Ask Gary: Has the Super Bowl hype calmed down?

by Gary Shelton on February 3, 2018 · 2 comments

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

You wrote an interesting article this week about what it was like for you, as a writer, to cover the Super Bowl. Back in those early Super Bowl years the anticipation during Super Bowl week was amazing. But now that we’ve had over 50 of them, would you agree that the hype and hysteria of Super Bowl week has calmed quite a bit over the years for the general public, and most of the coverage now is no more than a tedious ritual fans must endure before the actual game starts?

Larry Beller

Larry, it seems to me that Super Bowl games used to be larger, more provocative. I used to dive into all the stories of all the characters. I used to relish the matchups. I used to absorb the biographies.

Alas, these days, the games seem smaller. Maybe it's a product of my

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own age, or the games and the silly Roman numerals, or the fact that I don't surrender a week of my life to it. But the game doesn’t seem as immense.

The reasons? Maybe it's because of Bill Belichick, who has little personality but a lot of results. Like his team. Except for Brady and Gronkowski, the Patriots are as interchangeable as a pair of socks. There isn't a John Riggins anymore, or a John Matusak or a Shannon Sharpe. How long has it been since there was a media magnet like that? Brady's brilliance aside, everyone has turned into a gray suit. Everyone spouts the same cliches they've heard the Patriots spout while saving their best stuff for social media or ESPN or NFL.com.

I used to count on 1-2 stories each week that were fascinating. Anquan Bolden or Tedy Bruschi or Kurt Warner. I three myself into those stories because I believed the reader cared about the discovery of those slices of the story. I did a piece on Brett Favre's practical jokes with the Packers, a story that hadn't been told, and it was a joy to report. I wrote about Richard Sherman when America was making up its mind about him.

I think the NFL suffers from over-saturation, however. It has read most of the more interesting stories about the Patriots.

Honestly, I don't care for a lot of the coverage anymore. Newspapers have killed a lot of the great storytellers. So we're left with dry rehashes of past Super Bowls. Twice this week, I read about the Doug Williams question -- How long have you been a black quarterback? -- all over again Thing is: It never happened. I was there. But the laziness of someone not to look it up drives me batty.

Oh, there are still great stories and great questions and great answers. But there aren't as many as it used to be, which leaves us drumming our fingertips until gametime.

What are your thoughts regarding the Tampa Baseball Museum that hopefully will soon be opening in Ybor City (Al Lopez's boyhood home)?

Scott Myers

I'll be interested to see the layout. Museums can either be vibrant or musty, right? It can feature art or dinosaurs or Civil War artifacts, but to go from a place where the niche has an interest to being a place you want to go repeatedly depends on those running the place.

I find Al Lopez fascinating. I honestly do. But you have have more than old bubble-gum cards. You have to have bats and programs and artwork of the day. You have to make it relevant. I love the baseball Hall of Fame, the football Hall of Fame and the rock and roll Hall of Fame. But a lot of what I love are the small exhibits in each. I remember seeing the original transaction papers of Babe Ruth when he was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees. I remember the Super Bowl rings in Canton. I remember a piece of paper from a notebook where Billy Joel had written the lyrics to Big Shot, complete with words crossed out and written over.

My hope is that, in celebrating baseball in Tampa, we have a lot of those. I knew there are some. Babe Ruth supposedly hit a monster home run in spring training here. That's got to make it in some form.

Bottom line? I'm hopeful. I love baseball. I'd love to have something the community could latch onto.

A few years ago, the baseball Hall of Fame sent out a traveling exhibit to appear in museums all over the country. When it was in St. Petersburg, I got a call to give a speech. So I did some research and came up with a lot of great lines by great newspapermen. I remember one was about the Red Sox: "The infield is like Stonehenge. It's old and slow and no one knows why the buildings are placed where they are." I thought that was a hoot.

So I did my speech -- for free -- and halfway through an elderly r rose and scolded me for referring to my notes. Someone else defended me. And as the back-and-forth commenced, I remembered thinking "Ah, this is baseball."

Can a slide of it go to Ybor? Let's hope so.

Who do you think is now the least welcome head coach at their former university - Urban Meyer at the University of Florida or Jimbo Fisher at Florida State University?

Peter Kerasotis

Ah, Pete! How are you. Guys, this is Peter Kerasotis, and old friend of mine who is a member of the site. Peter is the author of "Felipe Alou: My Baseball Journey" which hits the shelves in April. So we have a celebrity among us. Buy his book!

An interesting topic of conversation, Pete. Hell hath no fury like a football fan scorned.

Meyer won two titles, and Fisher only one, but I think Fisher will be held in higher regard because of this: He was held in higher regard when he was at FSU than Meyer. FSU has some rabid fans, but I don't think they're as off-the-wall as the worst Gator fans.

Urban seemed to have the attitude that Florida football wasn't anybody's business. I think some fans still think he high-tailed out of town when the recruiting fell off and because he was nervous about Nick Saban.

I never thought Meyer was a particularly engaging guy. He didn't love Florida the way that, say, Spurrier did. And so he wasn't as beloved.

Fisher's run was more popular from the time he took over from St. Bobby, but he didn't have a good final year. He argued with his fans, and it was a bully move to eject one of them from his radio show (his goon kept shoving the guy; I suspect we might hear about that in court). Fisher disappeared to the whispers that his move had been determined for months.

The thing. that really drives Florida fans crazy about Meyer, of course, is how badly the Gators replaced him. If Willie Taggert is a seamless transition at FSU, I suspect that Fisher won't be thought of much. But if he's as successful as Meyer has been at Ohio State, it's going to sting for a while.

Good luck in your sales, Pete. And stop back by.

