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Monday, January 19, 2004
Bowl full of angles

By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

My email was down, so I tried to send this column to World HQ in Bristol, CT. via Peyton Manning. It was picked off by Ty Law.

But seriously, folks.

I just flew in from Philly, and boy are my arms tired.

Tried to send the column to World HQ in Bristol, CT via Donovan McNabb. It was picked off by Ricky Manning.

Deon Grant, Ricky Manning
Ricky Manning, right, and the Panthers DBs won't be the "Disrespected Unit."
That's right.

The Super Bowl matchup is set ... so sit back and let the Fortnight of Cliches begin:

-- The Disrespected Unit (Fill in Blank: Offensive Line, Defensive Backfield, Running Backs, Etc.)

-- The Assistant Coach Who Gets No Due.

-- The Guy Who Made It Back From Injury.

-- The Band Whose Manager Couldn't Book Anything Better than the Super Bowl.

It's Super Bowl Fortnight, baby.

Gentlemen, start your Overkill.

I must add a side note on the Halftime Music Angle. For most of my breathing 36 years, Super Bowl halftimes have represented the nadir of American culture. If you're washed up, if the County Fair isn't till springtime ... come play the Super Bowl.

Two years ago, that theory was dealt a George Foreman-in-his-prime body blow when U2 showed up to play the Pats-Rams Super Bowl in New Orleans.

U2!

The greatest band of my lifetime!

Playing the Super Bowl?

All bets were officially off.

The NFL backed it up last year with Sting, No Doubt and Shania Twain -- two out of three ain't bad, and you can do the math -- and now we're forced to re-evaluate the concept.

Super Bowl halftime -- a sweet gig?

Of course, as soon as we start to think that's always going to be the case, it'll be time for "The Grinning Americans" from "Cheers" to show up and give us interpretative dance to "Birdland".

So, we'll hedge our bets.

But today, Page 2 is all about giving you the Uber-Exclusive Sneak Preview to "The Story Angles of Super Bowl XXXVIII." Or, its alternate working title: "The Position Groups and Coaches Who Get No Respect/The Key to How We Got This Far/Will MTV Exhume Downtown Julie Brown for Tuesday's Media Day?/Story Angles."

You think I'm japing.

I'm not.

These are the Surefire Top 10 Story Angles for Super Bowl XXXVIII, the yarns you are guaranteed to read/hear/watch in the next 14 days of Patriots-Panthers Mania:

1. Super Bowl XXXVIII: The Longest Name Ever
For years, Roman numerologists have eyed the 38th NFL championship game as one to watch. Given the vagaries of Roman numerology -- and the sheer chutzpah in the first place of the NFL for using Roman numerals, the very symbol of an empire that collapsed under its own over-extension, arrogance and wretched excess -- this day was sure to come, an orgy of letters. Will sportswriters correctly type in ALL seven of the Roman numerals correctly, day after day, in their copy?

This is sort of like a Halley's Comet deal. If astronomers are correct, sportswriters won't be so tested for another 40 years, when Super Bowl 78 -- or Super Bowl LXXVIII -- will put the ink-stained wretches to a similar test.

History in the making, sports fans.

Beyonce
Beyonce looks good in anything.
2. Beyonce's National Anthem
Will the presence of R&B's smoking-hot queen cause the players to lose focus? Surely, if Ms. Knowles wears a particularly striking outfit -- think leopard-skin, think skin-tight -- there could be repercussions. Imagine the possibilities:

Reporter: "Rodney Harrison, why did you miss that coverage on the key touchdown pass?"

Rodney Harrison: "Dude, I couldn't get the image of Beyonce in those leopard-skin pants out of my head. I blew my assignment."

3. Bill Belichick: Call the Fashion Police!
Sure to be a hot topic is what Pats mastermind coach Bill Belichick pulls from his closet on Game Day. Will it be the blue-hoooded sweatshirt or the gray-hooded sweatshirt? As for the pants ... Will it be the blue sweatpants? Or the gray sweatpants?

Where have you gone, Tom Landry? A nation turns its lonely eyes to your long-lost blazer and fedora.

Sportswriters will surely swarm over the angle of the Super Bowl coach who dared pull off a "Costanza" -- calling to mind the "Seinfeld" episode when George Costanza's wearing of sweatpants in public was a signal that he had simply "given up."

Storyline: Has Belichick, by going Costanza, given up on the Pats?

4. Jake Delhomme: Jason Alexander in shoulder pads?
Setting aside the fact that Britney Spears married a guy with the same name as the actor who played George Costanza -- cue your Rod Serling theme now -- have we pondered the eerie coincidences?

