Monday, January 19, 2009

The Press Do Not Impress

Now that the combatants for Super Bowl XLIII have been set, two weeks of media superhype ensue. Coaches and players will be paraded in front of cameras to face a seemingly unending barrage of redundant questions as journalists search desperately for fresh angles on a game that often is rendered anticlimactic. Microanalyzing everything from game strategy to team meals to manufactured drama surrounding players' families, overzealous reporters inevitably run out of sensible queries and reel off such inanities as "Do you ever read in the shower?" and "What was the last movie you saw in Sensurround?"

Surprisingly, one question that is never posed to the visiting head coach, however, is whether he will choose heads or tails in the opening coin toss. It's a significant question—the coin toss gives one team the opportunity to jump out to the lead and can ultimately affect the outcome of the game. And imagine if the Super Bowl reaches overtime. Amazingly, none of the forty-two previous contests have ever necessitated overtime...but what if? This ain't the NCAA—the winner of the overtime coin toss could win the Super Bowl without the other team ever getting to touch the ball, as often happens in the regular season.

And don't forget the thousands of gambling addicts across the nation who will be wagering their rent on which side of the coin faces up. You can bet they'll be climbing the walls wanting to know what Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is planning.

Tomlin is a shrewd gridiron commander, leading Pittsburgh to a 24-11 record in his two seasons at the helm. A workaholic and master strategist, Tomlin will undoubtedly spend the next two weeks working 18-hour days with his assistant coaches, likely studying game films of past Super Bowl coin flips, taking a crash course in probability theory, and gauging the musculo-dynamic tendencies of honorary coin-flipper Roger Craig's thumb,* before deciding whether he'll order captain Ben Roethlisberger to call heads or tails.

*Roger Craig reportedly has predicted heads, but the fact that he's been practicing with a Triscuit renders his forecast suspect.

So it remains curious that reporters starved for insightful commentary on the year's most prestigious sporting event always fail to inquire about the visiting head coach's first strategic move of the game.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, a former Steelers offensive coordinator, is all too familiar with the Pittsburgh franchise's coin-flipping philosophy. He may well know what Tomlin is thinking, although Whisenhunt has remained silent on what his counterpart may do, opting only to comment, "May the best team win the coin toss."

Or as Super Bowl XXXVIII honorary coin-tosser Y.A. Tittle put it: "God, I hate my surname."

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