Surely They Can’t Be Serious?

Seattle’s Best

The Super Bag

In honor of Super Bowl XLVIII, here are 48 emails from actual readers

Even if I’ve written something like 150 normal mailbags over the course of my career, ultimately, only the Super Bags matter. So, how will this particular Super Bag affect my own legacy, as well as the legacy of the Super Bag in general? What will the legacy of that legacy be? Will the fact that I used performance-enhancing drugs to help me recover from Thursday night’s hangover end up working against that legacy, as well as the legacy of the legacy? We’re about to find out. In honor of Super Bowl XLVIII, we’re tackling 48 mailbag questions. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: My buddy and I came up with a great idea for a stoner flick called “Archie Manning’s Vasectomy.” Two Boston burnouts somehow find a time machine and go back in time to New Orleans circa 1973. They try to convince Archie Manning that he and the Saints will win the Super Bowl if he has a vasectomy. It’s The Terminator meets Bill & Ted meets Half Baked. What do you think?
—Gabe Perez, Los Angeles

SG: I think you just created something that could potentially leapfrog The Verdict, The Town and The Departed as the most popular Boston movie ever. My biggest note: Definitely name the lead characters “Murph and Sully.” And I’d seriously consider throwing them into the title — something like Murph and Sully Stop the Mannings, just to avoid the inevitable lawsuit when Archie hires an army of lawyers to stop production of Archie Manning’s Vasectomy. You want to make sure this movie gets made. Even if you’re losing a better title, take consolation in Archie Manning’s Vasectomy becoming the most popular name for a fantasy football team. Which should probably happen anyway.

Q: Can we give Marshawn Lynch the Dan Dierdorf award for most negatives in a sentence? He told Deion Sanders, “I ain’t never seen no talking winning nothing!” That quadruple negative has Dierdorf wanting to broadcast another season or two.
—Joe Davis, Baltimore

SG: Did anyone think Marshawn Lynch would defeat Richard Sherman as the MVP of Super Bowl week so far? As late as Monday night, Lynch had to be a +800 underdog, right? Then he stole attention on media day with his pseudo-talking boycott, then successfully repeated the saying-just-enough-not-to-get-fined strategy on Wednesday. He announced a Skittles deal and a new Skittles flavor (“Seattle Mix”). He said the word “shit” on NFL Network. Another one of his media day quotes (“Just ’bout that action, boss”) was quickly turned into a DJ Steve Porter–type remix song that’s actually pretty decent. His incredible candy interview with Japan from a while back continued to make the Internet rounds. And he unleashed the first recorded quadruple negative in sports interview history. I’m not so sure that Dan Dierdorf can’t believe what just happened!

Q: Is Aqib Talib hobbling off the field your least favorite AFC Championship Game tradition?
—Kyle, Philly

SG: It’s right up there with the annual Sunday-night post-Pats elimination conversation with my dad — you know, the one in which we try to figure out why Belichick won’t get Brady more weapons, why the Pats can’t score more than 17 points in any playoff exit game even though they always average 30-plus during the season, and who’s going to fold first and point out that Brady has unquestionably played poorly in five of these playoff losses (Denver twice, Baltimore twice, Jets) and missed big throws in all those games, followed by us both profusely apologizing to one another for ever daring to criticize Brady.

Q: I can take solace in this one fact post-AFC Championship game: At least we know the Patriots aren’t using steroids.
—Mike, Boston

SG: (Nodding sadly.)

Q: If anyone can bring back the nickname for Richard as “Dick,” it is Richard Sherman. In fact, for Super Bowl week, why isn’t he insisting that everyone refer to him as “Dick Sherman?”
—Chris G, Burbank

SG: That’s baloney — after Dick LeBeau and Mighty Mighty Bosstones singer Dicky Barrett did a phenomenal job of carrying the “Dick” banner in the 1990s, we watched Dick Cheney mortally wound the Dick franchise last decade, then saw Twitter CEO Dick Costolo valiantly save it once Twitter took off in 2009. There’s even a Twitter account for fake Dick Costolo tweets called “Fake Dick.” If you’re the impetus for “Fake Dick,” then you brought back “Dick.” But that doesn’t mean Sherman can’t make the shift to “Dick Sherman.” Who knows, maybe he could even pave the way for Dick Incognito, Dick Simmons, Dickie Sambora, Dick Gannon, Dicky Deitsch, Dick Grieco …

Q: Every time Richard Sherman gets an interception my friends and I call it a “Dick Pick”. It could be the greatest inappropriate way to describe an interception of all-time. Why can’t the media say this? This should be a thing. Life is unfair sometimes.
—Pete, Seattle

SG: Hold on, I’m trying to figure out if I count as media.


Good news — apparently I count! Thanks for coming up with my ideal ending for SB XLVIII, Pete. Imagine if Peyton Manning lost Super Bowls in 2010 and 2014 thanks to a TAINT1 and a Dick Pick, respectively.

Q: Remember the time Roger Clemens threw a bat at Mike Piazza like an out-of-control freaking lunatic and we were all like “He’s pretty pumped up in the heat of the moment, yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk,” and then in retrospect we were all like “Whoa, he was obviously REALLY on steroids or PEDs or something” and “how did that not occur to us at the time?” Cue montage of every single Richard Sherman clip and/or reaction from Championship weekend … aaaaaaand roll tape!
—David Chernicoff, Oakland

SG: Allow me to swerve the other way — I’m defending someone from a team that’s running away with the “most PED/drug suspensions since 2010” record, and who even got suspended himself in 2011 before getting the result overturned with the rarely seen “urine sample taken in a leaky cup by someone with a history of errors” defense (otherwise known as the Ryan Braun2) and then answered “It seems like we do” last summer when asked if Seattle had a problem with PEDs. Sherman had just finished playing tackle football against someone he disliked for three solid hours. That person had disrespected him on Twitter, which is the third-worst thing one athlete can do to another in 2014, trailing only sleeping with his girlfriend/wife and running him over with a Hummer. On top of that, the opposing team had disrespected Sherman by challenging him late on the biggest drive of the game — with a 25-yard fade pattern, no less — which he foiled (on a play that sent Seattle to the Super Bowl). And he was fired up about heading to the Super Bowl, obviously. So he gets yanked off the field and interviewed immediately after the game. And he’s a passionate guy, anyway.

