Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times sports editor Gary Larson, former Princeton Union-Eagle editor and sports columnist Luther Dorr, former Times intern Logan Marxhausen and sports fan Ben Johnson. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: The Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J. Who are you picking to win and why? Also, what do you think of the game being played in a “cold weather city?”
-Dorr: After going 6-for-6 in the last two weekends of the NFL playoffs, odds are that I will be wrong. But I’ll pick Denver and that’s unusual for me because I’m not a AFC fan and generally root for the NFC team. My main reason for picking Denver is that I want the Broncos to win, not Seattle. I have no problem with an outdoor game in a stadium where the weather may be less than desirable. But you can bet there will be lots of criticism if the weather is bad.
-Marxhausen: The best part about this Super Bowl is that it is truly the best two teams in the NFL going head to head in the biggest game of the year. Usually along the way one of the better teams plays awful and gets upset before it can make it to the big dance, but not this year because these two teams have been dominant all season. If there could be a tie in the Super Bowl, I would be comfortable picking a tie in this game. As it happens, ties do not happen in the Super Bowl and the Bronco’s offense is just too clutch. I do believe in the intensity and determination of the Seahawks’ defense and its ability to shut down the league’s best, but Seattle does not have the home field advantage this time around and it is playing against Peyton Manning. It is going to come down to who can control the ball the best and even though Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is going to rush all over the field killing the clock, there is none better at controlling an offense than Manning. It is going to come down to an overtime victory by a field goal coming from Denver’s Matt Prater. I also think that this will be the last year that the Super Bowl will be played in a northern city with an open stadium. The players association will be advocating for more reasonable sites to hold the Super Bowl and it is going to get their way.
-Larson: It will be: Denver 30, Seattle 20. Peyton Manning’s quick release on passes (often less than two seconds) will keep Seattle’s defense off balance and limit its reaction time. Like Luther, I’m an “NFC guy” but in this case I’m hoping former Gopher/Rocori receiver Eric Decker has a big game and the Broncos win. The Super Bowl is the NFL’s showcase event and should be played under the best weather conditions possible, not in an outdoor stadium in a northern city.
-Johnson: I am a Peyton Manning fan. I think he is one of the best quarterbacks (if not the best) of all time and he is a class act guy. His humble but enthusiastic playing style is something I wish for in a Vikings quarterback. His physical ability at his age (37) may now be just “good” but his intuition in play calling and decision making is second to none. I like Russell Wilson as well but I cannot root for a team that has a player like Richard Sherman. I’ll pick Denver 38-24. I don’t mind a cold weather city hosting the Super Bowl. After all, league championship games are played in cold weather cities – why not the Super Bowl?
•Question: It’s been over a week since Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman went on a nationally-televised rant a few minutes after the Seahawks had defeated San Francisco to advance to the Super Bowl. It seemed as though Sherman’s rant received as much attention (or more) than the game itself and still remains in the news. Several members of the media criticized Sherman’s behavior but many defended it, saying much of the criticism is racially based because Sherman is black. What do you think about his postgame rant?
-Dorr: I didn’t see Sherman’s interview until three days later and then saw only part of it. And I see that on Monday StarTribune columnist Jim Souhan compared Sherman’s comments to those made by Peyton Manning 10 years ago when he criticized his team’s place kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, after Vanderjagt criticized Manning and Tony Dungy, the Indianapolis coach. I think Souhan’s comparison was a bit far-fetched. Sherman said what he said in the neat of the moment and I’ve never heard the guy talk before so I have no idea if that was a normal thing for him or not. The words I heard sounded a bit egotistical but there are lots of big egos in the NFL and other professional sports. I doubt if criticism of Sherman was racially motivated.
-Marxhausen: Football is a team sport. For people who grew up playing it, coaches instilled the idea that the team comes first no matter what. Former Milaca varsity head coach Mike Lundeen taught me that lesson when I first started playing. My big mouth told him in practice that the quarterback is the only important position and that being lineman is not very important. He then had me line up as quarterback with a center and no other lineman and ran a play against 11 screaming defensive players. Needless to say I was sacked for a big loss and I learned a very important lesson at the ripe young age of eight years old. I have no problem with what Sherman said, in fact, he’s probably is right in saying that he is the best cornerback in the game. I would have to agree with him, but he should have put his team first no matter what he had to do with the outcome.
-Larson: Sherman could have gained a lot of respect and notoriety had he simply talked about how his team’s defense was set up to stop that final play and credited his teammates and coaches for the victory. Well, he certainly gained the notoriety but hardly any respect. Sherman’s antics would’ve drawn criticism whether he was black, white, green or purple. He acted like a jackass. We probably all have at some point in our lives, but not in front of millions of people.
-Johnson: I would disagree that critics of Sherman’s rant are racially driven. My criticism of Sherman’s rants (he has had multiple) stems from the fact that our children, who admire NFL players so much, are viewing rants like Sherman displayed. I want my kids to grow up appreciating football and the integrity of good sportsmanship that should go along with it. There is a great degree of emotion and energy that a player has surrounding football. But that emotion and energy should be harnessed in such a way that lets the actions of the game speak for itself. No need to rant and rave about how great you are and how poor other players are. I wish the NFL would control this type of behavior more and keep the focus on the game of football. Maybe start with enforcing the taunting rule more and penalizing end zone celebrations. I have learned more dance moves watching NFL football than I have watching an entire season of “Dancing with the Stars.” You don’t see these dances being accepted behavior in high school or college football – why is it accepted in the NFL?
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