Welcome to a new breed of superhero
The NHL and "Spider-Man" Stan Lee are teaming up to create original team-themed superheroes. ESPN the Magazine and Marvel comics recently joined forces to produce season preview comic book covers for all 30 NBA franchises.
Fact: Major league sports are getting more
desperate to lure young fans away from "Call of Duty" and MMA heroic. And Page 2 wants in on the action.
Herein, our suggestions for additional team-themed superheroes:
Superhero illustrations by Kurt Snibbe
Team: The New York Jets.
Background: Once upon a time, Mighty Mouth was a meek, ordinary orifice. He would boo at the NFL draft. Scream when Browning Nagle threw interceptions. Hoot n' holler at Gate D. Otherwise, he was mostly sullen and silent, especially during the month of January. That all changed, however, when a bag of radioactive snacks from mysterious scientist R. Rex Ryan caused Mighty Mouth's kisser to grow to superhuman size.
Superpowers: Louder than 100 sports talk radio hosts. More quotable than T.O. and Ochocinco combined. Able to eat an entire city block's worth of Halloween candy in a single bite.
Kryptonite: A green substance that eventually renders everything it touches enfeebled and defeated -- in other words, New York Jets game day uniforms.
Team: The Miami Heat.
Background: Hometown Boy appeared so humble and loveable that few witnesses in the Cleveland metropolitan area knew the truth -- he was actually the superhero Overdog, who emerged from a television stage at a Connecticut Boys and Girls Club after Sweet-Talking Patty PureRiles cried in distress, "oh where, oh where has my bag of championship rings gone?"
Superpowers: After activating his talents by ingesting a self-branded bottle of water with vitamins, Overdog gains unusual physical strength, the ability to fly and extreme proficiency in using the third person. He almost always speaks in rhymes, such as:
There's no need to fear if we're .500 in January;
Eric Spoelstra can always spend more time with his family.
Overdog also is notoriously oblivious to the large amount of collateral damage caused when he decides to take his talents elsewhere, typically brushing off criticism with:
I may lose in the playoffs, but I never fail;
You're spoiled by my greatness, don't bother me with details.
Kryptonite: Overdog is unable to put on his superhero costume -- or even decide what to eat for lunch -- without the help of not one, but two sidekicks.
Captain America's Team
Team: The Dallas Cowboys.
Background: A once-formidable football super-soldier, Captain America's Team spent decades fighting The League's war against television challengers. Recently, though, the years of conflict have taken a toll. While his widespread popularity and favorable reputation remain intact -- no hero is more frequently elected to the Pro Bowl -- Captain America's Team's extraordinary strength, smarts, discipline and tactical prowess all are in open decline, as evidenced by his penchants for drive-killing penalties, inexplicable sideways passes and fumbling his formerly indestructible, now-cracked vibranium shield at inopportune moments.
Superpowers: None. Captain America's Team is simply a tough-minded, well-conditioned player who gets the absolute most out of his natural abilities -- that is, he used to under Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells. Today, Captain America's Team can't be bothered to carry veterans' shoulder pads and has a hard time getting off the couch, unless an expensive steak dinner and/or the opportunity to date a Carrie Underwood doppelganger is involved.
Kryptonite: Plagued by a rare variant of seasonal-affective disorder that inevitably flares up between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day.
Donald the Menace
Team: The Los Angeles Clippers.
Background: A precocious basketball team owner/real estate mogul with a fake last name and a penchant for mischief, Donald the Menace runs into legal and public relations trouble whenever he goes near a courthouse or newspaper -- specifically, allegations of housing discrimination, racial discrimination, sexual harassment and pretending to build housing for the homeless. Fans of his long-suffering franchise can only close their eyes, cover their ears and hum when trying to explain Donald the Menace's antics to others; the same goes for league officials, even off the record.
Superpowers: Highly skilled at making money by losing basketball games and creating handmade advertisements for party hostesses. Uncanny ability to settle out of court; even more uncanny ability to avoid league fines and public sanction while giggling at guys like Mark Cuban.
Kryptonite: The NBA Draft Lottery.
Team: The New York Yankees.
