NEW ORLEANS – Like a savory Cajun gumbo, the Super Bowl has something for everyone’s tastes.
A departing megastar in Ray Lewis.
A record-setting quarterback, Joe Flacco, finally reaching the NFL’s biggest stage, where he’ll face off against Colin Kaepernick – a player representing the new wave at football’s glamour position.
Dynamic defenses and big-play offenses.
A return to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
A touch of history as the San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1) seek their sixth Super Bowl title when they meet the Baltimore Ravens (13-6) next Sunday at the Superdome.
Oh, yeah, and an unprecedented sibling rivalry, with Ravens coach John Harbaugh guiding his AFC champions against younger brother Jim and the NFC champ 49ers.
I really don’t have any words for it, said Ravens safety Ed Reed, who will play in his first Super Bowl at age 34.
Others will have millions of words to write and say about a matchup.
And guess who will ignore all those themes? The guys on the field.
All of the side stories, if you aren’t playing in the game, I guess that’s great, said Ravens center Matt Birk, who gets to his initial title game at age 36. You can enjoy that. I think as players we are just going to hunker down and focus in and concentrate on the task at hand.
While everyone else revels in the plot twists.
Such as the 37-year-old Lewis announcing the end of his Hall of Fame-quality career, stoking the emotional fire in his teammates and recapturing the level of play he had in his prime during three playoff wins. Lewis has 44 tackles in the playoffs after missing 10 weeks with a torn right triceps.
Ray is a guy who’s been here since the beginning of this franchise, strong safety Bernard Pollard said. He’s a guy who is The Raven.
When Lewis leaves, it will be up to Flacco to grab the reins – if he’s still in Baltimore. The only quarterback to win playoff games in each of his first five seasons plays out his contract next Sunday.
I think every year when you get ready to go, you visualize it and you visualize yourself playing football at this time of year, he said, and it’s a tough deal to get to. But we have made it this far and we just have to make the most of it.
Trying to prevent that will be an opponent steeped in Super Bowl success, albeit not recently. A 49ers victory gives them six rings, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for most in the Super Bowl era. And the Niners have never lost the big game.
Still, their most recent championship was 18 years ago, with Steve Young at quarterback.
Now, it’s Kaepernick. He has Young’s elusiveness, but he also is bigger, has a stronger arm, and his long, powerful strides when he takes off downfield would do Usain Bolt proud.
New Orleans has been a big part of the Super Bowl for decades. This will be the 10th time it has been played in the Big Easy, but the first in 11 years.
When Katrina ravaged the region, the NFL was adamant that the Saints would return – they did in 2006 after a full season on the road – and so would the Super Bowl once New Orleans was ready for it.
Here it is.