My question: Let’s say I presented that scenario to you right before the game, then said, “Let’s bet … if a charged-up Richard Sherman doesn’t say anything that outrages America in this interview, I will give you $500. But if he DOES say something that outrages America, you have to give me $200.” Would you have taken that bet? No way. You would have tried to negotiate a 1,200/200 ratio. So I don’t get the Clemens/Piazza parallels at all. It can’t be forgotten how insane/illogical/perplexing that Clemens moment was: Piazza’s bat breaks, then Clemens mistakenly fields one of the bat’s pieces like it’s a baseball, whips it at a jogging Piazza and starts F-bombing him. That was like a deleted scene from Pain & Gain. And it took us an extra eight years to realize it.

Q: Apparently some of the survival traits you learn by growing up in Compton and scrapping to survive are only acceptable for rappers. You worship Pac, Simmons, and I do too, but was Pac a better human than Sherman? Pac bangs a guy’s wife and calls him out on the national stage and it’s this epic “throwing down the gauntlet” moment, but Sherman destroys the Niners, calls out Crabtree and he’s classless? F–k the Niners and f–k Jim “A man can be defeated but not destroyed” the warrior poet Harbaugh.
—John Wolff, Missouri

SG: God, you were so close to grabbing the lead in the Best Mailbag Email of 2014 race, John Wolff! If only your last sentence had been, “Well this is how we gonna do this. F—- Crabtree, f—- Harbaugh, f—- the Niners as a team, a franchise and a motherf—ing crew, and if you wanna be down with the Niners, f—- you too!”

Q: What is it about attending Stanford immediately negates the fact that Richard Sherman is an a-hole? Let’s all remember this is the same place that Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, Kerri Strug and Manti Teo’s fake girlfriend all attended. Don’t get me wrong, some schools like Duke graduate more a-holes than others, but no school should give their graduates a free pass from their future behavior.
—Sean McGuire, Gaithersburg, Maryland

SG: I just spent the last 15 minutes trying to figure out how Kerri Strug ended up in that email. Even went down a Kerri Strug Google rabbit hole and everything. Unsolved mystery.

Q: On December 22, 2013, a special teams defender came streaking in from the right side of the formation, lept, extended his arms, and delivered a glancing blow on the pigskin, stopping it from reaching the goal posts. It was the NFL’s last blocked extra point. The blocker? Bernard KARMELL Pollard! That’s right, there’s a chance that Bernard KARMELL Pollard murdered the Point After Touchdown.
—Ryan U, Somerville, Massachusetts

SG: Add that to the list. Pollard also concussed Wes Welker in December, then Welker came back for the playoffs and knocked Aqib Talib out of the AFC title game — it was like Pollard transferred his evil powers to Welker like they were starring in a Wes Craven movie. If Welker takes out any Seahawks in the Super Bowl, we might have to use the Indiana exorcism specialists on him. As for the death of extra points, kickers missed a total of 18 extra points during the past three regular seasons … and made 3,691 of them. So, every 200 times they miss one? What a waste of time. If the NBA turned all technical foul shots into layup attempts, wouldn’t people think that was ridiculous?

All right, so how do you fix it? Snapping the ball from the 10 on point-after kicks just sounds goofy. Roger Goodell brought up an intriguing wrinkle: Maybe the NFL makes every touchdown worth seven points, but if you go for two and get it, you climb to eight points (and if you miss it, you drop to six points). I also like the “every point-after kick has to be a dropkick” idea, if only because nobody is turning the channel on a dropkick. But what’s the best idea? I give you Travis T. from Alabama.

Q: What do you think of this PAT idea? One of the 11 offensive players on the field at the time of the touchdown has to kick the PAT. So it’s still worth one point, but it will decrease the difficulty disparity between 1 and 2 points — thus increasing potential for 2 point conversions and lessening certainty of the PAT kick.
—Travis T., Montgomery, Alabama

SG: Bammo. Just a phenomenal idea that creates the following wrinkles …

1. Every PAT now becomes a must-watch, especially any game-tying PAT in the fourth quarter. Real tension! Who’s turning the channel as LeSean McCoy or Tom Brady tries to cap off a game-tying drive by nailing the point after?

2. More two-point conversion attempts if a team decides that the right PAT kicker isn’t on the field. The phrase “more two-point conversions” is never a bad thing.

3. We just created a new way for Tony Romo to lose a nationally televised game.

4. The free-agent value of certain skill position guys, quarterbacks and even offensive linemen would increase if they could bang home 95 percent of those PATs. Couldn’t you see the Lions overpaying some right guard who also “kicked in high school and could become a PAT weapon”?

5. Bill Barnwell’s inevitable “Best PAT kickers” monthly power rankings column. Coming in at no. 1 … Randall Cobb! Who knew???

6. At least one field goal kicker revolting and writing a whiny “they’re making a mockery of the game and what I do for a living” essay for a sports blog (bonus points if he’s mysteriously waived Kluwe-style a few weeks later).

7. A valuable offensive player (probably a QB, and definitely someone on the Bills, Browns, Vikings or Lions) blowing out his ACL while kicking a PAT, followed by a week of sports debates about how the new PAT rule is moronic … and then, of course, the league panicking and switching back to the old PAT rule.

Q: When listing nicknames for SB48, aka the first Stoner State Bowl (hey, there’s another!), how could you miss “The Cotton Mouth Bowl”?
—Ray Charbonneau, Arlington, Massachusetts

SG: I still love the Doobie Bowl … but man, the Cotton Mouth Bowl is pretty inspired. Can we use both nicknames? If Sean Combs, Triple H and Apollo Creed can have multiple nicknames, then our first Super Bowl between the two states that legalized marijuana should have multiple nicknames. By the way, you guys can stop sending me every conceivable variation of the “After seeing this Super Bowl matchup, when are Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota legalizing marijuana?” joke. We’re at capacity.

