Gutman: Someone please stop the football fluff

I love baseball.

Even more than the game itself, I love the sportswriting that surrounds baseball. It’s almost completely result-oriented: who’s hot, who’s cold, who’s winning and who’s losing. With games almost every single day of the season, there’s no such thing as buildup to any given contest. It’s all about the results — no fluff.

Football, by contrast, is a creative sportswriter’s dream. Nothing actually happens, so you invent story lines for the week. Players who might be important this weekend. Whom you expect to break out.

A week for a football writer is merely a series of injury reports with predictions interspersed, most of which are no more accurate than the predictions of a monkey with a dart board. Provided the monkey knows how to play darts. (I’ve always wondered why he would throw the dart at the board and not, like, the scientist studying him.) There’s less substance in a week of writing about football than in Paris Hilton’s head.

But football generates compelling story lines. Each week’s matchups contain more rivalry than the Old West, more plot twists than “Fight Club” and more excitement than a trip to Disneyland. So when there’s an entire weekend of games, there’s enough to discuss for the six days leading up to them.

But divide the number of games being played by about 13. Double the time leading up to the game. Remove Terrell Owens, Adam “Pacman” Jones and all the other troublemakers who create such a disproportionate amount of the NFL’s news stories.

What you’re left with is the Super Bowl.

The over-hyped media feeding frenzy of the millennium … that happens every year. Super Bowl Sunday contains just one three-hour game (and this year, also one butt-kickin’ good concert from The Boss, Bruce Springsteen). Yet its stories are told, retold and over-told for a full two weeks. Its every facet is dissected, its every matchup evaluated, despite the fact that nobody knows what’s actually going to happen.

The only constant about the game itself is that all the pre-game coverage seems meaningless. Heavy favorites fall, key players disappear and unlikely superstars emerge. That’s the beauty of the Super Bowl. That’s why it receives so much attention beforehand — because the memories of each Super Bowl live on for eternity.

But that’s what eternity is for — dissecting the game. Breaking down each play and labeling heroes and goats. Analyzing the Super Bowl is how many in the sportswriting profession prove their degrees in journalism were well-deserved. Before the Super Bowl, everyone just makes up stuff to fulfill their word count requirement when there isn’t much else going on.

I propose we put a moratorium on the words “Super Bowl.” It can be used all season and offseason long to talk about the teams’ long-term goals. It can be used during the playoffs. But once the AFC and NFC Championship games end, nobody can say the word Super Bowl for 10 days. Those final 96 hours will provide more than enough commentary on a single matchup because no matter how Kurt Warner’s throwing motion has evolved over the last 10 years or how good James Harrison is at forcing fumbles, there’s only so much you can talk about it.

And we might not have to endure terrible articles about Troy Polamalu’s hair on the front page of ESPN.com.

Let’s see some versatility out of sportswriters. Give me a cool nugget on the Australian Open. Find something important about the NBA other than a coach’s firing. Learn the sport of hockey — it’s great if you give it a chance.

Just stop writing about the Super Bowl, because believe me, whatever you’re saying has already been said many times over during the run-up to Super Sunday.

Wait. This column is about the Super Bowl, isn’t it?

Collin Gutman is a junior in Pierson College.

Comments