So, Road Dog wanted to know who I thought was the undercover MVP of Super Bowl XXXV.
"Marvin Lewis? His D pitched a shutout at the Giant offense -- made it look pathetic. Him, right?"
"Ummmm ... no."
"OK. A'ight. Lemme guess. Jamal Lewis. Big boy pounded out 102 rush yards. Him, right?"
"Hadda be Jermaine Lewis then, with that 84-yard kickoff return, that bolt through the Blue."
"You mean you agree with all them p.r. victims people that it was Ray-Ray, even though he did that spaz pre-game dance, dropped two INTs? Guess he did break up five passes, run down a bunch of plays, make his tackles, intimidate the Giants' O. Kerry Collins backslid more than Michael Jackson. Ray Lewis?"
"No, not Ray Lewis, either. But don't tell him I said so."
"Who then, R-Dub? Who's the undercover MVP of the Super Bowl?"
"Dog, the real MVP of Super Bowl XXXV (thirty-five to us non-Romans) were co-MVPs. The first MVP is Ozzie Newsome, the player personnel guy who assembled J. Ogden, all the Lewises, that Brandon Stokley white-lightning boy, the cover corners, McAlister and Starks, and the rest of the Charm City Cold-Bloodeds -- and put them at the disposal of coach Brian Billick, the luckiest beneficiary since Anna Nicole Smith. The Wizard of Ozzie has a real good eye. For that matter, so does Ernie Accorsi, the Giants' general manager. But the Wizard of Ozzie brought 'em in bigger, faster, stronger. Ozzie was the real wiz here.
"Which, Dogster, brings us to the co-MVP. That would be Ike ... Naw, not that Ike. Sir Isaac Newton."
"Dog, the co-MVP of Super Bowl XXXV was the personification of Physics. You know, objects in motion tend to remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force, and all that jazz. See, Dogster, the football game was won in the way all football games are won -- by the team that dominates physically. Notice the root word. Two key moments of the Super Bowl weren't interceptions or kickoff returns. They were:
"(1) The Giants unwisely sent Ike Hilliard, their only answer against the Ravens, short over the middle in front of the Ravens linebackers late in the second quarter. This is called pissing upwind against the primal forces of nature -- not exactly what you want to do with your best deep threat. The ball was tipped and wound up behind Hilliard, who tracked it and thus left both 8s on the front of his jersey exposed to Physics in the person of Mr. Jamie Sharper. Sharper didn't miss. The sound of it alone was enough to discourage any further attempts on Hilliard's part. Ike got up, eventually, manfully, but he wasn't in a talkative mood, nor was he the same player after that. And the telling thing is, the other players, they notice hits like this. Think they don't? Believe me. It has a cumulative effect. Deep in their hearts, something dies, at least it does in the little lifetime that is each individual football game.
|When you're hit every play by Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense, it takes a serious toll.|
"(2) Tiki Barber went wide with a punt return, trying to get to the corner in the third quarter. He got there, all right, where he was strafed by two Ravens' special teamers who left him there, on the ground, thinking, "Nevermore, baby." Tiki too rose, manfully -- though after a while -- but once it gets down to the point where you being able to get up off the ground is a victory of sorts, the game is pretty much over. On the next play from scrimmage, corner Duane Starks jumped one of those little slants that the Giants are so fond of running to Amani Toomer. Toomer, not one to ignore history, didn't consciously think of what had happened to Hilliard and Barber, but he hesitated. Hesitated just enough. Starks was unobstructed to the ball, unabated to the end zone. 17-0. Game, set, match, thank you, Sir Ike.
"The Super Bowl was over when the Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans by two touchdowns, 14 points, three weeks ago. That was the real Super Bowl game right there. The Oakland Raiders put up kind of a good fight, too, but a revealing thing happened in that game. Remember? You told me about it yourself."
Road Dog screwed up his face until he could remember what he'd seen. "You mean, when I said I saw something I never saw before? When Timmy Brown pulled up, broke off his pattern, stopped on a route?"
"Exactamundo, El Dogster. You and I know that Timmy Brown of the Raiders is a great player, a former Golden Domer and Heisman winner, and one of the most productive NFL receivers of all time, right?"
"Yeah. And come to think, Dub, in that Raiders-Ravens game, I saw something I never thought I'd see. Come to think of it, I did see Timmy Brown break off patterns, stop on a route."
"Well, why do you think that was? When somebody says 'Incoming!' and you've seen what a shell can do to a man, it's not like you're sticking your head up and asking, 'Incoming? Where? I wanna see.' You gotta factor that stuff into your evaluations, Dog," I said. "Come to think of simple physics before you put money down. Gotta drop the hometown loyalty bug when you bet. As far as being disappointed in Timmy Brown or Amani Toomer, don't be. It just means they paid attention in physics class. I don't see you going out and running across oncoming freeway traffic, just because you want to get to the other side of the road."
"Ah, wait 'til next year," said Dog.
"Dog, apples will still be falling off trees next year, too."
"Yeah? Well, we don't got no apple trees in Brooklyn."
I let Road Dog have the last word here. He'd lost one big argument already.
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."
|Tiki Barber carried the ball 11 times for 49 yards. But 27 of them came on one run late in the second quarter.||