I keep up with American sports primarily through the Internet, especially via ESPN.com. After reading the prognosticators’ views of Sunday’s NFC Championship match-up between the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks, I’ve developed faulty thinking that the Panthers are headed to the Superbowl. I’ve read this ad nauseum online. The Panthers are the pre-season NFC favorites. Wide Receiver Steve Smith is unstoppable. Panthers Quarterback Jake Delhomme is a gambler in the playoffs with the highest quarterback rating of any quarterback in the playoffs. The Panthers won two games on the road against the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. The Panthers outclass the Seahawks in more head-to-head matchups, including offense, defense, and special teams. Shaun Alexander, who? Matt Hasselbeck, who? If you read the armchair quarterbacks’ predictions, the Panthers might as well skip the game in Seattle and start practicing for the Superbowl in Detroit. The same goes for the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers. According to the spin doctors, the Steelers are going to roll in Denver this weekend.
I have a different theory. I believe the sports media is deliberately rooting for East Coast teams to go to the Superbowl. ESPN.com, CNNSI, and their ilk don’t know what to do with themselves if teams other than East Coast or California teams make the playoffs. A Denver-Seattle Superbowl is their worst nightmare. I mean, Denver? Seattle? Who outside those cities even cares about those teams? The fact is, the East Coast and California are where the largest audiences are. If New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or San Francisco are eliminated, then Carolina (Charlotte) and Pittsburgh will have to do. The media hyped the Chicago Bears before Carolina beat them and the Indianapolis Colts before Pittsburgh eliminated them. Then they hyped the Washington Redskins over Seattle. Now they’ve switched to rooting for the teams closest to their target audiences. Well, guess what? Seattle and Denver are both very good teams. Perhaps they will lose on Sunday. As a true blue and green Seahawk fan, I have to say that I never have confidence the ‘Hawks will pull out a win. But ESPN and other oversubscribed sports media should not be jumping on a bandwagon like fair weather fans. Their "experts" get paid the big bucks to be knowledgeable and report fairly. Anything less is tabloid journalism.
If you think I’m dreaming, let me give you a nice little sampling:
"I would rather eat fish eyes than see Seattle’s Seahawks in my beloved Super Bowl. The Sea-frauds have had the luckiest road to the Super Bowl this side of a fast food contest winner. I’m convinced they’re the destiny-driven product of the NFL’s easiest schedule and weakest division, the NFC West."
"Surging Smith Gives Carolina the Edge."
"Carolina WR Steve Smith should line up on the right side often this week, meaning Seattle CB Andre Dyson will have to play the game of his life for the Seahawks to advance, Jeremy Green writes."
From CNNSI: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/football/nfl/specials/playoffs/2005/01/19/picks/index.html
Five out of six Sports Illustrated experts pick the Carolina Panthers to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, which has a perfect record this year at Qwest Field, including wins over the Colts and the Redskins. The same experts pick the Pittsburgh Steelers to steal victory from the Denver Broncos. Incidentally, both Denver and Seattle have identical 14-3 records. The Panthers and the Steelers are 12-5. Odds and higher win totals apparently no longer mean much to sports media.
I can deal with hearing about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in gory detail, because I expect nothing less of outlets based in Connecticut (ESPN) and New York (Sports Illustrated). But there’s no reason for the sports media’s sudden conversion to Panthers and Steelers fandom. I’d rather side with the Las Vegas odds-makers, a Western locale that picked Seattle as a 3.5 point favorite. The odds are that if Seattle wins on Sunday, the sports media will pick the AFC champion, first Pittsburgh, then Denver, to win the Superbowl. The further east, the more likely to be favored. It’s completely bunk. Which is completely fine if all this trash talk helps the Seahawks play better this weekend.