Jason Alexander's home state: Louisiana.

Jake Delhomme's home state: Louisiana.

Jason Alexander's sport of choice: Football.

Jake Delhomme's sport of choice: Football.

Jason Alexander's look: Tall, dark, ruggedly handsome.

Jake Delhomme's look: Tall, dark, ruggedly handsome.

So the media will need to spend a few Super Bowl days exploring the question: Was Jake Delhomme ever married to Britney?

Tom Brady
Brady just wants another ring.
5. Tom Brady: Will he sport The Beard on "The Bachelor"?
It's a given that New England's aw-shucks, kill-the-ladies QB Tom Brady will be sought by ABC uber-producer Mike Fleiss as the next "Bachelor." He's perfect: The dimples, the youthful air, the uncanny ability to connect on third down and keep the chains moving.

Troy Brown, will you accept this rose?

The only question left for Super Bowl week: Will Brady keep the beard? It's been a daring move for the California kid, sort of a Grizzly Adams-meets-Brad-Pitt-in-US-magazine look. Look for scribes to get to the bottom of the story.

6. Brentson Buckner: Behold the Quote Machine
Many of you might not have paid heed to Carolina DT Brentson Buckner. But as a man who covered Buckner during his brief stint with the 49ers, let me assure you that there is no richer character on either 53-man roster.

There is no more valued time a reporter with a tape recorder on his or her hands can spend than 30 minutes with B.B., who was schooled at Clemson and is a "Carolina" guy (North or South, no matter) through and through. Fiercely proud of his ACC roots, "The Buck" would assail us media vermin during the lunch hour with his impressions of the Pac 10, which he considered to be an inferior sports culture. Once, when I engaged him over the relative merits of the basketball programs at Stanford and North Carolina, Brentson responded with this poetic line: "Man, Stanford's big men aren't athletes. They're slower than smoke off s--t."

Faulkner couldn't have conjured up a more vivid image.

7. The Patriots' Team Entry: How Can They Top '02?
Surely, the story of the Super Bowl will be the Pats' Team Intros. After absolutely obliterating the standard two years ago in New Orleans with their "Braveheart"-like, we-go-as-a-team intro, what can they do for an encore? It's like Sinatra finishing with a huge, brassy, kick-ass version of "New York, New York" at Carnegie Hall ... and then being called out for an encore. What does he go with? Does he pull Nancy from the audience for a warmed-over "Something Stupid"?

Tough act to follow, Pats.

Look for enterprising reporters to dig into the Real Story behind the impending Pats' team intro in Houston.

8. Carolina: What in God's name is going on?
At some point during Super Bowl Fortnight, media and fans will have to do hand-to-hand combat with the fact that nobody outside of Jerry Richardson's close family knows who the hell the Carolina Panthers are.

Stephen Davis, John Fox
Stephen Davis and John Fox will get plenty of attention the next two weeks.
The national media spent the NFC year:

a.) poring over Mike Martz's game-day decisions like they were the Zapruder film;

b.) consulting astrologers to check if Daniel Snyder's seventh moon was in Steve Spurrier's celestial house;

c.) hiring cosmetologists to see if they could come up with an actual name for the color of Bill Parcells' hair.

In the meantime, John Fox was coaching his butt off, Jake Delhomme was hitting the open man and Stephen Davis was cutting against the grain.

Man, I bet the good people of Charlotte, N.C. sure do miss the Hornets about now.

9. The Streets of Philadelphia
Some hardcore investigative sort will no doubt head to the City of Brotherly Love on Super Bowl Sunday, just to see if it is actually possible to quantify the depths of human depression into one tightly-packaged news story.

Three straight years in the NFC title game, two at home ... and zero Super Bowls.

Man. It's enough to make you a Phillies fan.

I can imagine what the TV piece would look like on Super Bowl Sunday:

Tumbleweed blowing down South Street ... a random cheese-steak lying in a rain gutter ... and an enterprising reporter in a Norm Van Brocklin gamer will roam the streets as if he was in Lawrence, Kansas, in the epic ABC Cold War-era drama "The Day After," shouting ... "Is anybody home? Anybody? Is anybody home?"

Poor Philly.

10. "Survivor All-Stars"
Screw the Super Bowl!

It's all about, as Phil Simms cogently observed, "the Pro Bowl of 'Survivor'!"

Fearless predictions: Boston Rob shags Jenna ... Richard Hatch is given the "Piggy/Lord of the Flies" treatment ... and our boy Rupert wins it all.

With a beard like Tom Brady's.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.