Background: The only child of fantastically wealthy parents in a fantastically lucrative local television market, Yankee Rich is the baseball world's richest child. He lives and works in a top-dollar stadium and owns at least two of everything money can buy, including Hall of Fame-caliber shortstops/third basemen. Only in a comic book -- or maybe New York, but definitely not Kansas City -- could a baseball-loving boy's life be this good! Of course, it's not money that matter to Yankee Rich -- it's championships. And collecting friends who happen to be good at hitting baseballs. Especially at the expense of his archrival, the no-good prankster Reddy Van Sox.
Superpowers: None. If Yankee Rich needs the help of someone with superpowers, he simply signs them in hero free agency.
Kryptonite: Revenue sharing, Carl Pavano and financial panics that briefly leave Wall Street investment bankers unable to afford luxury seats.
Team: The Minnesota Vikings.
Background: Deciding that Thovre needs to be taught a lesson in humility, the other football gods place him into the body and memories of an aging, injured, partially-retired human quarterback named Brett, who cries easily and often. After filming a series of television commercials and while riding his lawn tractor, Brett witnesses the arrival of an alien scouting party, which actually turns out to be three players from the Minnesota Vikings. Brett flees into the cabin of a private jet, where he discovers Thovre's hidden hammer Gunsling-nir; striking the hammer against a $20 million restructured contract, Brett transforms into Thovre, only to discover that his ankle and elbow still ache.
Superpowers: Can throw a football through a Hot Wheels tire and/or triple coverage; impervious to missing starts; surprisingly gifted comedic actor; able to alleviate droughts and cause catastrophic flooding through tears alone; infinite capacity for just havin' fun out there!
Kryptonite: Moments in the game where throwing the ball away is preferable to throwing it across your body while on the run, because you absolutely, positively can't afford an interception. Also, sports blogs.
Team: The Los Angeles Lakers
Background: A basketball coaching genius, Professor XI's lifelong goal is to mediate the peaceful coexistence of talented, egotistical, unrepentant chuckers and less-talented, endorsement-lacking role players. Oh, and also mutants (see Rodman, Dennis). With the exception of his longtime nemesis Auerbacho, Professor XI is highly regarded in basketball circles, particularly by himself. Many observers believe Professor XI is paraplegic, because he often sits during games; in fact, he simply has sore hips and prefers to let his players figure things out on their own during timeouts.
Superpowers: Professor XI's high-level telepathy allows him to control and influence human minds, particularly: (a) the minds of basketball referees who aren't making enough calls in favor of his team; (b) basketball executives who believe three magic beans are not, by themselves, adequate compensation for Pau Gasol; (c) book readers who think "The Last Season" ought to count for something.
Kryptonite: Without his soul patch, Professor XI is powerless.
Wile E. Lion
Team: The Detroit Lions.
Background: Wile E. Lion is hungry. More than that, he's obsessed. He can't stop -- won't stop -- until he captures the elusive Lombardi Trophy. And so he chases. And chases. Wile E. Lion will go to the edge of a cliff. (And over!) He will run to the back of the end zone. (And out!) He will endure countless anvils to the noggin, Scott Mitchell's contract, Barry Sanders' crushed athletic soul and the Matt Millen era without complaint, because he believes in the invisible -- the invisible, in this case, being his chances of lifting the trophy sometime in the current century.
Superpowers: Wile E. Lion is outfitted with the finest coaches, free agents and wide receiver draft picks the ACME Corporation can provide.
Kryptonite: None. Wile E. Lion's pain is self-inflicted.
Little Orphan Boise
Team: Boise State.
Background: Boise is a football orphan whose only friends are other mid-major underdogs and sportswriters who hate the BCS. After escaping the Mountain West ghetto, Boise's signature mop of blue, curly hair caught the attention of Daddy Bowlbucks, who on a patronizing lark invited her to one of his lavish fiestas. Boise made the most of her opportunity, charming the party guests with a series of magical trick plays. Thus began a relationship between Boise and her beloved Daddy Bowlbucks, and though smug Southeastern Conference football fans and sinister computers constantly conspire to separate the pair, they always seem to eventually reunite.
Superpowers: None. Boise makes her way in the football world through pluck and hard work.
Kryptonite: Boise's oft-garish attire can be an eyesore.
Team: Denver Broncos.
Background: Member of two national championship teams at University of Florida; became first underclassman to win Heisman Trophy, in 2007.
Superpowers: Once defeated Chuck Norris in an Oklahoma drill.
Kryptonite: Kyle Orton.
Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.