Flem File's Super Bowl countdown
The game in Texas that started out as XLV has already morphed into "Super Bowl Slurpee."
It's now an icy, frozen, colorful treat that's full of toxic, sugary, empty calories that leave you with a gut ache as well as a powerful, bizarre craving for more.
The good news is there are roughly only 72 hours left until all the hype is over. If you've been to enough of these shindigs, the final three days of buildup tend to unfold in the exactly same way. Same plot lines. Same scandals. Same headlines. Same parties. Same complaints. Only the characters, the players and the locations change.
Which means we already pretty much know how this is going to play out. So, for your convenience, here's a list of XLV things that will take place between now and the end of Super Bowl Slurpee.
1. Vultures, dogs, bears, monkeys, birds and several other species of animals that eat their own poop will prove that they are better Super Bowl prognosticators than most sports writers.
2. We will continue to perpetuate the myth of Vince Lombardi: American Icon. Because, frankly, the truth is too complicated and difficult to communicate, or deal with. (We learned that with last week's Steelers column, didn't we?) Yes, Lombardi was a legendary coach and a master motivator. He was also something far less as a father and husband. "Terrible" is how he described himself in that role, actually.
I've been on something of biography jag the past few years -- Andrew Jackson, John Adams, Mark Twain, John O'Hara, Einstein, J.D. Salinger and Lombardi -- and after learning the full story behind these men the only subject who made me question my admiration was Lombardi. He had a brilliant football mind and was a leader when it came to tolerance and diversity. But the stories about his interaction with his family are chilling, to the say the least. According to the wonderful bio by David Maraniss, Lombardi's idea of bonding with his young daughter on game days was to abandon her for several hours in a stadium bathroom with an attendant.
3. People who paid $3,000 to attend the Super Bowl live will catch themselves watching large portions of the game on the giant TV screen inside the stadium.
4. After Kid Rock's cowbell player passes out on stage at ESPN's NEXT Party on Friday night in Dallas, as a fellow Detroit native I will be called up on stage to finish the set and he will let me scream the phrase: "Now get in the pit and try to love someone!"
5. In the lead-up to what is the greatest single testosterone-fueled event of the year, all of us super macho dudes will spend an inordinate amount of time fawning over, debating and analyzing the hairstyles of Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews.
6. At some point in Texas I will become quite pleased with myself and then I will remember that Brett Keisel's facial hair has 25,000 more Facebook friends than I do.
7. When discussing the impending NFL labor strife -- let's call it "Billionaires versus Millionaires" -- we will continue to focus on little things like the 18-game schedule when the real issue is the owners' massive debt from unchecked stadium construction and the league's need to pay that down by recalibrating how the cash flow is shared with players.
8. Steelers fans will continue to fill my inbox with nasty e-mails because of last week's Steelers Skeletons column, not knowing that I recently spent two days at a Great Wolf Lodge and therefore nothing scares me anymore.
9. Dallas will want to know when it can host another Super Bowl. And I will reply: How many has Atlanta snagged since their Super Bowl ice storm?
10. I will get a clear picture of how dumb the NFL thinks I am when during a timeout in the second quarter on Sunday the JumboTron inside Jerry's World instructs me how to clap and stomp along to the halftime show.
11. The league will announce that next year they will restore some integrity to the Pro Bowl by having the teams play in hula skirts.
12. I will, somehow, get into Prince's charity gig Friday night in Dallas and I will perform B.J. Raji's TD dance to "Computer Blues."
13. Dick LeBeau will show Aaron Rodgers a bizarre pre-snap look that will rattle the Packers QB a little and cause him to expend lots of energy to try to come up with a solution only to realize, several hours after the game is over, that the Steelers defense never ran that play again.
14. While locked into my seat waiting for the game to begin I will remember how former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita once described the locker room before the big game: "An NFL pregame locker room can be the most god-awful scene you will ever see or smell. We were moments away from the Super Bowl, the highlight of our athletic lives, and pretty much everyone is in the bathroom just absolutely blowing up the stalls."
15. The Visa Super Bowl guy who looks like a hound dog will continue to brag about missing births, weddings and other important family dates in order to attend the Super Bowl. I will continue to feel sorry for people who do that sort of thing -- like myself.
16. Having listened to and quoted him on this subject many times before he was accused twice of sexual assault and forced to sit for the first month of the season I will continue to throw up in my mouth a little every time I hear Ben Roethlisberger reference faith, religion and inner peace. Ben will, nevertheless, continue to win people over with his gutsy play and his ability to absorb punishment in the pocket -- as he should -- even though the point for a quarterback, really, is to get rid of the ball quicker so you don't get hit.
17. After a long, elaborate, crazy intro with fireworks, lasers and massive amounts of heart-stopping bass, the Black Eyed Peas will just be getting to the very first chorus of "I Gotta Feeling" when NFL crews will begin tearing down the stage in order to start the second half. This will still be better than The Who.
