By: Bob George/BosSports.net
January 19, 2004

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CBS hates the Patriots. They won't admit it, but they do. Why?

The last thing CBS wanted in two weeks was a nationally unappealing Super Bowl, at least in their opinion. They were praying for an Indianapolis-Philadelphia matchup, and the delicious quarterback duel of Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. Two weeks of hype could center on just these two guys, and football fans nationwide would gobble it up like barbecued mini hot dogs and chili beans and whatever it is that fans eat during the big game.

Disagree? Did any of you read that article by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star this week, which said that "America needs" an Eagles-Colts matchup because it simply is "what's best for America"? And Woody Paige of the Denver Post (Kravitz also used to write in Denver) says that Houston has a problem. It's not a stretch to think that CBS executives feel much the same way.

In New England and Carolina, you have teams which are long in talent and defense, but next to nil in sex appeal and name recognition. Local yokels in each of these venues love their teams, of course, but on a national scale, this will be a unique Super Bowl where sporting goods stores will cry foul and advertising rates may plummet.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Who Dey Bowl. The Patriots and the Panthers. Everyone in Grinnell, Iowa, Wickenburg, Arizona, and Moorcroft, Wyoming will be glued to their television sets two Sundays from now to cheer like crazy for…

Ricky Manning?

Eugene Wilson?

DeShaun Foster?

Kevin Faulk?

Shoot, betcha eighty percent of New England hasn't heard of Jake Delhomme or Julius Peppers. They know who Jermaine Wiggins is, that's about it.

And the good people who walk the streets Andy Griffith walks probably know who Adam Vinatieri is. Tom Brady is a long shot. Anyone else, and that Carolinian deserves a pat on the back.

There is no question that the two best teams in the NFL are going to go at it on February 1st for the championship of the NFL. The Patriots are the best AFC team. The Panthers are the best NFC team. The Patriots smacked the old AFL to the tune of 16-2. The Panthers beat the one and two seeds to get into this game. On the basis of talent alone, this is it. The Big Dance will feature Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

But outside of New England and the Carolinas (How's that for a Super Bowl matchup: two regional teams? Oh, those poor purists!), this looks to be one of those Super Bowls which will be long on apathy and short on ten-by-ten office pool grids. Parties will happen, but you ought to check to see if they actually have the game on. You know things will be bad nationwide if the highest Nielson ratings are for Janet Jackson and the halftime show.

This isn't to condemn the fan bases in this Who Dey Bowl. It is instead to condemn NFL fans nationwide, as well as sporting goods stores and sports bars across this nation, which convey an extreme lack of interest in teams like the Patriots and Panthers. If not for the occasional video byte of Vinatieri kicking his famous field goal to beat the Rams two years ago, Super Bowl XXXVI might be completely forgotten because, in the eyes of the national football public, the wrong team won Super Bowl XXXVI. Instead of gaining national recognition, the Patriots stayed just as insignificant nationwide and nobody cared one iota about the fact that the Patriots were World Champions.

If the Panthers win this Super Bowl, they will suffer the same fate as the Patriots. They will be heralded in their home region, but largely overlooked and forgotten nationally.

A good way to measure the true appeal of a football team is to go into a sporting goods store and see how much merchandise they have from teams not from their home region. Any New Englander who hails from, say, the Detroit area, might have to search long and hard for a Joey Harrington jersey. Any store vendor not based in Arizona who tries to sell Cardinal merchandise is a fool.

But in any store nationwide, you'll always find stuff relating to Green Bay, Dallas, Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington, the Giants, St. Louis and Chicago. This stuff moves like crazy, especially in regions which aren't close to an NFL team.

And the sad thing is that, if the Patriots win in two weeks and you want to purchase Patriot Super Bowl gear, and if you don't live in New England, you'll likely have to go to Patriots.com and take care of your needs. Most store vendors out of the region will not stock this stuff. They will tell you something like "We aren't planning on ordering any of this stuff…there's no interest for that around here!" And they'll be right.

Even sadder, had Indianapolis won, every Wal-Mart and Target nationwide would be stocked full of Peyton Manning t-shirts. Ditto for McNabb had Philadelphia won. And you still wonder why CBS was probably rooting against a Patriot win?

Patriot fans have been screaming "disrespect" for some time now. At least their Who Dey Bowl opponent will have as little name recognition as their team does. You won't have to worry about McNabb being the media darling of the next two weeks like Manning was for the previous one. Carolina fans may get sick and tired of Brady before long.

Each team's fan base ought not to care one bit about how they are perceived nationally. Their teams won, and nothing else matters except which team wins in Houston in two weeks. Patriot and Panther Nations can cheer, brag, taunt, and strut their stuff from now until kickoff. Ad rates and Nielson ratings? That's CBS's problem.

Maybe this is a good thing. If you hate Super Bowl hype, then this is just for you. The national media will be focused on introducing the nation to David Givens and Muhsin Muhammed, and not delving into the long history of the Panthers in the Super Bowl or the great rivalry that is Brady versus Delhomme. You'll be hearing more about Ted Washington versus Stephen Davis, and less about three birdbrains mugging for the camera at Media Day.

Let the northeast and the Carolinas rejoice. The rest of the nation can go to…wherever ignorant football fans who still think Miami won the AFC East and that the Raiders still rock and that Dallas is America's Team go. This is not their Super Bowl, anyway.

It's the Who Dey Bowl. Wear it like a badge of honor, and get ready for some darned good football in two weeks.


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