Q: I heard your podcast with Sal the Cuz when you predicted the Seahawks would be favored by 3 and a half. I thought you were a half point off but agreed with you that Seattle should be favorites. We were both way way off and Seattle is now a field goal dog. You love shoehorning pop culture references into sports conversations more than Bieber loves Sizzurp. What movie scene captures your feelings about jumping on the Seahawks +3 even though the bet looks too easy and you stunk picking games all season?
—Brandon, The Metropolis

SG: Look, there’s no way I love shoehorning pop culture references into sports conversations more than the Biebs loves sizzurp. That’s crazy talk. But you read me well. I love the Seahawks. They played a much tougher schedule. They’re a better all-around team. They’re built for cold weather. They have the perfect pass rush–secondary combo to throw at Manning. And even if you look at the difference in January games, Seattle played two wars against elite teams (New Orleans and San Francisco); Denver needed a third-and-17 laser to finish off 9-7 San Diego, and it coasted to an easy win over an overachieving Pats team. Throw in a frosty night in Jersey and I think Seattle should be favored by 3.

Important note to remember: The general public sets every gambling line. Vegas only wants to guarantee itself an equal amount of action on each side. From the moment this line posted, people started banging Denver. And they kept banging Denver. And they kept banging Denver. So you could even say there’s a little “Nobody Believes In Us” potential with the Seahawks. It’s the perfect gambling situation in every respect: getting points, going against the public, taking the proven cold-weather team, going with defense over offense … it’s just perfect. And that’s why the line makes me feel like De Niro imploring Henry Hill’s wife to pick up some dresses at the end of Goodfellas.

Yeah, there’s your free Seattle money … you’re definitely gonna win. It’s right over there. Just around the corner. No no no, it’s right in there! Where you going?

Q: Also I bet my friend 20 dollars that this email gets in the mailbag. I studied other mailbags to see what worked and figured it out. I put this email on a platter for you Simmons.
—Brandon, The Metropolis

SG: So to recap — Brandon ruined my confidence in my Super Bowl pick AND ruined my confidence in my ability to pick mailbag questions. Terrific.

Q: During the most recent Cousin Sal podcast (Jan. 21), the AOL “goodbye” sound byte can be heard at 12:34. I’m sure of it since I decided to rewind it 50 times for confirmation. Which one of you is using the computer from the Lost hatch? Does the loser of the ‘guess the lines’ contest have to use AOL CD’s for internet access until next season?
—Jesse Majcher, San Francisco

SG: That was me. Wait, is this why everyone on Grantland’s staff starts laughing every time they hear the “good-bye” sound, or when I pull out my BlackBerry to type an email? Am I like Unfrozen Caveman Sportswriter?

I don’t understand your Gmail and your iPhones. I hear the word “Gchat” and I think to myself, Is this a new cable channel? Someone asks me if I want to FaceTime and I think they want to make out with me. I’m just an Unfrozen Caveman Sportswriter, I don’t understand your fancy new technology. But I’ll tell you what I do understand. PEYTON MANNING SUCKS IN COLD WEATHER!

Q: I believe the closest qb to ever become the greatest quarterback of all time (including playoffs) was Tom Brady in 2007, when he set the touchdown record (50), was undefeated until the Super Bowl (18-0), and one win away from achieving four Super Bowls in eight years and breaking the ’72 Dolphins’ record. He also would have had the greatest win percentage ever. Unfortunately, the “helmet catch” happened and you know the rest. That’s how close Brady was to being the greatest quarterback of all time. But I do believe Peyton Manning 2014 will win the Super Bowl, to go along with the td record, and passing yds record, making him the greatest single season quarterback of all time.
—Dr. Funk, Halifax

SG: This was the last step in a Halifax conversation that clearly started with the question, “How can we get Simmons to open the window of his New York hotel and jump out of it?”

Q: The immense backlash against Richard Sherman can only lead to one possible conclusion: it is all a setup by Roger Goodell to keep other, far more important topics from becoming media talking points! If the ongoing concussions debate and retired players compensation lawsuits get pushed aside, then nobody will push for some true safety reforms that might diminish league revenue if the public thinks the product has “gone soft.” So what does he do? He writes a brilliant speech for a player who was already outspoken that comes off as so arrogant and showboating that a whole week of real issues is instantly lost! Your thoughts?
—Trey, Boise

SG: So you’re saying that Goodell is stealing from the David Stern playbook? I like it! Maybe that’s also why he brought up changing point-after kicks — anything he can do to deflect attention away from concussions, lawsuits and PEDs is a big win. I’m amazed he didn’t “throw it out there” that Los Angeles is being seriously considered as an expansion team, or that they’re “considering” proposals to legalize medicinal marijuana, shorten the goal posts or test an orange glow-in-the-dark football for night games. Stern would have done all these things.

(Since we’re here, congratulations to Stern for 30 unforgettably great years with the National Basketball Association. So what if those 30 years were from 1976 through 2006 — starting when he facilitated the NBA-ABA merger as a hard-driving league attorney in 1976, took over as deputy commissioner, created the salary cap and came up with a hardcore drug policy even before he actually took office — and not the actual 30 years when he ran the NBA? That 1976-2006 stretch was spectacular. If it’s OK with you, I am saving my extended thoughts for another time.)

Q: I have tried to come up with words. I have tried to come up with sports award analogies (breakthrough performance, etc.). But in the end, I have found that I am neither emotionally prepared nor literally capable of describing the importance of Alexandra Daddario’s nude scene in the second episode of True Detective. Please, I need your help.
—Steve, Atlanta

SG: Hands down, it was the most extraordinary nude scene since Saving Private Ryan.

Q: I was thinking of titles for the inevitable 30 for 30 in a couple years on the Seahawks after the whole organization gets suspended for a season due to PEDs. This was the best I could come up with: “The Space Needles”. Thoughts?
—Steve, Nashville

SG: I like The Space Needles slightly more than I like Guiltless in Seattle or The Greenie River, but not as much as I like The Real 12th Man.