18. Rodgers will exploit the Steelers deep -- several times.
19. We will marvel at the fact that the Packers have nine players from the MAC on their roster.
20. Anti-porn groups, Penthouse magazine and every possible organization in between -- moments ago I got an e-mail from the Texas Association of Campground Owners, swear to God -- will use the platform of the Super Bowl to push their agendas and we will think "What a great country."
21. Sports reporters at the Super Bowl will share with you their incessant love of coffee and complaining. You might have heard that they don't like cold weather. It's probably because of the way the cold wind cuts right through their sweatpants.
22. With 16 players on injured reserve someone in the Green Bay front office will realize that if the Packers win the Super Bowl it will cost the publicly owned team at least an extra quarter of a million bucks to give everyone on the roster a Super Bowl ring.
23. The game will come down to which offense (1) spreads things out better with multiple receiver packages and (2) handles the blitz more effectively. And I give the Packers the edge in both areas.
24. I will go on the radio and state statistics that seem brilliant -- like Pittsburgh's massive edge in Super Bowl experience -- while failing to remind people that the Patriots had 21 players with Super Bowl experience compared to two for the Giants.
25. Being in Dallas will make us think, often, of the assassination of JFK.
26. Watching Troy Polamalu and Charles Woodson work during the big game will be almost as interesting as watching Roethlisberger and Rodgers. Almost.
27. It will be impossible to underestimate the advantage in the trenches for the Packers -- as well as America's new favorite fat guy, nose tackle B.J. Raji -- if the Steelers' Pro Bowl rookie center Maurkice Pouncey can't play.
28. Because both teams feature unremarkable special teams this weekend, we won't have to hear the same old lie that special teams is one-third of the game.
29. Someone in Dallas will be selling Terrible Towels made out of cheese. Guarantee it.
30. By Sunday it will be a tie which phrase we are more sick of: "reflection/redemption," "stripper shortage," "team photo controversy," "Snowmageddon" and "looming labor strife."
31. Jay Cutler will continue to tirelessly repay all the people who came to his defense after the NFC title game by aggressively and passionately rehabbing his horribly shredded (sprained) knee by waltzing around Hollywood in flip-flops while flashing that god forsaken crap-eating grin of his next to his celebractress and physical therapist Kristin Cavallari.
32. We will see the running backs featured in this game and realize the NFL is officially a passing league. I will remember when Jerome Bettis almost fumbled away the Super Bowl and then wonder what ever happened to Willie Parker.
33. Whatever freak shows that unfold in Texas -- I once saw a fan dive to the bottom of a hot steaming pile of horse manure for tickets to the game -- it won't compare in any way to the honest-to-goodness over-the-top enthusiastic dorkiness of Jim Cantore's orgasmic response to a thundersnowstorm on the Weather Channel.
34. I will be scolded for not using the term "North Texas Super Bowl," and this will only make me say "Dallas Super Bowl" even more.
XXXV. There will be an overuse of Roman numerals.
36. Someone will offer me a free pair of cowboy boots and I will turn them down because I find them ironically effeminate.
37. We will all argue, complain and protest the ridiculous voting process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Two days later we will all forget about it for another 363 days.
38. I will watch the pregame show/concert, which is like the stranger, weirder minor leagues compared to the halftime show -- I've seen thousands of kids dressed up as the Kiss army, I've seen Styx perform with the bass player using a walker, and in Miami I saw 50 pudgy grown men dressed up as parrots in skin-tight spandex jumpsuits and wings made of real feathers -- and I will wish you could all be there live to see it.
39. There will be a touching moment during or after the game and it won't measure up to Drew Brees whispering sweetly to his son under a shower of confetti.
40. I will encourage anyone who is about to do a shot this weekend in Dallas to first yell out the phrase "I lift things up and put them down!"
41. I will see something amazing that lifts me out of my seat, like the Saints' pick-six last year, Santonio Holmes' tip-toe catch against the Cardinals or David Tyree's helmet grab against the Pats, and I will think: I'm actually getting paid right now.
42. For some reason I will see Franco Harris, Mr. Belding, Deion Sanders, Joe Piscopo, Tom Arnold, Huey Lewis and Snooki in the same room.
43. I will turn to someone and say, "Remind me again why anyone cares what Brett Favre and Mark Cuban are doing this week?"
44. There will be a few clever, funny commercials but not enough to stop you from thinking: (1) wow, there are a lot of commercials and (2) if NFL fans drank less beer maybe they wouldn't need so much erectile dysfunction medication.
45. After a week of weather, traffic, concerts, scandals, posturing, gawking, waiting and possibly vomiting, we will all feel tired and dirty and angry as we make our way into Jerry's funhouse. And then another great down-to-the-wire Super Bowl will make us forget it all and start counting down the hours until the draft.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a columnist for ESPN.com. While covering the NFL for the past 16 years at Sports Illustrated and ESPN, he has written more than 30 cover stories and two books ("Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys"), and his work has been anthologized in "The Best American Sports Writing."