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Politics seeps into Super Bowl week

By Art Spander, The Sports Xchange
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media during Super Bowl LI Opening Night, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas on January 30, 2017. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday in Houston. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/cd1eb3036a617f7d69391de9d4adc345/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media during Super Bowl LI Opening Night, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas on January 30, 2017. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday in Houston. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

HOUSTON -- Has the prelude to the Super Bowl gone off the rails? Hasn't the prelude to every Super Bowl?

Of course, rarely was there such a mixture of, pardon the reference, politics and Patriots. However, that is to be expected given current events.

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When someone mentioned to Tom Brady that the Pats had returned to a routine approaching semi-normalcy, meaning practice, the quarterback answered, "Yeah, it was great, because you've had a lot of talking and not much doing, and now you have the doing."

What the media have been doing as Super Bowl LI nears is leaving no story uncovered, from the redaction of transcripts containing quotes of the Pats and their opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, to the connection of the Patriots to President Donald Trump.

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Does anyone really care? When Richard Nixon was president in 1971, he sent a play to Washington Redskins head coach George Allen, an incident that at the time would have been comic if it hadn't been irrelevant. While Allen was supposed to be a great admirer of Nixon, as Brady and Patriots president Robert Kraft are of Trump, the play never was used.

And as far as celebrities of any type, sporting, show business, religious, taking a stand for a candidate or office holder, one recalls the comment of Adlai Stevenson in the 1956 presidential campaign when the TV evangelist, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, supported Stevenson's opponent, Dwight Eisenhower.

"To me St. Paul is appealing," quipped Stevenson, "and St. Peale is appalling."

To the New York Times, it's "an uncomfortable love affair" between Trump and the Patriots. How that applies to Super Bowl LI is uncertain. Is Trump going to undo Brady's four-month suspension?

Brady knows the drill. This is his seventh Super Bowl. He began the week advising journalists, "I'm not talking politics at all." Which meant that virtually everyone else talked or wrote politics.

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The Patriots thus fell back on that ancient motivational tool, claiming one of the reasons the franchise became a winner is that it was not appreciated.

"Teammates like Rodney Harrison," Brady said of the former safety who is now television analyst, "always said, 'They don't respect us. They don't respect us.' I think that was always a good metric for us. I think feeling you need to earn other's respect is a great source of motivation for me."

You suspect Trump does not respect NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whom he referred to as a "dope." Goodell, who has heard worse, especially from Patriots fans, displayed his courage and remained silent.

Doesn't exactly fit as part of the NFL TV spots, "Football is Family," does it?

For years, the NFL had the blackout, teams unable to show home games on TV. This Super Bowl it has the blot-out. Some words by athletes, coaches and executives from Opening Night on Monday did not appear in the transcripts the league provides.

Now you might believe that if a writer or radio or TV reporter was there to record or scribble the quote -- how else would they know what was missing? -- it wouldn't matter what was in or was not in transcript. During Super Bowl week, everything matters.

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Goodell may not have responded to the Trump accusation, but he was quick to deny he would get involved in censorship.

"One thing I'm not responsible for around here is the transcripts," Goodell insisted. You couldn't tell whether he was about to laugh or about to scream. He did neither.

Brady, love him or hate him, has managed to stay on that same sort of even plane. Like other great athletes, he is able to compartmentalize, acting as the only meaningful thing is winning football games.

"I'm focused on this game," he said when asked about the season-opening suspension for Deflategate. "We've worked really hard to get to this point, and the attention should be on this game.

"I've got a good regulation on my emotions. It's such an emotional game, you don't want to be out of control. ... It's a long day because it's a long week. You're doing a lot more things this week than you normally do for a game week."

He and everybody else. Where are those missing quotes, anyway?

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