February 2 should be reserved for Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most beloved groundhog.

February 14 is reserved for everyone’s favorite archer, Cupid.

Yesterday, poor Phil was shoved out of the spotlight by the Super Bowl. If Roger Goodell and his sidekicks have their way and add another regular season game and off week, Cupid will have his arrows intercepted by football’s biggest game.

Football is not a February sport. I’ve railed on the length of all sports seasons many times. Of course, with ratings going back up after a dip a few years ago, Goodell is just trying to capitalize on the sports popularity.

The players are against the 17 game season, sighting the extra potential for injuries. We already have the first two weeks looking more like preseason games. Adding extra weeks to the season seems like a silly idea. Will it increase revenue? Sure. But is revenue in the NFL really an issue?

Ratings are up because football is still America’s choice of sports. However, a lot of negative elements take away from the product on the field. From replay to rules changes to CTE, issues that you would like to not be a focal point are becoming just that. Unfortunately, money always rules the day.

As far as the Super Bowl goes, is it really a “super” event anymore? The two week layoff doesn’t help. People almost seemed to stop talking about the game until midway through last week. I know the Kobe tragedy sucked the wind out of the sports world, but this has seemed this way for several years now.

Parity has created some of this malaise, in my opinion. 13 different teams have appeared in the Super Bowl this decade. Other than New England’s dynasty, only Seattle, Denver, and now San Francisco are repeat visitors. Parity is great for individual teams’ fan bases, but for the casual fan you constantly have to learn new teams and players.  For casual fans, they are already just as concerned with the commercials and how bad the halftime show will be. People I spoke with the past two weeks only seemed to talk about those two things.

This year the commercials were blah, with the exception of the game opening commercial with the young kids bringing the game ball to the game referee. That was pretty special. As for the halftime show…

…I give it two resounding thumbs up!

As for the actual Super Bowl, it was okay but not special. The level of play was not great. The comeback for the win by the Kansas City Chiefs was pretty good.

San Francisco had control of the game until they didn’t. Kyle Shanahan is a great, young coach. However, he seemed to forget that his running game is what got them here. Jimmy Garoppolo is average, yet Shanahan kept calling for pass plays with a ten point lead. Garoppolo got hit, and seemed to get rattled. Ball game.

This guy had a bad game,

Until he didn’t. Patrick Mahomes caught fire in the fourth quarter. He was pressured, hit, and missed a lot of throws for most of three quarters. Then in the fourth quarter, the comeback kid hit his stride. He led the Chiefs to three fourth quarter touchdowns. The Chiefs defense stepped up in the fourth quarter and shut the door. Ball game.

One of the first congratulatory tweets came from none other than the President of the United States.

Oh dear. The leader of the Free World apparently doesn’t know the Chiefs play in Missouri, not Kansas. The tweet was quickly deleted, but the stupidity lingers on.

On a positive note, last week in this column and on my Two Guys Talking podcast I predicted the Chiefs would win 31-21. Sorry, I was off by one point.

It just seems lately that the excitement and buzz from fans towards the Super Bowl is diminished. Maybe it’s because in February people just want to hear from this guy.

Photo courtesy of Trib.LIVE

By the way, Phil said early spring. You should know, though, that I let Phil borrow my red hot Two Cent Cracked Crystal Ball(#TCCCB).

…so, maybe don’t put the snow shovels away just yet.

Two Cent Takes

NFL

~The NFL Draft is 80 days away(81 if you are the Steelers), which means Mel Kiper’s hair stylist will start working overtime.

~A more important date for Steelers fans is the one when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gives everyone a medical update. If his arm isn’t right, the Steelers go into scramble mode.

College Basketball

~The madness came to the Big East this week, or specifically on Saturday. The top three teams(Seton Hall, Villanova, Butler) all lost.

~In all, numbers 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, and 25 all lost.

  • Overrated: Kansas. Yes, Kansas. They are a top ten team, but not a top three team.
  • Underrated: Iowa and Illinois. After watching these two teams play Sunday I think you could argue they are the best teams in a very competitive Big Ten.
  • Sleeper: Wright State. Yes, Wright State. Their five losses are by a combined seventeen points.

~The Men’s Basketball Committee will release their top 4 lines on their early February brackets this weekend. Why wait?