Q: What would the best Super Bowl week trash talking comment be? Can you top Manning saying “I’m gonna complete so many passes on Richard Sherman, that he’ll be the most depressed Seattle resident since Kurt Cobain”?
—Tony Greco, New Orleans

SG: There’s only one way to hurt people from Seattle. Even the email we just ran didn’t hurt them. If you make fun of their celebs, grunge music, the weather, Paul Allen, Starbucks, Microsoft, the Mariners, pot legalization, their football team’s PED/drug suspensions … say anything, it will roll right off them. They don’t care. But if a Bronco like Manning said anything along the lines of, “On Sunday, I’m gonna steal this Super Bowl from Seattle like Clay Bennett stole the Sonics!,” or, “There are two certainties in life: The Seahawks aren’t winning the Super Bowl this Sunday, and Seattle is never getting another NBA team,” or even something more subtle like, “I look forward to winning the Super Bowl, then celebrating with Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz and Aubrey McClendon,” that might start our first American civil war in 150 years. The 206 wouldn’t stand for that. Six months from now, you’d be watching Brian Williams say on NBC Nightly News, “The casualties continue to mount in the Civil War of 2014, as Seattle’s army surged into downtown Denver and inflicted the biggest damage yet … ”

Q: No one is talking about Peyton Manning’s Glove. He knows he can’t grip the ball well under 40 degrees. That’s why he’s been using this ENTIRE season to get used to that glove. That’s why he’s worn in it domes and on 70 degree days. It was all in preparation for the wintry playoffs. It was all in preparation for THIS GAME. This is what he does, Simmons. He’s going to win. He figured this all out months ago. BET ON PEYTON. Heed my words.
—Robbie, Chicago

SG: For me, this game isn’t about Manning’s glove and his grip/velocity — it’s about Seattle’s ability to keep pressuring/hitting/belting/walloping/nailing Manning and turn him into a beaten-up 37-year-old guy who doesn’t want to get thrown into the frozen turf anymore. And alongside that, Seattle’s secondary should crush Denver’s receivers after the catch, much like Baltimore did to New England’s skill guys in January 2013. Seattle has to make Manning miserable — that’s been the recurring theme in just about every Manning playoff loss. Make him miserable, and make his skill guys miserable. Keep belting them. The Seahawks are uniquely equipped to do this. That’s why I am leaning toward picking them.

Q: What are the odds that the Broncos win the Super Bowl, it’s hovering around 15 degrees when the game ends and they douse Coach Fox in Gatorade where he immediately goes into cardiac arrest? It’s horrible to think about, but frighteningly practical.
—Jeremy, Denver

SG: I’m not running this email for laughs — I’m running it as a public warning. If the Broncos win, can we all agree that the Broncos shouldn’t dump a giant bucket of Gatorade on John Fox in frigid weather? Just pour a ceremonial 16-ounce bottle on his right shoulder and be done with it.

Q: So I guess that now football is over you’ll go back to shooting the shit about crappy NBA games on TV and writing a column once every three months. Consider this a preemptive strike: You suck, Simmons! Write a column already!
—Charles, Inglewood

SG: My readers keep finding new and improved ways to complain about my columns. I need to take a break to regroup — let’s throw it to one of our new sponsors, Manny’s Sports Bar & Restaurant in New Jersey.

Q: I have some concussion prop bets for you: (1) Who is the first player to officially be diagnosed with a concussion/concussion-like symptoms during the Super Bowl?: Field (-260), Percy Harvin (+150) or Wes Welker (+210) … (2) Over/Under on total concussions during the game: 1½ … (3) Which player will be the first to concuss Wes Welker? Earl Thomas (-150); Kam Chancellor (even); Bobby Wagner (+200); Bruce Irvin  (+300); Pete Carroll (+900).
—Kaya Simmons, Brooklyn

SG: Man, this is really becoming the darkest Super Bag ever. Concussions, cardiac arrest, civil wars — what’s next? Aren’t we obligated to bring the Biebs, Corey Haim and Marvin Harrison into this sordid mess? I say yes.

Q: I used to believe in you. In 2010, you predicted that Justin Bieber would be the one child star “who wouldn’t go off the deep end,” explaining, “He’s Canadian. Canadians don’t go off the deep end. Lock it down.” How can I trust anything you say anymore?
—Jebediah, Fullerton, California

SG: Wait, it took my horrible Bieber prediction for you to stop trusting my opinions??? That was the catalyst? It wasn’t me being 34 games under .500 picking NFL games this season? By the way, that Bieber prediction was flawed coming out of the gate, given the late Corey Haim was Canadian (and I totally forgot this).

Q: It pains me to ask you this, because I consider you an inspiration to me. And to waste your time with Justin Bieber insults your writing and the use of my time. But has Bieber entered the Tyson Zone?
—Will Alisberg, New York

SG: Terrific question. I like that you managed to insult yourself and me. My quickie answer: OF COURSE! Are you kidding me? Name me a Bieber story that would surprise you right now. Bieber funded a dog-fighting ring? Bieber funded a cock-fighting ring? Bieber visited Aaron Hernandez in jail? Bieber fought Shia LaBeouf to the death … and won? Bieber staggered onto the field during the Super Bowl, covered in sizzurp, and got tackled by four security guards? Bieber hit on Cheryl Bernard in Sochi during the Olympics before getting knocked unconscious by a curling stone? Should I keep going?

There’s only one way Bieber can make Tyson Zone history: By dating someone who also happens to be in the Tyson Zone, which would then quadruple their Tyson Zone powers. It’s happened only one other time that I can remember: when Bobby Brown was married to Whitney Houston, ultimately producing a Tyson Zone daughter who recently announced that she is married to her adopted brother. Those are the stakes for Biebs. He needs to knock up Miley Cyrus pretty much tomorrow.

Q: Will you acknowledge in this Friday’s column that Manning and the Broncos completely dominated and beat the Belichick and Brady Pats fair and square?
—Deepak, Texas

SG: (Grimly nodding.)

Q: I like Richard Sherman. He took it a bit too far with Crabtree and I may not like him as a person, but he makes the league more entertaining. Now we need a receiver who will talk with him. Today’s elite offensive players say the right things and go about their business. Give me the players, past or present, you’d most like to see lined up against Richard Sherman on game day.
—Curt, Boston

SG: 2000 Randy Moss in a landslide — not just for the nonstop woofing and shoving that would eventually cause a double ejection and a frustrated Troy Aikman to sob on live TV, but because the matchup itself (tall, athletic cornerback trying to stop tall, freak-athlete receiver) would have been consistently fascinating. Runner-up choices: 1991 Michael Irvin, 2005 Steve Smith and 2002 Marvin Harrison — wait, scratch Harrison, I don’t want Sherman to coincidentally get shot by a custom-made and extremely rare Belgian gun.

