Rather than Fight the Power, it is simpler to immerse yourself in the extravaganza. Which, for the casual observer, prompts the question: Who to root for, Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers?
Ever-helpful, we provide a subjective guide for the uninitiated on real-world factors and central themes that may influence partisanship. Ready, begin:
INNOVATION: Fittingly, Silicon Valley's home team incorporates the strategic NFL giant step of recent years, the “pistol” offense. It requires a quarterback – the offensive trigger – who possesses not just traditional passing skills, but the speed to alternatively run with the ball. This advanced weaponry is embodied by the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, who melds a laser-shot arm with the swiftness of a wide receiver.
Kaepernick looks like the new prototype of an NFL quarterback. At times in the 49ers' late-season victory over perennial contender New England, he made his exemplary but immobile counterpart Tom Brady seem like the equivalent of a rotary-dial telephone next to the iPhone 5. In comparison to the 49ers, the conventional Ravens are firm traditionalists.
Local Angle: Kaepernick is among a legion of players whom the chronically mismanaged Bills have passed over for lesser talents in the NFL draft. Regrets, we've had more than a few.
Partisan Advantage: San Francisco.
BUFFALO-SIMILAR: It is no contest in the competition of cities that Buffalonians can better relate to. Our communal inferiority complex is mirrored by the second-city insecurity fed by Baltimore's proximity to political-power base Washington, D.C. Add Baltimore/Buffalo dual membership on Forbes' Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities list, and laments about the state of public education in both cities, and the two burgs are nearly brothers-in-arms.
Added Value: The Ravens 17 years ago were rudely re-located from Cleveland, our Great Lakes neighbor.
Partisan Advantage: Baltimore.
EQUAL RIGHTS: Although reputedly curt with the media, Niners' Coach Jim Harbaugh has earned a stockpile of enlightenment points. As a rookie quarterback with the Chicago Bears in 1987, he spoke out in defense of a female reporter's right to enter the team's postgame locker room.
Harbaugh's progressive history was counter-balanced this week by 49er Chris Culliver's comment that he would not want a gay teammate (ignoring the likelihood that he, at some point, has had one). The remark did not sit well in gay-rights stronghold San Francisco, the city that elected Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay public official.
Partisan Edge: It depends on how one balances Harbaugh's women's rights progressivism against Culliver's bigotry.
RAY LEWIS: Whether it is ancient Greek heroes, or sporting-world icons, people throughout history seemingly have a need for secular saints. The media is often complicit in fashioning idealized figures out of mere mortals. I recall when Baltimore was in the Super Bowl 12 years ago. A Baltimore-based reporter of my acquaintance confided that a Ravens player being lauded for his gruff charm was actually an obnoxious lout. “Of course, by game day,” he told me, “we will make him look like the second coming of St. Francis of Assisi.”
Lewis's tale of redemption after his murky role in the 2001 street killing of two men comes with large lumps in the porridge. Aside from questions of his involvement in the deaths, of which his two companions were acquitted, Lewis reportedly used deer antler extract, a banned substance, to speed his recovery from a recent injury. He also has fathered six children by four women. Although Lewis reportedly is financially supportive of the brood, the nontraditional structure conflicts with the secular-hero narrative and raises the obvious question: Which “family” does he go home to every night?
Partisan Edge: I think most folks got sick of the Ray Lewis saga a while ago. San Francisco.
Add all of it up, sift it through your personal-feelings filter, shake well and choose sides. It is Super Bowl Sunday. Neutrality is not an option.