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Monday, January 30, 2006
The hidden Super Bowl story lines

By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Extra! Extra!

Did ya hear? Jerome Bettis is from Detroit!

Come on, America. It's the Super Bowl. Can't we do better than that?

This is not, of course, to slight the fine piece by Wayne Drehs run on this Web site on that very topic. Wayne pretty much covered it. He wrote a nice story, actually went to Bettis' old home -- which I guarantee will be more than what 95 percent of the freeloading, mail-it-in, where's-the-free-shrimp scribes will do this week in Detroit -- and gave us a feel for where Bettis comes from.

Still, I can't help but shake the nagging feeling that this is a Peggy Lee Super Bowl. In other words: Is that all there is?

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Complete Super Bowl XL coverage

Is that all there is to this Super Bowl?

Jerome Bettis … is from Detroit!

We need more to get us through another six days of Super preparation. That's why the Super List of Five is here to help. If Super Bowl XL -- the perfect Roman numeral for an obese society that overeats its Super Bowl hype -- is going to be one for the books, let's root around for some other, hidden angles.

Let's get to it:

1. Hair
While you were sleeping on this Super matchup, Ben Roethlisberger's beard hair grew 1/8 of an inch. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck arrived in Detroit, cue-ball look intact.

Matt Hasselbeck
Lookin' nice and shiny there Matt.
This could be the Most Disparate Quarterback Hair Matchup in Super Bowl history.

One man applies high-priced oils to his bald pate, the better to let it shine under Ford Field's klieg lights when on the sideline.

The other man's beard is so burly, ace New York Post NFL writer Mark Cannizzaro pointed out that Roethlisberger could "go Captain Lou Albano" on us, and tie rubber bands under his chin.

A little Internet research shows the shaved-head fad is hardly a product of 21st-century style. I found this excerpt on the Web:

"Total removal of body-hair was customary for both men and women in ancient Egypt. Many men and women also preferred to shave their heads bald."

You know what that means. Matt Hasselbeck would have been huge in ancient Egypt.

I think you have to go back 25 years to find another quarterback hair matchup so one-sided, back to the days of Terry (Male-Pattern Baldness) Bradshaw against Vince (Sweet, Feathered 'Do) Ferragamo. Bradshaw won that matchup. This could bode well for Hasselbeck.

2. Letters
Seven days have gone by since we knew it was Steelers-Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, and I still haven't seen anybody else pursue my favorite angle of all: That a Roethlisberger-Hasselbeck QB showdown is by far -- by far -- the longest-lettered QB combination in two scores' worth of Super Bowls.

R-o-e-t-h-l-i-s-b-e-r-g-e-r and H-a-s-s-e-l-b-e-c-k is 14 plus 10, and that's 24 letters of Super QB last names.

Dominant!

No QB matchup is even close. Plunkett-Theismann at 17 letters, and Bradshaw-Ferragamo -- again with the Bradshaw-Ferragamo, who knew how epic that matchup was? -- also at 17, can barely come within a touchdown of Hasselbeck-Roethlisberger.

Others, like the weenie Elway-Favre (10 letters, puh-leez) and Brady-McNabb (11 letters, thanks for playing) pale in comparison.

You do realize this puts an inordinate amount of pressure on deadline-driven sportswriters, and on Al Michaels and John Madden in the booth. Al and John have to enunciate all those syllables, and the scribes at the laptops have 24 chances to screw up. Here's betting more than a few typos show up in early editions of the Feb. 6 newspapers in the Eastern time zones. Super pressure, and all.

3. The Distaff Side
In an effort to research every hidden angle to the Big Game, I went the extra mile for you, dear reader, and tried to get to the bottom of The Cheerleader Angle. No pun intended.

What a crushing disappointment to learn the Pittsburgh Steelers, the home of cholesterol, winter weather and french fries in a sandwich, have no official team cheerleaders! No fresh-faced Midwestern lasses to cheer on the home 11! No thick-ankled women in figure-hiding sweaters to chant, "Block that kick!"

What a downer.

We have to cede total superiority to the Seahawks on this one. Not only are the SeaGals a crew of healthy, outdoorsy Pacific Northwesterners who love jogging by Puget Sound, eating fresh fish and hiking in the Cascades, their Web site also provides the most comprehensive bios any perverted NFL fan could ask for. Since they cheer in Seattle, home of wireless access and quick downloads, they also provide individual videos of the girls. You can wile away Super Bowl week deciding whether Carly, the Gonzaga grad who is now pursuing a law degree at Seattle University (and who counts her cat, Lily, and Jesus Christ among her most prized possessions and inspirations, in that order) is more your type than, say, Tiffany, the student at Bellevue Community College whose major is alluringly undecided, and who enjoys ballroom dancing, playing softball and taking long walks.

