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Friday, January 31, 2014

Are You Ready For Some Football?

The Vince Lombardi Trophy and helmets for the Seattle Seahawks and  Denver Broncos are displayed prior to a Super Bowl XLVIII head coach joint press conference at the Rose Theater in Jazz at Lincoln Center on January 31, 2014 in New York. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

The Vince Lombardi Trophy and helmets for the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are displayed prior to a Super Bowl XLVIII head coach joint press conference at the Rose Theater in Jazz at Lincoln Center on January 31, 2014 in New York. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Sunday night, football fans will get the game they have been waiting for: Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s 48 for the non-Romans in the audience).

The Denver Broncos come in with the best offense, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, while the Seattle Seahawks counter with the best defense and one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, Russell Wilson.

So the stage is set for the game on the field, the half-time show starring Bruno Mars and, of course, the commercials. NPR’s Mike Pesca joins Here & Now’s Robin Young with a preview.




From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW.

And everybody repeat with me: Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks. NPR's Mike Pesca is here. Mike, lots of talk about weather, security, why the focus is on New York when the game is in New Jersey. But to the game itself, do you think it has the potential to be a really good one?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Oh, absolutely. Best offense against the best defense. In fact, the all-time best offense in terms of points. They haven't faced - the Broncos offense hasn't faced a defense like Seattle. It's the two number one teams. It really does have the opportunity to be a great game, an intriguing game. I'm excited.

YOUNG: Oh, good. OK. Well, let's take a look at the quarterbacks. Denver has Peyton Manning, already has a Super Bowl title with the Indianapolis Colts. Seattle has Russell Wilson. Now, I was just in North Carolina. Big news there. He was just - he's going to be playing his first Super Bowl. But he played at North Carolina State, as you know, but he was famously redshirted, benched because he played baseball as well. So he went to Wisconsin, became a star.

Wisconsin fans put up a billboard in Raleigh, Mike, claiming him as their own but they spelled his name wrong. So a lot of kerfuffle there in North Carolina. But could he be the sleeper here, you know, with all the attention going to Manning?

PESCA: Yeah. Well, Manning is such a fantastic player. Russell Wilson has not been asked to be the best throwing quarterback he can be. They play a conservative game because their strength is defense, because they're good at running the ball. But Russell Wilson is a fantastic, fantastic quarterback. And even though it's a very small sample size, he's turned the ball over less than any other quarterback per drive who's played in for playoff games. He has so many skills and assets, and he's just in his second year. So Russell Wilson is a great strength for the Seahawks team.

YOUNG: And as I said, it's still debated in North Carolina as to whether or not he should have been benched. But some people might not know of him - if you're the casual football watcher - because of Richard Sherman, a pretty remarkable young man in his own life story but a trash talker. After the NFC game, he got all the attention. And he also apparently has been trash talking about Peyton Manning, questioning his arm strength, saying he throws ducks, weak passes. Here's Peyton Manning's response.

PEYTON MANNING: I don't think that's a real reach what he's saying there. I do throw ducks. I've thrown a lot of yards and touchdowns ducks, and so I'm actually quite proud of it.


YOUNG: And come from...

PESCA: All right.

YOUNG: Yeah. Go.

PESCA: Let me tell you what's going on here. This is the media trying to cause a fight. The original comment about ducks Richard Sherman made - he writes for Sports Illustrated, and he's a really good writer and has good insights. but he's correct. Peyton Manning, if you look at his throws, they sometimes wobble. You know, they're not technically the greatest throws.

But in that very same sense, Richard Sherman says, you know, he sometimes throws ducks but they always get there, and that's the most important thing. I have the utmost respect for Peyton Manning. He's the greatest quarterback in the game. Of course, if they played that, they're not going to get a fight over ducks or non-ducks. Anyway, I guess ducks are more of a Long Island delicacy than a New Jersey one.

YOUNG: Well - but, as you say, they're trying to engage Richard Sherman to get another fight going. But what about Peyton Manning? Is this a legacy game for him, you know, winning a second Super Bowl?

PESCA: Sure. I would say that it's very unfair what we do to athletes - and we did it to LeBron James - and take the greatest athlete at their position and say, unless you win one, you're nothing. Unless you win two, you're nothing. And when does it stop? However, Peyton Manning has, in the playoffs, underperformed his greatness. That is true. And, you know, I was just thinking Linus Pauling. He's the only guy to win a Nobel Prize in two categories.

Now, if he didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize, we couldn't say that. So that's definitely true that his legacy will be defined if he is a multiple Super Bowl winner or not a Super Bowl winner. I think it's a straw man to say that there's any serious person saying, ignore Peyton Manning and Peyton Manning is no good if he loses this game. But it is true that if you win a couple Super Bowls, you could say he's the best quarterback ever. And I think that maybe will be said about Peyton Manning if he wins this one.

YOUNG: Well, look at what's happened. We're out of time, and we didn't even get to talk about the Puppy Bowl, which is also happening on Sunday. NPR's...

PESCA: Take the schnauzer.


YOUNG: Mike Pesca, thanks so much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

YOUNG: It's HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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