By Tom McAleese
On Sunday when the 49ers and Ravens take the field to battle for the Super Bowl XLVII trophy, the game will pit two coaches against each other who happen to be brothers, determine if the still-elite star linebacker retires a champion, and settle whether the young upstart quarterback can truly rise to the occasion after supplanting the aging veteran.
Then there’s the plot line of the dirty hard-hitting ‘evil’ team of the Baltimore Ravens going toe-to-toe with the sparkly tradition-laden iconic powerhouse “good” team in the San Francisco 49ers.
Both teams are looking to claim redemption after falling a game short of immortality last season. One cannot help but catch a whiff of Disney-manufactured drama from this year’s Super Bowl script.
And yet, it’s all so very real. When the San Francisco 49ers downed the Falcons in the NFC championship, followed by the Ravens ousting the Patriots in the AFC championship, Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick were tossed into a battle royale of storylines with John Harbaugh and Ray Lewis. Younger brother Jim, the successful Michigan and NFL quarterback was pitted against older brother John, the middling, undrafted college defensive back, as they attempt to settle a sibling rivalry built on decades of pigskin. On the field itself Kaepernick’s barnstorming of NFL defenses after rendering Alex Smith useless was pitted against Ray Lewis and his last fleeting grasp of the NFL championship spotlight before he retires.
Even one of these storylines is rare, but all three? In the same game? Really? At some point, doesn’t this script get tossed for lacking any semblance of plausibility?
When we sit down in the movie theater to watch a sports flick, we can, for an hour or two, suspend our sense of belief and most of our rational thought. It’s okay.
We expect it. It’s why we bought the ticket in the first place.
We expect “Varsity Blues” to end with Billy Bob taking the hook ‘n ladder all the way to the end zone redeeming him for hardships suffered under the cruel evil coach.
We expect “Remember the Titans” to end with Sunshine tossing the perfect reverse to Rev who scampers down the sideline as time expires, sealing a victory for Coach Boone that harmonizes a racially divided community.
We expect inspirational halftime speeches, last second victories and uplifting music playing when the crowd celebrates at the end of the game. Those images and sounds are after all on the movie screen, and we are after all suspending our belief and rationality inside the confines of the movie theater.
Occasionally, we see these kinds of movie scripts play out in real life, on our very television screens, live and in gorgeously inspirational color before our very eyes.
We see assistant coaches with new gigs duel their former employers.
We see Elway retire a champion.
We see Denard sprinting down the sidelines in South Bend.
But very rarely, if ever, do we see these things all happening at once in the same game, on the same weekend on the biggest sports stage in the known universe. It just doesn’t seem real.
And yet, there was Jacoby Jones catching a 71-yard pass from Joe Flacco in the final seconds one week, while Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense shut down a three-time Super Bowl champion QB the next, sending the team to their second Super Bowl appearance in team history.
There was Colin Kaepernick, leading the 49ers back from a 17-0 deficit to clip the wings of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, capping a 7-2 run as the 49ers’ starting QB and putting the 49ers back to the only place that truly legendary teams belong. And now…well there’s only an unfinished script.
With the 49ers sitting as 3.5 point favorites it almost seems logical to take the Raven plus the points as this game appears destined to finish on a last second field goal following a motivational speech on the sideline by a Harbaugh brother, a final rant from an iconic linebacker, or maybe even a miraculous final drive by an upstart quarterback.
In this game not only is all of that possible, it may just be completely and utterly plausible.
Now, on with the show.