In your writing career, which column provoked the most negative feedback ... and which received the most positive ?   Does all the
boring coach-speak and athlete-speak drive you crazy?
Jim Willson
Tough questions, Jim. Most columnists get a ton of negative e-mail, often from readers who don't quite read what you write. I remember some guy flogging me leaving out the Jackie Smith drop in a column talking about the best plays of the conference titles in the NFL. But Smith's play didn't come in a conference title. Oops. I remember a lot Bucs' fans would get angry at me when I would predict a mediocre season. It usually turned out that way, of course.
Perhaps the most negative mail I got was when I did a piece on the late Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith. The two had been missing, and were presumed dead, and I wrote a piece dedicated to Cooper's daughter telling her how admired her father had been. But a lot of readers thought I was writing off Cooper's life. I swear, that wasn't my intent. But I had reached several old teammates who told me what a fine man Cooper was, and I thought someone should write those stories for a little girl who might question who her father was. For the record, that column was part of a prize-winning package later that year. Still, the criticism hurt a lot more than usual.
The most praise I've gotten for a column, conversely, was about a little boy who wondered who his mother was: Me. It was about rediscovering my mom, who died when I was a little boy, which led me to her graveside. I think I've posted that column here before. It certainly moved me more than anything else I wrote.
Strong opinions draw strong reactions. Edwin Pope told me that when I was young. You pay attention the criticism, but you can't let it eat you alive.
Yes, coach-speak and the repetitiveness of cliches drives any writer nuts. And it's getting worse. A player might rip an opponent on Twitter, joke about a teammate on Facebook and criticize his coach on Instagram, but if the pens come out, he's going to talk about trying hard. Please. Just give me the truth.
Fox won the rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football for an average of more than $660 million per year through 2022. This happened in spite of declining ratings and an almost universal hatred of TNF by the players due to increased injury risk. New evidence shows that injuries are more frequent in Thursday night games than any other time. The fans are not watching these games with any regularity because the quality of the product is so bad. So which is worse about this deal, the NFL’s blatant greed and lack of real concern for player safety, or the TV networks ignorance for paying so much money for an inferior product that the public is not that interested in watching?

Larry Beller

I'll be honest. I rarely watch Thursday night football unless the team I cover is playing. It's dangerous, it's boring and it feels like wax.

Here's a question: On Friday morning, has anyone ever said "Hey, did. you see the game last night?" Most people I know just watch the highlights. That's enough.

I'm surprised the NFL wants to see such a product. The players, to a man, seem to despise it. If it left today, I don't think anyone would grumble. What? Do we move to Tuesday nights next? Friday afternoons? Monday mornings?

All Thursday night football can do is water down Sunday's ratings, too. Oh, wait. That's happening already.

Sad to see the Storm close its doors permanently. I can't help but wonder what will be the next career move of our own Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. With John Lynch doing very admirably as GM in San Francisco, I can't help but wonder if Brooks would be better suited as a coach, or in the front office (GM or Player Personnel scout, etc). I can't think of a better football mind or human being than Mr. Brooks and I am quite confident whatever arena he chooses to enter he will be successful and admired.

Do you think the Bucs or any other NFL (or college) team have (or will, or should) reach out to Brooks and add his football knowledge to their ranks as an assistant coach, scout, or front office?

Bruce Brownlee

I think Derrick would do a marvelous job running a franchise. His background at FSU and with the Storm screams that he would. He's bright, he's capable and he's a hard worker. What's the downside?

Look around the league. Most of the general managers and lead scouts go around bumping into things.

It's always asked if a great player is willing to grind for the hours that a personnel-coaching job demands. I think Brooks would be. He had humble beginnings and was a marvelous player. He certainly has the resume.

I'd think that the Bucs could make room for him on their staff. After all, they know him best. But John Lynch didn't have to work for the team where he played. There are 32 teams in the NFL. If I was one of them, I'd certainly consider Derrick. Who knows? Maybe he'll find the next Derrick.

Good to see the Lightning get back on track before the break. This Vegas expansion team, however, is the story of the first half of the NHL season in my opinion. Did they hire some of the smartest, most wily hockey experts for their front office, or does the NHL set-up their expansion draft a lot more liberally for their new teams as does MLB and the NFL?? The poor Bucs received crumbs in 1976 from the other teams, as did the (Devil) Rays in 1998. Or do you feel this Vegas team fared well due to unfamiliarity and uninspired play from the other teams? I know they wont sneak up on anyone in the second half what with the best record in the NHL so far. Shame the Lightning won't see them again this season unless it's the Stanley Cup Finals!(did I say that)?

Bruce Brownlee

I think both things are true. The Golden Knights had a great plan, and expansion lists are much more generous than they used to be. Once, the league thought it was better off to let teams get pounded on for a while as part of their dues. But what good is a lame franchise. Jacksonville and Carolina had much better rosters than the original Bucs.

I love the Knights, though. I love the way the crowd gets into it, which I didn't expect. The Knights are getting the goaltending you would have expected from Marc-Andre Fleury, but they've found some scorers too. It just shows you that a team can go a long way on effort. Can you imagine being in charge of, say, Arizona and having to explain to your fans why Las Vegas is so much better?

I hope Vegas keeps it up. It's a great story. And, like me, do. you wonder what handicaps the next expansion team will have?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller February 3, 2018 at 8:05 am

I agree those goofy Super Bowl Roman numerals irritate me too. I heard Dan Patrick on his radio show, refer to a particular Super Bowl by the Roman numeral instead of the year it occurred. How arrogant of the NFL to extend this silliness for so long.

I still look forward to watching the game every year, but all the hype has become a huge yawn. We always hear from former players who are promoting a cause or product on the shows from radio row. Some are actually good, but a lot more are just silly. Every now and then a good story will come out, just not as many as we used to hear.

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Gary Shelton February 3, 2018 at 11:45 am

I agree totally.

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