The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

brady-tom-nantz.jpg
USATSI

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.

Starting with THE INEVITABILITY OF THE PATRIOTS

This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.

Next is THE LEGACY

This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.

Third is AMERICA HATES THE PATRIOTS AND WANTS THE EAGLES TO WIN

There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

durant-kyrie-steph-all-star.jpg
AP

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.

 

Warriors remain relentlessly unmoved by misfortune

Warriors remain relentlessly unmoved by misfortune

The Golden State Warriors celebrated their first championship in 40 years by being condemned as “lucky” because they stayed healthy when most of their competitors did not. They missed 34 man-games to injury and/or rest, fewer than any other contender by a significant amount, and this was cited as one of the ways that the Warriors didn’t actually win the title as the other training rooms lost them.
 
This is, of course, idiocy of the first magnitude, As we have lectured before, “luck” of this kind is like any other form of luck – it is to be welcomed, no matter how much it may offend people who prefer their sports to be conceptual rather than real.
 
Put another way, there are no asterisks on the trophy in Joe Lacob’s foyer.
 
That argument cannot be made this year – well, it can, but not if you want to be correct.
 
Jordan Bell’s ankle issue is the latest annoyance in a season of them, and the Warriors’ core rotational players have missed a higher percentage of games this year than in any of the other three (15 percent, rather than five in 2015, eight in 2016 and 10 in 2017).
 
What this means is that their superior depth is being challenged as never before, but that’s really all it means. They endure the loss of one of their main players quite well, in fact. Without Stephen Curry, they are 12-3, 14-4 over the past two seasons and 20-6 through three; without Kevin Durant, 7-1 this year 25-5 over the last two; without Draymond Green, 7-0, 12-1. Only Klay Thompson (0-1 this year, 1-3 last year, 6-6 since 2015) seems to bother them.
 
That’s 52-16 without at least one member of the Gang of Four.
 
But it does mean few minutes and games off for Andre Iguodala and David West and Shaun Livingston, and more minutes than ever for Kevon Looney. It plays a bit of mischief with Steve Kerr’s rotations, but he’s an adult and has an army of fellow thinkers to make any required adjustments.
 
In short, waste no worry, pity or scorn on them. They remain relentlessly unmoved by misfortune or pain.
 
But at least this year, they’re having some of each, if only to silence those who still want to think, if only for their own amusement, that things have been improperly easy for them.