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Super Bowl XLIX: Using Hate To Heal A Nation

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

 

They’re calling it the “hater bowl.” I say it’s the “healer bowl.” Ther is so much to grab onto for all the NFL fans of the 30 teams that didn’t make it to the NFL’s ultimate championship. 

Let’s be honest. If you’re not a fan of either the Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots, you’ve got plenty of gristle to chew on. The only dilemma: who to hate more? In that uniting principle, many millions of people can hate-watch Super Bowl XLIX in blissful unison.

The Case For The Patriots

The top of the list: deflate-gate / deflate-ghazi (take your pick). Oh happy day for the Seahawks. Their Super Bowl opponent is embroiled in a wildfire controversy of their own doing. No matter what your take on deflate-gate, there is no doubt that this topic is sucking the air out of nearly all salient discussion of actual football matchup-related insights. 

The biggest loser in all of this? Comedy. Cheap seventh-grade locker room humor abounds. I think we’ve heard enough deflated balls jokes. Most Super Bowls are broomed into history with a sense of relief once the clock strikes 0:00 and the hype subsides. Super Bowl XLIX will gratefully mark the end of easy shots by cheap, wannabe comedians … right? Let’s hope. 

Deflate-gate reminded us all of our long-held distrust of all things Belichickian. If you had forgotten how much you resented the New England Patriots over Spygate, Aaron Hernandez, owner Robert Kraft’s cozy relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, their ongoing dominance of the AFC or any other perceived charactuh fluwahs, you are reminded anew of them now. 

Many hate the Patriots because Tom Brady is too good looking, too slick, and too glamorous. I’m OK with that because it affords us more opportunities to see his wife. I say give the Patriots a pass on that one. But for millions, it’s a smorgasbord of hate for those of us that don’t have Pat Patriot tattoos. 

The Case For The Seahawks

It’s not hard to hate the Seahawks. They are the reigning NFL champions, so there is that. Being just a few years past the Seahawks’ own self-inflicted controversy over an inordinate number of players suspected/proven to have taken Adderall or other performance-enhancing substances, the Seahawks are the kings of inviting resentment. 

Where to begin — err, continue? Obviously, the Richard Sherman era is a magnet for hate outside of the Pacific Northwest. And since we’re being honest, you can’t really hold it against the rest of the world for finding the guy a tad abrasive. To the Seahawks, he may be an irritant, but he’s the Seahawks’ irritant. Sherman’s most grandstanding moment of loquacious bravado occurred so memorably right after the conclusion of the 2013 NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. Sherman’s post-game airing of grievances was heard in a most heart-felt fashion by at least one person: Doug Baldwin. 

Talk about setting a bad example. Baldwin, of the Rodney Dangerfield school of self-motivation, decided to perform the NFC Championship Re-Rant: The Shermaning, for all to see at the conclusion of this season’s NFC Championship game. After all, if it worked for Sherman, why wouldn’t it work for (insert player name here)? I wonder how the Seahawks decided who got to do the rant? Was it by choosing straws? A poker game? Rock, paper, scissors? The honor could have gone to any number of Seahawks, but I guess Baldwin won the draw. 

And rant, he did. 

And who wouldn’t love to see another angry Seahawk crowing about how he’s been disrespected? Well, pretty much everyone not wearing Seahawks blue and green. That alone would push the Seahawks up the hate rankings but Baldwin also chose to play up the “pedestrian” angle so pointedly that even the well-coached media, who know not to interrupt a perfect sound bite, couldn’t help but ask Baldwin, “You know you were favored, right?”

If Baldwin was anonymous, he is anonymous no more. Mission accomplished for Doug. The lightning rod Seahawks player that is not anonymous, however, is the classless Marshawn Lynch. 

While the media has been primarily focused on the state of the New England Patriots’ footballs, the balls the NFL are most concerned with are Marshawn’s. 

Marshawn Lynch via Wikimedia CC.

It’s bad enough that Lynch is compelled to show up defenses by striking a pose and turning backward to face off on the defense when he crosses the goal line. That he often punctuates his audacity by grabbing his crotch — a contagious disease now caught by teammate Chris Matthews — is beyond embarrassing not only for the Seahawks, but for the NFL as a whole and even Oakland, Calif., where he is from. 

Is it a cry for help? I don’t know. It may just be a cry for a jock itch remedy. Instead of being known as the Skittles guy, now maybe Lynch can be known as the Cruex guy. So classy. 

How else did the Seahawks’ help themselves to the top of the hate rankings? Well, even the highly admired Russell Wilson managed a sip of the haterade by invoking God in his tearful postgame interview. I wonder if God gave the 7.5 points or just took the Seahawks straight up? 

Doubling down on that awkward moment, the Seahawks’ communications staff decided to quote Martin Luther King on the Monday holiday and posted “we shall overcome” next to the tear-stained face of Wilson in a gesture that essentially equivocated the Seahawks’ win with the Civil Rights Struggle. This bizarrely wrong-headed and tone deaf public relations gaffe was taken down quickly and apologized for, but the damage had been done. The gaffe is now an ongoing example by PR professionals of what not to do when trying to newsjack a trending topic. We can thank the Seahawks for that.

It also served as a reminder to Seahawks haters that the opportunities to resent them run deeper than just the players on the field. Although the players are more than doing their part. 

It occurs to me that the hate to be directed at the Seahawks can be summed up with this theme: “What the @&^% do they think they’re doing?” Whereas the Patriots-flavored hate is more of the deliberate and diabolical kind. For haters, it’s a delicious palate to choose from. 

The Fan Bases 

Many will base their hate on how many Seahawks or Patriots fans they’ve encountered on the run up to the big game. I spent several years working for a New England-based company and live on the west coast, so I’ve encountered my fair share of both. I can attest that the stereotypes of passive-aggressive Pacific Northwesterners and aggressive-aggressive New Englanders is true. In light of the Seahawks’ recent success, though, those previously passive-aggressive fans are now mostly aggressive-aggressive fans so it’s become a virtual tie in terms of style. 

The Seahawks fans do have to answer for a few more recent crimes, however. First, those that left the NFC Championship game in a huff before it was over deserve a special place in Seahawk hell. Who, in this age of exorbitant game day costs is unwilling to watch the full game — particularly when it looks like it will be the last time you get to see your team play a meaningful game until next September? If you had to crane your neck to watch the Seahawks’ miraculous victory over the Green Bay Packers on a television because you abandoned your stadium seats, well, you’re off the bandwagon, to put it nicely. 

Second, if you created a petition, signed a petition or otherwise are inclined to give Lynch a pass for deliberately and repeatedly shunning the media you are a special kind of stupid. If you don’t realize that Lynch’s media obfuscation is an indirect “screw you” to you then you’ve got a long, hard road ahead. Without direct media access, the only information you would get about the Seahawks would be sanitized press releases and scripted statements. The media have a job to do and they do it to the benefit of not only the NFL, but to the fans — the money part of the NFL equation, by the way. 

Lynch, a hero to many, wastes the opportunity to engage fans that think highly of him. He wastes vast sums of money in deliberate fine-inducing petulant acts in a time when so many millions are desperate for enough money to feed their families. Before you bust out another, “Marshawn, you so great,” remember he’s actively telling you he doesn’t care about you with every non-answer he gives. 

We need search no farther for reasons to hate this game.

Will there ever be a Super Bowl that is so hate-watched by so many? It will be interesting to see how the NFL’s premium event fares in the ratings. Despite the NFL’s rocky public relations year now being capped by two of the most hateful NFL franchises, the bet here is that it reaches new heights in viewership. 

After all, hate is a tremendous unifier.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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