And on the Steelers' side? Bupkis.

I take that back. Some research revealed that from 1961 to 1969 there was a proud and fierce band of cheerleaders called "The Steelerettes." Yes, the Steelerettes. Sounds like a group of backup singers for a failed R&B group out of the Steel City when Motown reigned supreme. The Steelerettes' Web site not only features era-specific photos of the ladies, but also provides a clip of a little known, at least by me, Steelers Fight Song. I played it four times on Sunday night, until my lovely bride piped up from her book on the couch, and said, "Hey, I like that song."

I said, "Really? To me, it sounds like a combination of Sousa meets a Soviet Bloc nation's national anthem." She stuck to her guns. She digs it.

The Steelerettes, I am sad to report, wore poodle skirts and saddle shoes -- a far cry from the tight Lycra adorning Bellevue Community College's Tiffany, Lycra made more notable by the shot of Tiffany that emphasizes her backside. The Steelerettes are rated G all the way, while the SeaGals at least push the PG-13 envelope.

But hey, how 'bout that fight song?

4. Owners
Forget Paul Allen. It's too easy to make lame pocket-protector jokes, especially after seeing the billionaire wave that 12th Man Towel before the NFC Championship Game -- the wave of a nonathlete if I've ever seen one. Yeah, he's a geek. He's also richer than Croesus.

But how many among us remember that the Seattle Seahawks' original owners were none other than the Nordstrom family? If you've ever enjoyed the Half-Yearly Men's Sale and scooped up a Norsport windbreaker or a pair of dress socks for your uncle at Christmas, you owe some debt of gratitude to La Famiglia Nordstrom.

Then again, you get the feeling Art Rooney was more Ross Dress for Less than Nordy's Half-Yearly Men's Sale. Stogies, I'm guessing, are not allowed at the flagship store in downtown Seattle.

What a clash of cultures: Seattle clothing titans make fortune selling cashmere sweaters to ward off Pacific Northwest chills; eventually buy NFL franchise.

Compared to: Cigar-chomping son of mill workers wins big dough at race track; buys NFL franchise and never lets it out of the family -- 73 years and counting.

Nordstrom eventually sold to California land baron Ken Behring, who eventually sold to Allen, who, by the way, co-founded Microsoft.

I have to imagine the Rooneys would never like the idea of the word "soft" being part of their legacy. It's Steelware vs. Software. Cashmere vs. Tough-it-out, it-ain't-that-cold.

Maybe, for a gag, the Seahawks' front office can send the Rooneys a Nordstrom spa treatment as congratulations?

Wait. I just checked. The only Nordstrom in the state of Pennsylvania is in King of Prussia, Pa. Near Philly. Maybe the Rooneys can transfer the value to the Sears Roebuck on 51st Street in downtown Pittsburgh. A little more old-school. A little more Rooney.

5. Long Snappers
Don't scoff. Has it occurred to anybody that either Pittsburgh's Greg Warren or Seattle's Jean-Philippe Darche could be King Goat come Sunday night?

Jean-Philippe Darche
Must be fun to practice this all the time, eh Jean-Philippe?
That's right. Jean-Philippe Darche. There is a dude in the NFL named Jean-Philippe Darche. Even better, he's from Montreal, and his brother, Mathieu, had a stint in the NHL and now plays hockey in Germany.

Just think -- a botched snap in the heat of the moment and it's Mon Dieu, Jean Philippe! You are le chevre of le Super Bowl!

Poor Greg Warren. He gets absolutely smoked in the Long Snapper Angle of Super Bowl XL. All he has to offer is that he's a rookie, that he's from a town called Dudley, N.C., and that he was a prominent high school shot putter. He can't compete with the angle of the French-Canadian long snapper.

Truth be told, you have to root for Darche. Undoubtedly, he's had to endure taunts from his scar-ridden, dentally challenged hockey-playing freres back home in Montreal. Ooooh, Jean-Philippe. Deed you loose any teeth wit your beeg, bad long snappeeng juhb? Meester tough guy. Long snap-pere!

According to the Edmonton Sun, Jean-Philippe is only the second product of a Canadian university to play in the Super Bowl, joining former L.A. Rams punter Ken Clark, who played in the same Super Bowl as Vince Ferragamo. I wonder if Clark still tells his Canadian pals about Ferragamo's legendary status for hair and length of last name.

See? It all comes full circle here.

You're all set for the hidden angles of Super Bowl XL. Now, go get some onion dip. Enjoy yourself. And thank us later.

E-mail Brian Murphy at page2murphy@yahoo.com.