Super Bell XXXV: Deal With It America

You couldn't blame tight end Shannon Sharpe for reacting bluntly.

His Baltimore Ravens had just defeated the Oakland Raiders, 16-3, in a game in which Sharpe had a 96-yard touchdown reception. The media hacks didn't seem to care--they were already asking him just how ugly the Super Bowl was going to be. A title match between the Ravens and the New York Giants would pit two offenses as conservative as John Ashcroft against each other. Wouldn't such a low-scoring affair upset the fans?

Sharpe simply looked up into the cameras and said, "Deal with it, America."

Shannon Sharpe, you have shown me something!

You're obviously a smart man, Shannon--not just because, as your Schwab commercial tells us, you know how to calculate a P/E ratio. You also know that the American public has no idea what it wants out of the Big Game.

Why is everyone so damn down on Super Bowl XXXV? So what if the Raven offense is about as pretty as a pre-makeover Katherine Harris? So what if a team made up of Harvard proctors could probably slap together a more exciting offensive attack than the Giants--even if they put that really droopy-eyed guy in at quarterback?

The bottom line is that this will be a great defensive battle, and the beauty of defensive battles is that they always go down to the wire. Great finishes don't happen often in high scoring games.

Remember Superbowl XXIX, when the 49ers shellacked the Chargers, 49-26? How about the Cowboys' 52-17 drubbing of the Bills in 1993? Awesome games! Blowouts, sure. They were over right after the national anthem. But there sure were lots of touchdowns, and everyone loves touchdowns!

Do you see where I'm going here? Isn't a close, albeit low-scoring game better than three quarters of "I'm going to Disneyworld?" If that's the case, why is everybody treating this year's game as just a four-hour wait before the premier of Survivor II?

These are two good teams. They enter with a combined 17-game winning streak. The Super Bowl will be good this year. Deal with it, America.

Whether you like it or not, this year's stories are compelling.

Look at the Ravens' Ray Lewis. Just after Superbowl XXXIV, Lewis was charged in the stabbing deaths of two men after a brawl. He was mentioned in the same breath as former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, who was involved in killing his pregnant girlfriend. Even after the legal matter was settled, things looked bleak for him.

A year later, Lewis is the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and the anchor of arguably the best defensive team in football history. It's hard to imagine a more impressive comeback--unless OJ Simpson teamed up with Leslie Nielson for The Naked Gun 444¼: Enough Already. Whether or not you feel he should be playing, his story warrants attention. Deal with it, America.

Look at Kerry Collins. Two years ago, he was one of the league's biggest disappointments. A former No. 2 overall pick, Collins struggled with alcoholism, apathy and incompetence, playing for two teams before the Giants gave him more money than anyone thought reasonable to be their quarterback.

Now, Collins has cleaned up his act. He rewrote the Giants' record book in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. Looking at him afterwards, you got the feeling he's achieved more important milestones recently. Kerry Collins is a great story. Deal with it, America.

Look at Trent Dilfer. As quarterback of the Tampa Bay Bucs for six years, he basically sucked. Then he sucked and sucked and sucked some more until finally finding a new home in Baltimore as Tony Banks' backup. He took over the starting job at midseason and, well, he wasn't all that great, but he did enough to lead the Ravens to a 10-1 record in that time.

Now, he's got the chance to win it all in--no kidding--Tampa! Deal with it, America.

Look at Angie Harmon. No, really, look at her. She's an actress and model, and she's ridiculous. She's also cornerback Jason Sehorn's bride-to-be. This means that after every Giant stop, you'll get to see her. Last year, the cameras were on Kurt Warner's wife, Brenda. The year before? Terrell Davis' mom.

Brenda Warner is a nice person. TD's mom is a nice person. Angie Harmon is hot. Deal with it, America.

Look at the NFL. The league has achieved such parity that the Ravens and Giants, once doormats, can win the Super Bowl. Former laughingstocks New Orleans and Philly were also in the playoffs this year. Last year, the St. Louis Rams came out of nowhere to win it all. Next year, who knows?

Parity is here, and it's cool. Deal with it, America.

Look at me. I've carried the "Look at Me" stylistic device way too far in this column and I really don't care because this game's gonna be more intense than an "Alexander the Great" final in a fireworks factory. I'll find a way to enjoy the Super Bowl just as I found a way to enjoy the post-Jordan NBA and the Subway Series. I also thought that Unbreakable was a very good movie and that Puck Willoughby was rarely, if ever, amusing.

Deal with it.