Columnist: My thoughts on the Super Bowl

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Loran Smith

Syndicated columnist

The Super Bowl has the biggest build-up of any sport. Not even the Olympics can top it. Historically, it has been the impact of television which has brought this about.

When the National Football League owners chose Alvin Ray “Pete” Rozelle as its commissioner in 1960, that is when pro football gained a partner, the colossus that is television; there was never any backsliding as money came by the sacksful.

Says Bill Dwyre, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, “The NFL owners are the greediest group of men you will find, but they are also the smartest.”

It is amusing that, in the beginning, there were empty seats. You could buy a ticket to see Green Bay vs. Kansas City in the first Super Bowl in 1966 for $12. A little high back then even for the everyday Joe, but nothing compared to the average price for last weekend’s game, which was $3,947.

In the 80s I made it to several Super Bowls, mainly because my son was keen on being there. To enjoy the experience, we were paying $200 and $300 for tickets, which I considered ridiculous. There were some memorable father-son excursions, but I was happy when he finished college and we began passing on the Super Bowl.

Every NFL player and coach gets two tickets to the Super Bowl, which is why ticket scalping for the game went through the roof years ago. One former college coach moved to New Orleans, married a travel agent and began selling high end sports packages to corporations. He called all his buddies, who were in the NFL, paid them high prices for their tickets, marked them up and raked in big money with Super Bowl packages.

The Denver-Carolina matchup Sunday may have been my favorite. At kickoff, there were mixed emotions, however. With three Bulldogs on the Panther roster and a friend with a minority ownership position, there was the notion that it would be a fulfilling to see Thomas Davis, the modest Shellman, Georgia, linebacker who has authored one of the most stimulating of NFL stories, and his buddies, to come away with championship rings.

With a friendship with the Archie Manning family that dates back, it was difficult not to enjoy the favorable results that came Peyton’s way. It was a game in which you took the stance that it would be nice if both teams could win.

There could be no more deserving winner of a Super Bowl ring than Thomas Davis who has given his body to the game — three ACL operations on the same knee and playing his heart out on Sunday with a broken arm.

“You gotta play hurt,” has long been an NFL preachment among players. You play because you enjoy the competition on the big stage, but also, if you leave the lineup for any reason, you may never get your job back.

The game can be rewarding, but not very forgiving. Play 10 years and you may become rich, but you may not be able to sleep at night owing to aches and pains.

The players I have known, many big name NFL stars, who no longer would recognize me if I walked into their den, because of dementia, is depressing. Some players get the back of the hand when it comes to health.

When there is all that pre-game hoopla like that of this classical event, there is an inglorious downside. While the winners cavort in post game glory, the losers become branded for life unless they have the good fortune to get a second chance and come away a winner.

Now that it is over, there was abiding sentiment for Peyton Manning, who is one of the classiest champions there has ever been, but with all due respect, it is fulfilling emotionally that this game was won by the defense. There is so much tribute and song for offense these days, but I like it when we are reminded that defense wins games.

There have been 50 Super Bowl MVPs with only eight defensive players winning the award. You score, the accolades follow. You stop a score and you get a pat on the back in the locker room.

And, this parting shot. If I don’t agree with Cam Newton’s arrogant conduct on the field, how can that be racist? You remember when you were in grade school and you didn’t like the guy who was a show off? Same thing. Win with class. Don’t call attention to yourself.

To put it in “local” perspective, you don’t see Alabama players strutting and playing the “me” routine. It will always be about defense and it will always be about the team.

When I saw Johnny Manziel play in College Station, Texas, I was duly impressed. For the record, I think he is an insufferable jerk. If he washes out of the NFL, the game will not suffer in the least.

Loran Smith is an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia.