Perched on a peak of standard hype, glamor and trash talk, the Super Bowl, as too often seems the case, did nothing but disappoint those of us who did not have a vested interest in one of the two competing teams. This year’s pre-game excitement was led by the “witty” banter of the Steelers’ Joey Porter and the Seahawks’ Jerramy Stevens.
Stevens suggested that he and his teammates would send the favored Steelers and hometown hero Jerome Bettis home unhappy. Porter, renowned for his jeering prowess and his pregame belly exposure, suggested that Stevens ought to make more of a name for himself before threatening anyone.
With the exchange having been blown out of proportion, Porter (3 tackles) and Stevens (3 receptions for 25 yards, 1 TD, 3 drops) followed the game trend and didn’t live up to the hype.
As for the renowned Steelers’ “gadget plays,” Antwaan Randle El’s 43-yard touchdown strike to Hines Ward admittedly worked like a charm, putting the Seahawks at an insurmountable deficit.
But it was the more basic run off right tackle that broke the game and turned the momentum in the Steelers’ direction. On second and 10 from his own 25, Willy Parker burst off the kick-out block of left guard, and one of the NFL’s premier linemen, Alan Faneca. “Fast Willy” sprinted up the right sideline for a Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown scamper, outdoing Marcus Allen’s 74-yard run in Super Bowl XVIII.
Faneca, who I almost always choose early in my Madden Fantasy Drafts for his career longevity and blocking prowess, deserves some of the spotlight. With athleticism and agility that would amaze most, Faneca cleared a gaping hole for the young Parker, who cruised into the record books. Neither Faneca’s name nor the alacrity with which he pulled behind his partners will ever be recorded. I doubt anyone, except those closely connected to the game, can recall the block that sprung Marcus Allen.
Who is Alan Faneca? He is a 6-foot-5, 307 lb., eight-year veteran, undrafted out of Louisiana State University. His stats are equally as unimpressive. A lot of zeros. He’s never scored a touchdown, he’s never gained a yard rushing, receiving, or passing. He does have five career tackles, on interceptions thrown by his own teammate. The only stat that seems of any volume is “G.” Faneca has played in all 16 regular season contests during six of his eight seasons, missing only one game during each of the other two.
His life motto: “Live in the moment.” The best piece of advice he ever received: “Look at people when they’re talking to you.” If he were commissioner for a day, Faneca claims he would move holiday games closer to home, so players could spend time with their families. The man is hard and tough on the field, compassionate at home. He is everything the NFL wants to stand for.
While Al Michaels and John Madden harped on Willy Parker’s speed, they should have been praising the technical merit of Faneca’s pile-driving block. (Indeed, maybe we should all go pat our friendly neighborhood offensive linemen on the back.) But the surface-level hype received more attention, as per the theme of the weekend.
And for sports fans everywhere, the disappointment did not end with the Super Bowl. Two halves of lackluster, penalty-laden football give way now to the darkest, coldest weeks of the winter (though maybe not particularly cold this year). Until the NCAA Conference Tournaments and March Madness, sports fans will be forced to hope for NHL shootouts, for another midseason 80-point output from Kobe, or for a Winter Olympics that matches past incarnations of the Summer Games.
At Yale, however, the atmosphere is heating up for an exciting February. The John J. Lee Amphitheater and Ingalls Rink provide electric atmospheres for events that will not disappoint. A quick stop to the Brady Squash Center offers a glimpse into some of the best squash in the country, as both women’s and men’s teams seek Ivy League crowns. Bulldogs games make up for the thankful lack of hype with the proverbial passion for playing the game.
What would Alan Faneca do? Well, he’ll be in Hawaii playing in the Pro Bowl, his fifth straight. But if he were in the Elm City, according to his motto, he would likely encourage us all: “Go watch a basketball game in Lee Amphitheater. After some Flato silk, you won’t be able to hear yourself think. Make the hike up to the Whale for a game. Listen to the YPMB blow the roof off after a Boucher goal. Listen to the squeaks and slaps of a Julian Illingworth or Michelle Quibell reverse boast. You will enjoy yourself. In the words of George Foreman, ‘I guarantee it.'”
Nicholas Thorne is a sophomore in Pierson College. His column appears on Wednesdays.