The New England Patriots let every American who doesn’t pull for them down Sunday. As soon as the San Francisco 49ers earned a berth in the Super Bowl, it became imperative that the Patriots beat Baltimore to earn the second spot. The sanity of so many was at stake.
But Tom Brady & Co. failed in their duty. So, the coming Baltimore-San Francisco Super Bowl promises two weeks of maddening, clichéd, repetitive, unimaginative stories about the “brother against brother” match-up. The media-sports complex will offer unrelenting coverage. ESPN, the NFL Network the entire CBS Corp. have hours to fill.
For those fortunate enough to be in the dark (and good luck staying there): the year-older John Harbaugh will be coaching Baltimore against his sibling Jim, who is in his second year leading SF. Nicknames for the game floating around are “Har Bowl” and “Super Baugh” (that’s actually pretty good).
It’s not entirely the media’s fault that this storyline will be chewed on so much (so will the one about Baltimore’s Ray Lewis retiring after the game). There's a Catch-22. Networks and publications have little choice.
Try to avoid the Harbaugh theme and viewers and readers – even those sick of it – will wonder about a media entity’s competency. Try to steer clear and an opportunity to attract female viewers (moms) who are moved by the story will be lost.
And, then as the Harbaugh brothers try to shift the focus away from their face-off, that in itself will be covered. A full-page story in the New York Post Tuesday carried the headline: “Brothers do best to downplay storyline." The Post quoted Jim saying playing John marks both a “blessing and a curse” – it’s great to play your brother, bad because attention could be stolen from the players.
So, get ready for interviews from the justifiably proud Harbaugh parents. Perhaps they’ll say they are just pulling for a close game. Or, that they just won’t be able to watch.
Cameras might find neighbors from the Harbaughs’ childhood saying they knew the two would grow up to lead teams to the Super Bowl the minute each got home from the hospital.
There will have to be features on what happened when the two played against each other on Thanksgiving 2011 (John won 16-6). Did Jim shake John’s hand on the field and skip town before the turkey or was there a wonderful family dinner?
Even though the AP has reported the brothers “have exchanged a handful of text messages and plan to leave it at that” before the game, each will have to assure America he hasn't broken down and phoned out of brotherly love. (That actually might be a good story.)
Between now and Feb. 3, there will be enough coverage of the Harbaugh brothers to fill a 24/7 video-on-demand channel. It’s too bad that’s the only place it will be, so it could be easily avoided.