Q: While everybody gushes about how quickly the 49ers have become contenders under Harbaugh, what’s ignored is that they have also mastered the mysterious art of the Pre-2004 Red Sox of getting thiiiiiiiiis close and then losing in the most painful way possible. First it was Kyle Williams, who needed only to literally do nothing and walk away to avoid a punt to beat the Giants in regular time, then he fumbled another punt in OT. Against Baltimore, they get to the 5 and call the four dumbest plays imaginable to lose. Then against Seattle, they get into the red zone, 35 seconds left, 2 timeouts. And they call a fade. Thrown by a mobile QB who isn’t a static pocket passer. Into double coverage. Against Richard Sherman. On 1st down.
—Drew, Raleigh, North Carolina

SG: Glad Drew brought this up. Has another NFL team made the Final Four for three straight years, had a legitimate chance to win all three games late, then lost those games in legitimately agonizing ways? My gut feeling was “no,” but we have this thing called “the Internet” that allows us to look up useless crap at all hours of the day. Well … since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only Philly (2001-04), Buffalo (1990-93), Oakland (1973-75),3 Dallas (1980-82) and the Rams (1974-76) played in at least three straight conference title games without winning the Super Bowl. None of those teams lost three straight “heartbreakers,” which means the Niners made tortured football history.

And if this current bunch never wins the Super Bowl, they’d have to be mentioned in every Absolutely Brutal Football Stretch conversation along with the 1973-77 Vikings (three Super Bowl losses, one NFC title loss AND the Staubach-Pearson Pseudo Hail Mary/Push-off loss), the 1986-87 Browns (shaking my head) and the 1990-93 Bills (shaking my head). Important note: The 1968-75 Raiders (two AFL title game losses, four AFC title games losses AND the Immaculate Reception loss) and 2006-07 Patriots (blew an 18-point AFC title game lead, then the Helmet Catch Game) are ineligible because they won Super Bowls near those windows, although they have to be mentioned.

You know who Jim Harbaugh has to thank for his 2011-13 Niners teams not getting thrown into the same sentence with Bud Grant’s Vikes, Marty Schottenheimer’s Browns and Marv Levy’s Bills? Peyton Manning and Dick Sherman. Those guys blew away every other story line coming out of championship weekend, right? The poor Niners got a reprieve — just know that people will be rekindling that angle in August as we’re closing in on the 2014 season. Start getting emotionally prepared for a never-ending barrage of clips of the Pearson catch, the Drive, the Fumble, Wide Right, Kyle Williams and the Sherman tip, Vikes/Chiefs/Bills/Browns/Niners fans. It’s coming.4

Q: I was thinking earlier about the pain to pleasure ratio of testicles and trying to think of an appropriate analogy. The best I could come up with would be the 1 v 16 seed in college basketball. What do you set the line at?
—Ryan Moskal, Atlanta

SG: PAIN (-2500) Pleasure. I also think it’s a home game for Pain — that’s why I put it in all caps.

Q: How amazing would it be if the next Beats by Dre “Hear What You Want” commercial was Obama walking into the State of the Union address?  I’ve always thought they should introduce the President WWE-style, but this approach seems much more Obama.  Wouldn’t this be the best way to fire up America for the next three years?
Robert L, San Francisco

SG: Wait, why can’t we have the “Hear What You Want” commercial with Obama AND the WWE entrance for his next State of the Union? Why do we have to choose? Just steal Vince McMahon’s entrance music and be done with it.

Q: Why does Russell Wilson suddenly have Greg Gumbel’s hairdo? This is the strangest hair related decision any athlete has made since Jordan said, “Yeah, the Hitler mustache is a solid idea.?”
—Alexander, Minnesota

SG: There’s actually a neat answer for this — something we learned during Wilson’s hour at media day that exploded the whole “Media day sucks and it’s a total waste of time” narrative. In Wilson’s junior year in high school, Wilson and his father grew their hair out as a bonding thing until Wilson’s football team reached the state championship (and they won). His dad passed away in 2010, so Wilson decided to honor him right before this season by doing it again. Very cool story … and a possible Gambling Manifesto tweak if Seattle wins on Sunday. The tweak: “Never bet against God, puppies, gambling theories in Pakistan, and QBs honoring their parents in a hair-related way that already worked once.”

By the way, that blown-out Wilson hairdo is much more Philip Michael Thomas than Greg Gumbel. And I’m not just saying that because I wanted to post the greatest strip-joint clip in network TV history.

Q: After watching the NFC championship game and watching Sherman’s rant about who knows what, I proceeded to take the garbage out. I somehow forgot the recycling bin and about an hour later my girlfriend proceeds to start screaming at me about the recycling bin for three seconds, then changed and went on three different tangents that involved the words laundry, toilet seat, and remote that all intertwined and from an English standpoint made no sense. I know you’ve been there. Can we coin this phrase getting “Richard Sherman’ed”?
—Mike D., OCNJ

SG: (Wincing.)

Q: Just read a piece on Pete Carroll’s career arc and Carroll being sandwiched by Bruce Coslet and Rich Kotite in New York. I had forgotten they weren’t the same person.
—Case, Seattle

SG: It’s your best possible explanation for Carroll’s belated success at USC and Seattle. Wouldn’t it take eight to 10 solid years for Carroll to shed the Coslet/Kotite/Jets stink?