  • #1: Gonzaga-Baylor-San Diego St-Kansas
  • #2: Louisville-Dayton-Duke-Maryland
  • #3: Michigan St-Florida St-Villanova-West Virginia
  • #4: Seton Hall-Auburn-Iowa-Oregon

NHL

~A nine day lay-off for the Pittsburgh Penguins. No problem. An overtime win over rival Philadelphia and a win over division leading Washington is a loud announcement that the Metropolitan division is up for grabs. The Pens find themselves only four points off the Capitals pace.

~The Flyers are in a real battle for a wildcard spot. That battle has gotten tougher because the hottest team in hockey resides in Columbus. The Blue Jackets are actually in third place in the Metropolitan division as of now. Never doubt John Tortorella.

~Say it ain’t so, Gritty.   Flyers mascot Gritty has been accused of punching a kid during a season ticket photo op. Both sides have different versions of this story. Apparently Gritty’s lawyers have advised him to stay quiet on this issue.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

After Lynn Swann retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers I didn’t have a “favorite” player. There were guys I really enjoyed. Louis Lipps, Kordell Stewart, Jerome Bettis, Greg Lloyd, come to mind, and Rod Woodson comes as close as anyone.

Then the Steelers moved up in the 2003 draft to claim Troy Polamalu. I had a favorite player again. As a fan of USC, I followed Polamalu throughout his college career.

 I didn’t need to see him play a down for Pittsburgh to know he would be a tremendous asset to the team.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

32 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, 5 touchdowns, 778 tackles, 8 pro bowls, 2 Super Bowl victories, and 17 years later it became official Saturday what everyone already knew. Troy Polamalu is a Hall of Famer.

 

In addition to those numbers were the countless head turning plays. Diving over the line, timing it perfectly, to sack a quarterback, one handed interceptions, and bone crunching hits make it difficult to cut a highlight reel for Polamalu.

Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and Kerry Collins, just to name a few, still must wake up in a cold sweat seeing Polamalu either sack them or pick them off.

It’s hard to pick out just one highlight, but here is the interception that would beat the Ravens in 2005 and send the Steelers to the Super Bowl.

The fun often came after Troy Polamalu intercepted a pass. He was up and running in a heartbeat. Sometimes it appeared even he wasn’t sure where he was headed. Regardless, it was always a blast to watch.

Polamalu was able to make those incredible plays because he combined the rare pieces of being a film room junkie and having incredible athletic ability. When he watched film, he watched every position so he knew where everyone would be.

His parting from Pittsburgh was a bit messy. The culture of the team changed(ahem…AB) and he had to be more vocal. And in a rare moment of being vocal off the field, Polamalu voiced his displeasure with his contract negotiations with the Rooneys. He eventually retired, and Polamalu rarely comes back to Pittsburgh. Here’s hoping this honor will heal some of the hurt feelings and bring Troy back in to the Steelers fold.

While you are watching highlights, check out the interview Missi Matthews did Saturday evening for the Pittsburgh Steelers website immediately after Polamalu got the news. With his two boys at his side, Polamalu got emotional discussing his enshrinement. And in typical Troy Polamalu fashion, he humbly expressed that he didn’t think he was worthy of this honor.

News flash, Troy, you are very worthy.

I can’t think of another player who is such a dichotomy. On the field he was a ticking time bomb, and I mean that in a good way. He was often referred to as the Tasmania Devil because of his style. He hit as hard as any safety of his era. He even famously ran over his friend and former college teammate Carson Palmer in order to score a touchdown on an interception return.

Off the field, Polamalu is proud of his Samoan heritage, but his upbringing had rough patches which he doesn’t talk about. This certainly could have created a hard edged person. It didn’t. Polamalu is soft spoken, reserved, thoughtful, and extremely caring. After the Hall of Fame announcement stories came flooding in about Polamalu’s off the field exploits.

FOX reporter Bruce Feldman shared the story of Polamalu paying funeral expenses for a Texas A&M football player and his two friends who were killed in a traffic accident. The kicker to this story is that Polamalu didn’t know these kids, but had just heard of their tragic story.

Another came from Colin Dunlap, Pittsburgh morning sports jock, who relayed the fact that one of the few pictures on the children’s cancer floor at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital is of Polamalu. When he inquired why, he was told that Polamalu came in every Friday to play with the kids. He just never told anyone because he didn’t seek the publicity.

The Steelers defense hasn’t been the same since Polamalu left. You see not many players, including some in the Hall of Fame, were actual game changers. Troy Polamalu was a game changer. He also prided himself on being a game changer in life.

Fight On, Troy. Here We Go, all the way to Canton.

Just my two cents…