NFL: Six Super Bowl story lines
By MIKE LOPRESTI
INDIANAPOLIS - You want Super Bowl story lines? We’ve got a six-pack of Super Bowl story lines.
And, maybe more important, one non-story.
No. 1. Archie Manning’s dilemma.
He was the face of the early Saints, and a New Orleans’ civic treasure. Now his son will try to be the Grinch to the Saints’ Super Bowl fairy tale. Where does all that leave the patriarch of the Manning quarterback empire?
“It’s going to be ticket hell,” Manning said, standing by the Colts locker room.
He would normally be among the Saints’ biggest boosters. But blood is thicker than the water of the Mississippi.
“Not even close,” he said of the choice. “I’m going to pull for my son.
“Anybody who thinks it’s different must not have children.”
No. 2. Peyton Manning’s final game?
Relax. No rumor being floated here. It’s just that the Saints could end up the gateway to quarterback retirement. Kurt Warner might have played his last game against New Orleans. Same for Brett Favre - unless he decides he doesn’t want that ghastly interception to be the last pass he ever throws.
No. 3. Reggie Bush.
Something of an enigma since being drafted No. 1, here’s a chance for Bush to remind the world what the fuss was about. Also, it’s an opportunity for NCAA investigators.
Since Bush has avoided sitting still long enough to answer their questions about possible no-no’s during his USC days, perhaps the NCAA guys can go to Super Bowl media day.
No. 4. A road to the Super Bowl that, for once, followed the map.
The Colts and Saints will arrive in Florida as the No. 1 seeds. That hasn’t happened since Dallas and Buffalo in 1993. Manning was a high school quarterback in Louisiana.
No. 5. First time for everything.
In 43 years, the Super Bowl has seen so many oddities. A 2-0 halftime score. Rain in Miami. People in hog noses.
But never overtime. Imagine the drama the Super Bowl Sunday it ever comes to that. While we’re on the subject, the format is still lousy, the Saints finishing off Minnesota in extra time without the Vikings having ever touched the football.
Many NFL voices belittle the college system, but no way a conference championship should partially be decided by a coin toss.
An idea: Both teams get one possession. After that, it’s sudden death.
No. 6. The Super Bowl as disaster relief.
Here are the Saints, central figures in New Orleans’ long and painful healing after Katrina.
Here is Indianapolis rookie receiver Pierre Garcon, waving the Haiti flag to remind the world of the awful earthquake death toll back home - putting up big playoff games even as he waits to hear yet from some family members.
“He’s shown some unusual resolve,” coach Jim Caldwell said Monday.
“I think I did hear him mention that hopefully if he could do something and do it well, it may bring a ray of sunshine to maybe one or two of his relatives.”
No. 7. The story that isn’t.
It was only three years ago that the Colts and Chicago Bears advanced to the Super Bowl, each with African-American head coaches. A huge social and sports event.
Last season, Mike Tomlin led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a championship. Race was barely a mild subplot.
Now here’s Caldwell. Still a matter of pride for many, but all everybody talks about is that he’s a rookie coach.
While the colleges struggle with an abysmal hiring past and the NFL debates how well the Rooney Rule works, it’s no big deal now that the sport’s grandest stage has a black head coach.
“We’ve got to a place where we’ve grown somewhat accustomed to it. I think that’s a good thing,” Caldwell said. “There are still certainly some other thresholds to be crossed.”
Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith first crossed this one. Caldwell called Dungy, with so many public service teachings to go with a Colts Super Bowl ring, an “iconic” figure.
“Never in my wildest dreams have I ever considered or even thought about trying to measure up to all those things, because I can’t do it.”
He’s had a pretty rousing start, though. At the moment, Caldwell’s a symbol for many things - progress, opportunity . . . and Archie Manning’s ticket problems.