Q: Once upon a time, your nickname for Pete Carroll was Coach Fredo. But what if when Fredo was sent to Vegas (USC) to learn the casino business, he defied all odds and kicked ass? He didn’t take shit from anyone and effectively ran a casino or two. He gained confidence, learned a few valuable lessons along the way, and came out of his shell. Then he went back to New York (the NFL) and with his newfound wisdom and toughness, FREDO became the one who settled all family business and took over the Corleone family. Too big of a stretch?
—Jeremy, Portland

SG: I don’t think you could say anything is too big of a stretch with Pete Carroll. When he fled from USC like it was a crime scene because he knew its program was about to get sanctioned took over the Seahawks four years ago, I was still scarred enough by the Patriots/Fredo experience that … well … I wrote this:

“It took Carroll two years to destroy a Super Bowl team (in New England), and after he left, it took the Patriots two years to win a Super Bowl. You couldn’t do worse. Even Fredo has ‘banged two cocktail waitresses’ on his résumé. Now, this was a good 10-plus years ago, and I was smoking a ton of pot back then, but I specifically remember thinking to myself in 1999, “Pete Carroll is definitely not meant to coach professional football or pick the players.” I didn’t think Carroll was meant to coach football, period. His USC experience revealed that he’s meant to recruit 18-year-olds, hop around on the sideline, pump his fists, do the rah-rah routine, design fun defenses and give likable news conferences. We already saw this routine in the NFL: His name was Herm Edwards. It’s not going to work.”

Look, I don’t know where this ranks on the “Worst Simmons Predictions” ever list — a really, really, really, really, staggeringly long list, by the way — but it has to crack the top 10. I actually find myself rooting for Carroll now, and I didn’t realize why until Jeremy from Portland summed it up so well. Seventeen years ago, in one of these very mailbags on my old website, a reader emailed me, “Pete Carroll answers the question of why Fredo was never given control of the Corleone family.” Now it’s 2014 and Fredo is one victory away from (a) avoiding the fishing boat shooting, (b) outlasting Michael and Sonny, and (c) settling all family business. He’s smart, he’s not dumb, he’s smart, and he wants his respect. I wish I could email this paragraph back to 1998 Me — he wouldn’t believe it.

(Also: 1998 Me would say, “Wait a second … you’re still writing mailbags in 2014??? That’s impossible! Weren’t you the guy who promised that you’d never become a middle-aged sportswriter? I hope you’re getting paid. (Listening.) Wait, you’re making HOW MUCH? And Pete Carroll is about to win the Super Bowl???? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???????? I AM ABSOLUTELY HALLUCINATING THIS!!!!!!! I NEED TO STOP BUYING THIS SKUNK WEED FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE, IT’S MAKING ME CRAZY!!!!!!!)

Q: What’s the greatest possible ending to the Super Bowl that would break the internet? Ok here we go…. 4th and 4 Denver with the ball down by two with the ball on the Seahawks 44 yard line with 20 seconds left and one time out…. Manning from the shotgun, instead of OMAHA we hear STANFORD followed by choke gesture … Play Action to Moreno pump fakes slant and go to D. Thomas who beats Richard Sherman deep for the game winning touchdown! Peyton runs off field with the evil Peyton Manning face but before he goes straight to Hell to complete his agreement he made “I’ll give you one great season and a Super Bowl win for your soul” with the Devil just like the movie Damn Yankees! Who plays the Devil you ask???? JOHN ELWAY!!!!
—TJ, Huntington Beach

Q: When they first set the date for the “Big Game” it was supposed to be in the middle of a blizzard, and as the Broncos won more games and got closer to the “Big Game” the forecast has been getting clearer and warmer. The forecast for the “Big Game” Sunday is 45 degrees and clear with little wind. Do we need any more proof that Evil Manning made a deal with the devil to win a title this year?
—Kalvin, Fort Myers

SG: As you can tell, we had a two-way tie in the Super Bag for people trying to Jedi Mind Trick me into running the Evil Manning photo again. Fine, fine, twist my arm. You win.

Q: I present to you the last two years of football/basketball first round selections in Cleveland: Trent Richardson (3rd), Brandon Weeden (22nd), Dion Waiters (4th), Tyler Zeller (17th), Barkevious Mingo (6th), Anthony Bennett (1st), and Sergey Karasev (19th).
—Thomas, Cleveland

Q: So this shirt exists. And as proof of how bad it is to be a Chiefs fan, my thought was “Do they mean playoff victory?” Because that seems like an admirable goal at the moment, and I’m 30.
—Aaron Schmidt, Santa Monica

SG: We also had a two-way tie for “The Most Depressing Super Bag Email From a Fan Whose Team Didn’t Make the Super Bowl” this year.

Q: Did you see Mike Pettine’s quote after getting hired by the Browns? “It’s been a lifelong dream to be an NFL head coach and however that opportunity presents itself is fine with me.” However that opportunity presents itself is fine with me?!?!?!? Could he be any less excited about the job? That quote bundles up all the suffering and pain that Cleveland fans have endured.
—Gautam B, New York

SG: I’m spinning it the other way — I loved the “However that opportunity presents itself is fine with me” line. Pettine is basically saying, “Look, I just want to coach an NFL team. I don’t care if that team starts Brandon Weeden and hasn’t won a title since the year after JFK died. I’m THAT desperate. I’m like a horny guy who’s trying to hook up with someone I met online who seems cute and is almost definitely catfishing me, but I’m so horny, I’m willing to roll the dice on the 4 percent chance that she’s real. I’m like the guy who just bought a house that’s been on the market for three years because it had a triple homicide in it and everyone is reasonably convinced that it’s haunted, but there’s no way to know and I can’t resist the outside chance of getting a great deal. I am walking into this job with my eyes wide open. I’m probably screwed. I don’t care. I’m your new Cleveland Browns head coach, Mike Pettine.”

Q: From the opening kick of the 2013 season through Week 17, which three NFL coaches drank the most alcoholic beverages among all 32? Location, bad luck and quality of the team had to play into it, so I am heading north and in some order guessing Mike McCarthy, Doug Marrone and Rob Chudzinski.
—Rock, Jacksonville

SG: I’m going McCarthy, then Marrone, then Chud. Our 2014 favorite … Mike Pettine!

