Tampa, Fla The longest week in sports officially kicked off Monday with this less than startling revelation:
The Arizona Cardinals seem to dress better than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Granted, the survey in this case consisted of just five players from each team and their respective head coaches. But it was clear from looking at Kurt Warner’s salmon-colored tie and the expensive suit Larry Fitzgerald was wearing that the Cardinals take their sartorial responsibilities far more seriously than their opponents, who showed up for their first media gathering in sweats and golf shirts.
That alone probably wasn’t enough to prompt the bookies in Las Vegas to change the betting line, which has held steady at 7 points almost from the time it was posted last week. If fashion style points mattered in football, Michael Strahan would have had a lot more rings to go with the one he won last year with the New York Giants.
But this is Super Bowl week, and fans are starved for inside information. They must be, or else hundreds of writers, photographers and cameramen wouldn’t have bothered to bolster the Tampa Bay economy by getting here early enough to record the first utterances of this, the 43rd Super Bowl.
What did we learn, other than Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin looks a lot better in his sideline gear than he does in what looked like a leisure suit from Pittsburgh’s dynasty years of the 1970s.
Plenty, because all we had to do was ask.
Let’s start with Warner, who plans to lead by example this week and show his younger teammates how to handle the pressure of the big game. Well, not the big game itself, but the media appearances they make to hype a game that is never supposed to need any hype.
Warner has been through it twice, and is determined not to show any fear in the face of the notebooks, microphones and cameras pointed his way.
“If you start panicking,” Warner said, “they start panicking.”
Apparently defensive end Bertrand Berry didn’t get the memo because he began fighting his emotions after fans gathered to give the team a send-off at the Phoenix airport.
“It’s overwhelming when you start to think about it,” said Berry, who couldn’t have thought much about it much before because he plays for the downtrodden Cardinals, after all.
Things seemed a little calmer in the Pittsburgh tent, where Troy Polamalu had his famous hair neatly pulled back in a ponytail, Tomlin had already held a team meeting, and Ben Roethlisberger talked about how different things seem this time around than when he nervously quarterbacked the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl win a few years ago in icy Detroit.
Twenty Steelers from that team will be on the field Sunday, which might prove more significant than their fashion sense because the Cardinals have only five players with Super Bowl experience.
“I’m going to have fun, going to enjoy this because it may be my last,” Roethlisberger said. “I hope I have five more, but you just never know.”
Indeed, the players are perhaps the only variable in a weeklong dance the NFL choreographs to the minute before the teams finally take the field Sunday night to give Americans a much-needed respite from worrying about the economy collapsing around them.