This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning Win. Subscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.
It has been a completely un-eventful pre-Super Bowl week and that’s awesome.
Perhaps this is just one person’s perspective, but the week leading into the biggest single sporting event our country knows feels as though it has been right-sized. It had become, over the years, somehow, too much.
There’s still been a ridiculous amount of in-depth coverage produced, like these pieces from our Christian D’Andrea looking at what the Rams and Bengals need to do, strategically, to win on Sunday.
There’s also still hilarious content that lets NFL personalities show a lighter side, much of it produced by the usual writer of this newsletter. Here’s Andy Nesbitt challenging an NFL player’s cheesesteak takejoking about Tom Brady’s special balls with one of the receivers who handles them, unearthing a good Jim Harbaugh story and chopping it up with ERIC DICKERSON (!)
What’s lacking this year, at least to one observer, is the staged hoopla of it all. It feels less forced. The game is back in LA, after being gone too long, and it has found, finally, the disaffected ease that every would-be actor hopes to show in even the most career-changing audition.
That could just be because there are still COVID protocols in place that have limited how much time coaches and players from the participating teams spend in front of cameras.
Or maybe it’s because we had other things to gawk at, like the Olympics and Twitter as NBA trade scoops flew.
Either way, it’s been nice. There’s been more focus on football and the players who’ve managed to make it this far, and on how the coaches will try to handle a night they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. We can be honest here – the Morning Win is the safest of safe spaces – and admit that these aren’t subjects that get talked about with much depth in a press-conference setting – especially if that setting involves thousands of reporters hoping to ask a million different questions.
These guys know how to answer questions without answering them.
So instead of having a focus this week on strained quotes from those preparing to play in the freakin ‘Super Bowlthe void has been filled by insight from former players who’ve been here before and from analysts smart enough to look at the film and the stats and draw their own conclusions.
As a journalist, I would never advocate for less access. That doesn’t make sense. But in the wake of Naomi Osaka’s thoughtful critique of the media, and the ongoing discussion of the way we tend to elevate an athlete – like, say, Mikaela Shiffrin – only to probe their pain for viewership or readers when they fall… well, it seems necessary for us to give some thought to how and when we do our reporting.
This year, there’s been a lull before the Super Bowl and that’s perfectly fine. We don’t need to manufacture hype heading into the championship game for the National Football League! It’s already there. A whole season has built to this, and on Sunday we’ll all be watching.
When it’s over, I’ll be craving every bit of behind-the-scenes, here’s-how-it-really-happened, tell-all coverage you’ve got. That work is essential due in due time.
Quick hits: NBA trade deadline madness… An Olympic snowboarding rant from a broadcaster… and more.
– Whew, what a trade deadline in the NBA. Here are the winners and losers, and we graded some of the deals, including the James Harden and Ben Simmons blockbuster, the four-teamer that involved Marvin Bagley III.
– Speaking of which, BetFTW covered how that huge trade changed both the Sixers ‘and Nets’ odds, along with how bettors should approach both the Nets and 76ers.
– Matt Hamilton’s shoe game is so good at the Olympics.
– Japanese halfpipe snowboarder Ayumu Hirano wins gold after NBC broadcasters rant over baffling score.