Q: Brandon Weeden played in eight games this season. The Browns won two of those games. In one win (Baltimore), Weeden threw just two passes. The other? A 37-24 win over Buffalo. Who was Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in that game? New Browns head coach Mike Pettine. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Browns!
—Andrew, Reminderville, Ohio


Q: Who are the top five current starting QBs (in order) that need a Super Bowl win? It can be any reason from “He can’t seem to win the Big One” all the way to “He hasn’t won anything since Spygaye.” My list would be: (5) Philip Rivers (both Eli and Big Ben have two and Rivers had more weapons); (4) Tom Brady (to stick it to those saying he hasn’t won since Spygate); (3) Jay Cutler (Pro Bowl weapons everywhere, recently got a huge payday); (2) Tony Romo (zero playoff wins, more season ending collapses than December wins); (1) Peyton Manning (needs another ring to go along with the 415,527,174 records that he holds, and Eli can’t have more rings than him).
—st1nky_diver, New York

SG: I’m answering this question in ascending tiers. Tier 1: Eli, Big Ben, Rodgers, Flacco and Brees, all of whom could absolutely use another ring for career cachet (and in Eli’s case, needs it for his Hall of Fame case). Tier 2: Andy Dalton, who could at least be remembered in a Brad Johnson/Trent Dilfer–type of way with a ring. Tier 3: Romo, Rivers and Cutler, the three guys who could reinvent themselves historically with just one ring. And Tier 4: Brady and Manning.

As I wrote two weeks ago, we’ll never decide on a QB G.O.A.T., but that second title probably guarantees that Manning gets mentioned just before Brady in any “best QB ever?” argument when people are talking about Manning, Brady, Montana, Elway and Unitas (and maybe in a few years Rodgers, too). Manning’s résumé if Denver wins on Sunday: best regular-season QB ever; more passing records than anyone else; best single-season passing year ever; three Super Bowl trips; two rings. Which leads us to …

Q: Is this Super Bowl the worst possible scenario for us Boston homers? Pete Carroll versus Peyton Manning. Should we … (A) Root against Peyton and for that phony Pete Carroll, who left both the Pats and USC in flames; (B) Root for Peyton even if it means that all of your ESPN colleagues will drink the Kool-Aid and label him the G.O.A.T; or (C) Hide in my closet and hope Rex Ryan turns off the lights in MetLife Stadium before kickoff?
—Will, Boston

SG: Keep in mind, you’re asking this question to someone who changed his Super Bowl flight during the third quarter of the Pats-Denver game because he wanted to be at least 2,500 miles away from Manning winning his second Super Bowl. But I’ll try to be objective here. For Boston fans, “Brady vs. Manning” has been the “Russell vs. Wilt” or “Bird vs. Magic” for this generation. If Manning wins the Bowl, you wouldn’t say he grabs the entire upper hand in that rivalry, but he definitely grabs all five fingers. No Boston fan wants that. Even if you’re still a little bitter at Pete Carroll for screwing up a talented Pats team in the late ’90s, how can that trump the Manning-Brady stakes here? And you can’t even say, “I loved Welker, I’d love to see him get a ring,” after he intentionally or inadvertently wiped out Talib two weeks ago. (My personal stance: YOU ARE DEAD TO ME, WES WELKER.)

Now, throw in the Seattle component — an unquestionably tortured sports city that hasn’t won a title since 1979, suffered through some amazing so-close-and-yet-so-far Mariners seasons, got blatantly screwed by the refs in Super Bowl XL, had the Sonics stolen away from them while David Stern did everything short of helping Clay Bennett purchase the getaway car (again, congrats on 30 great years, David — the ones from 1976 to 2006), and sunk so low that they’ve spent the past few years trying to convince themselves that the MLS can be anything bigger than “Triple-A baseball with soccer players.” Seattle needs this. For that and a variety of other reasons, I’m riding with the 206 on Sunday.

Q: I’m sensing some real palpable anti-Denver anger from your podcast comments with Cousin Sal, so I’m predicting the following: You pick Denver to win straight up and cover the spread in your column; your actual bets (if betting was legal) will be on Denver; you will spend the entire game rooting for Seattle to destroy Denver. Billy Zima is out for revenge and somebody (Peyton) has to pay.
—Tristan S., Victoria, British Columbia

SG: Come on, I’d never be that vindictive. That’s crazy talk. (Frantically checking to make sure Tristan doesn’t have access to my emails and texts this week.)

Q: In your Book of Basketball, you mention multiple times that you’ll have to rewrite it because you’ll be broke and need the money. Judging by your record on gambling this season, you might be right. You’re either a psychic or you sprayed yourself with the skunk spray and jinxed yourself. Billy Zima strikes again! Honestly, I’m loving this. At this rate, you’ll be broke by 2016 and then the Book of Basketball 2.0 will be released soon there after. ZIMA!!! ZIMA!!! ZIMA!!!
—Josh E., Provo

SG: We’re right on pace, my friend. We’re right on pace. Hold on, it’s time for a quick tangent because nobody asked me this question and it’s illegal to make up mailbag questions. I thought for sure someone would ask what it’s like to have a Super Bowl week in New York City, especially because I am a longtime proponent of the “Super Bowl should only be hosted by Miami, San Diego and New Orleans in a three-city rotation and that’s it” theory. Of course, I’m also the same guy who once wrote this:

“Either way, the Super Bowl should be given only to cities that double as bachelor party destinations or feasible destinations for a Real World season. Think about it. If you were a best man throwing a bachelor party, you’d never say the words, ‘Hey, guys, we’re going to Jacksonville!’ If you were an MTV executive planning a Real World season, you’d never say, ‘Hey, what about Houston?’ So why would we hold the Super Bowl in those places? Isn’t Super Bowl week supposed to be fun?”

Well … New York City definitely passes the bachelor party/Real World test. And then some. It’s been freezing cold all week, obviously, but here’s a news flash: Jacksonville 2005 and Dallas 2011 weren’t exactly St. Bart’s. It’s going to be an absolute pain in the ass to get to and from MetLife Stadium, but you could say that about a variety of Super Bowls (Glendale 2008, anyone?). There are more than enough hotels and restaurants and bars and late-night food options and cabs and things-to-do-that-can’t-be-printed, that’s for sure.

