my eye teeth for any of them, even if James Farrior is close to the end, and Jerome Harrison is a fine waiting to happen. CB Ike Taylor just makes plays every time I look at him, and S Ryan Clark might be (shh!) better than Polamalu at this point. DE Brent Keisel has epic facial hair. The club is run intelligently, is your routine best defense against Patriot Overlords, and usually smacks Ray Lewis in his big, fat, accessory to murder mouth. What's not to love, really?

On the other side, you've got the Packers, and here's how hateful they are; they ended my team's year, killed both of my fantasy teams with the first-week loss of RB1 Ryan Grant, and... I still kind of like them. Part of this is because it's impossible to hate on Wisconsin; these are people who are filled with cheese and good will, and given that first part, if you just look at them funny, they drop like fruit flies. And the rest of it is the roster. Who am I supposed to hate here? Aaron Rodgers is eventually going to be an object of hate, just because if he's fortunate enough to avoid concussion, he's going to go to four or five Super Bowls. Greg Jennings is reasonably quiet for a #1 WR. The RBs are all anonymous, the other skill guys don't have numbers, and the closest guy to a mouth on defense is Clay Mathews, who mostly talks with his hair. So long as these people don't take Favre back, I'm fine with all of them.

And that, of course, is death for the media. Face vs. face makes us come back to how it's really about the game, and not the BS narrative... and truth be told, the media's not about the game. The game is for nerds and geeks and gomers and lifers, the people who are going to watch no matter what. When you can wrap it up in a cute little bow of Hate That Guy And Love This Guy, that's when the general public comes in.

Well, screw them. Not like they read this blog anyway.

And screw the media, too, for not being OK when it's just about the game. Because, well, it's a pretty damn good game. You can have all of that other nonsense.

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