Here’s my only nitpick: It doesn’t feel like it’s the Super Bowl. I’ve been here since Monday — it feels like any other week I’ve ever spent in New York City. You wouldn’t even know it was hosting the Super Bowl save for the 10-block stretch they carved out near Times Square. The best thing about attending the Super Bowl is that nonstop feeling of, “Cool, this is awesome, I’m at the Super Bowl!” Everywhere you look and everything you do reminds you of that. That’s why everyone appreciated the Indianapolis Super Bowl so much, actually — for everyone living there and working there, it was like their whole life revolved around making every visitor enjoy Super Bowl week. New York City is just being New York City. If Jacksonville was severely overmatched by the Super Bowl, then New York is the one and only American city that has actually overpowered the Super Bowl. It’s an overqualified host. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

The one great outcome here: possibly, a cold-weather football game that FEELS like a real football game, where real men decide the title and stuff. I’m excited for that more than anything. An old-school, cold-weather, kick-ass football game that couldn’t have unfolded the same way in a dome or a warm-weather venue would single-handedly swing my verdict toward “YES!” Anyway, I’ve been to 11 of the last 13 Super Bowl weeks (only missing Tampa and Detroit). Ranking those cities in order from “best host” to “worst host”: New Orleans/Miami (tie), San Diego, Indianapolis, New York, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Jacksonville again, Jacksonville a third time. Whether New York climbs past Indy and San Diego remains to be seen. All right, back to the Super Bag.

Q: Your picks this year were as hard to read as watching Obama throw the opening pitch like a woman. Please pick against the Seahawks for the Super Bowl.
—Joe, Dana Point

SG: I’m thinking about it. We’re getting close to make-a-pick time.

Q: I’m interested to know if you think On Golden Blonde is the most extraordinary porno since Shaving Ryan’s Privates.
Randy E., Oakland

SG: That was our 48th email. Look, at that, we’re suddenly in range! Bonus round!

Q: I finally got the balls and the idea to send you an email. Four words. German Shepard Pro Bowl. Here’s the idea, QB has his five guys and the ball is snapped. As soon as the ball leaves his hands 11 police German Sheperds are let loose to follow wherever the ball goes (they’re trained to follow the ball in this scenario and everyone is wearing appropriate gear). I don’t see anything  terrifying Jimmy Graham more than 11 dogs being let loose to get him as soon or before the ball gets to him. Thoughts?
—Cody, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

SG: Getting closer …

Q: On the lameness scale, how high is watching the Super Bowl at home alone with your wife? No buddies, no poker, no profanity, no drinking. Please list the things you would rather do than watch the Super Bowl at home alone with your wife. I typed that again because I still can’t believe that’s what I’m doing on Sunday.
—Neil, Ottawa

SG: Closer …

Q: I need your infinite wisdom. Just got home from a great first date in Atwater Village with a girl I met online. I ordered a chai latte and a greek yogurt parfait, drizzled with organic honey with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I told my roommate this and he said my order alone had relegated me strictly to friend zone status with this girl forever. What’s your take?
—Michael, Los Angeles

SG: Closer …

Q: My tongue has been hurting me for awhile now and I finally went to the doctor today. First thing he asks me after looking at my tongue was if I had been eating a lot of cinnamon lately. I immediately started laughing and told him I drink a lot of fireball (had to explain to him cinnamon whiskey) and he Seems to think this is the problem. It’s quite coincidental that he led with that question if you ask me. He put me on the fireball DL for 2-3 weeks which if I actually adhere, will be an awful time. My only hope is “fireball tongue” will forever be known as Brian Linner Disease (BLD) ala Lou Gehrig which is good news for Bud Light since my intake will skyrocket considering no fireball to compete with.
—Brian, Staten Island

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

All right, time for my big Super Bowl pick: Broncos minus-2.5 or Seahawks +2.5??? For the record, I thought about pulling a Berman and making this pick worth 35 games, in a last-ditch attempt to finish over .500 this season, before realizing that would be ridiculous. I got crushed this season. Shit happens. This spring, I’m killing off Billy Zima and coming back stronger than ever next season. By Labor Day 2014, they’ll be throwing me in this montage.

Anyway …

Why You Regretted Taking Denver: You took a great offense over a great defense even when history says you should do the opposite. You got seduced by a very good Broncos team that looked like a juggernaut because it played an easy regular-season schedule, then beat a 9-7 Chargers team and a ludicrously depleted Pats team at home in Rounds 2 and 3 … and you forgot that Seattle had a much tougher road from Week 1. You forgot that Russell Wilson might be special, and that Beast Mode can be pretty frightening to wager against. You didn’t realize that Seattle’s Cover 3 defense was created to frustrate someone like Manning, or that Seattle’s defense would punish him and his receivers all game long. You hoped Seattle wouldn’t make one big special teams play (but it did), and that the colder weather wouldn’t bother Manning as the game went along (and it did). You forgot about the Manning Face. You didn’t care that Seattle had a better all-around team and a decidedly healthier team (and you should have). You went with the general public, who threw their money behind Manning for two weeks (and you should have known better). You are the reasons that bookies drive BMWs and casinos keep getting built.

Why You Regretted Taking Seattle: You forgot that San Francisco had Seattle in that title game and let it off the hook. You forgot that it’s REALLY hard for Seattle to top 24 points against a good defense, and that it’s just about impossible for Denver NOT to score 24 points. You forgot that Denver’s D has been swallowing up the run lately, which means young (repeat: young) Russell Wilson will probably have to win this one for Seattle. You forgot that Denver’s O-line has done a masterful job of protecting Manning all season, and that he’ll have plenty of time to pick apart that Cover 3. You forgot that he’s playing in MetLife Stadium, and that the karma of Peyton tying Eli’s two rings on Eli’s turf after Eli passed him on Peyton’s turf is just too perfect. You forgot that it’s been Peyton’s season since Week 1 — seven TDs, Thursday night, Baltimore — and that his out-of-body experience has even spread to him being able to control the weather. You forgot that this journey can’t end any other way — more heartbreak for Seattle fans, the ultimate storybook start-to-finish season for Peyton Manning, all the “Greatest QB Ever!” talk flipping into full swing. Most of all, you forgot how spiteful Billy Zima is.

The Pick: Denver 22, Seattle 19

Playoffs: 3-5-2
Season: 111-145-10

Filed Under: NFL, Bill Simmons, Pete Carroll

Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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