I have this problem: I’m a writer, a fiction writer at that. As a writer—and, subsequently, as a reader—you learn that there is no such thing as a “wasted” word, sentence or phrase. Everything means something; everything is advancing the plot, directly or indirectly, foreshadowing things to come, even the blue and white tennis shoes a female character wears to work out in.
Because of this, however, I read into things...check that...I read into everything. It is both a blessing and a curse. I can tell instantly whether the girl at the bar is legitimately into me or if she is a secretly insecure cutie seeking validation in the form of male attention.
Earlier this week, I spoke with a gentleman from Minnesota wearing a green Boston Celtics hat, and instantly knew he was one of two things: A Kevin Garnett fan that followed his hero to Boston or an Irishman. During our conversation, he revealed to me how proud he was to be Irish.
This also works against me at times. How was I to know that a female co-worker furiously attacking a Tootsie pop, mere seconds after saying, “You know, I really like that Lil’ Wayne ‘Lollipop’ song,” was not some form of awesome sexual innuendo.
How about the time she wore two-inch heels to the bar one night knowing that I hate when my female companions tower over me and my 5'10" frame.
Damn it! This is a sign that she’s about to break up with me!
If Super Bowl XLIII were a work of fiction, the story would begin at Paul Brown Stadium in January of 2006 with the Pittsburgh Steelers needing a big play to put away the Cincinnati Bengals. Then-Steelers coach, Bill Cowher, turns to his offensive coordinator, a brilliant young assistant named Ken Whisenhunt, for the game-changing play.
Whizzy, as the cool kids call him, draws up a flea-flicker, which of course is executed to perfection, clinching the game and setting in motion a dramatic run to a Super Bowl championship for the Men of Steel.
The story picks up the next offseason with Cowher resigning and the Steelers picking Mike Tomlin, a younger, badass defensive genius from Tampa Bay as the new coach over the Steelers’ own Whisenhunt. Clearly, Whizzy’s flashy offensive schemes are too gimmicky for the hard-nosed Steelers.
Faced with no other options (as the story makes it seem) Whisenhunt takes over the hapless Arizona Cardinals, the league’s worst franchise.
Meanwhile, Kurt Warner, the gritty, gutty, grizzly veteran quarterback looking to find a new home, finds one with Whizzy’s Cardinals...as a backup to a young upstart named Matt Leinart. Whisenhunt is skeptical of Leinart and his partying ways from the get-go, but with so much of the Cardinals’ money invested in the All-American boy, Whizzy has no choice but to start Leinart over Warner.
The thing is Warner knows he can still play; Whizzy knows it too, but can do nothing as Leinart struggles while his old team, the Tomlin-led Steelers, regain their status as one of the NFL’s elite franchises.
“Screw it,” Whisenhunt says at the beginning of the next season. “Kurt’s my guy. I don’t give a damn what people think.”
Well, “people” are skeptical, apprehensive, whatever you want to call it, as Warner begins the season as the Cardinals’ #1 guy.
“Warner’s washed up,” radio callers shout on Phoenix area sports-talk radio stations. “This ain’t St. Louis and this ain’t 1999.”
Warner, Whizzy and the rest of the Cardinals refuse to listen to those “people” and, out of nowhere, a funny thing happens: They start winning.
Yes, the hapless Arizona Cardinals are suddenly no longer hapless. Those “people” are even beginning to hype up Warner as a MVP candidate and potential Hall of Famer.
Of course, in the league’s other conference, the Steelers, as always, are chugging their way through to the top and seem to be destined for Tampa (see what I mean about foreshadowing) and Super Bowl XLIII.
Just when all seems well in sunny Cardinal-land, the stormy winter hits and the Cardinals are the Cardinals again.
“Warner’s washed up!” the people say. “And that Whisenhunt is too ‘pretty.’ This team needs a badass to kick their butts into gear!
Whisenhunt cannot agree more, and after an embarrassing loss in snowy New England, Whizzy goes badass on the team.
“Be here for practice Christmas morning,” he told the team. “Full pads, full contact.”
This badass practice is the turning point for the Cardinals. Arizona wins its regular season finale and then their high-powered offense steamrolls past Atlanta and Carolina in the playoffs. The Cards are now just one win away from a date with destiny (and Tomlin’s Steelers) as the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles.
“We need something that will shock the (bleep) out of them,” Whizzy tells his staff.
“What do you suggest?” random offensive coach asks.
Whizzy thinks back to that playoff game in Cincinnati and that game-clinching flea-flicker.
Before the Eagles know it, Kurt Warner is launching a bomb to Larry Fitzgerald for a demoralizing touchdown.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl!” Warner screams after a glorious victory for the Cardinals who are now full of hap.
In this story, Whisenhunt leads his band of underdogs against the mighty Steelers, with Tomlin glaring menacingly at the Whizzy on the Cardinals’ sideline, and pulls off the upset to end all upsets...
Of course, this Sunday’s Super Bowl will not a work of fiction; it will take place in real life: in a real stadium in front of real fans. And, none of those little signs, the seemingly innocuous sentences and paragraphs foreshadowing a happy, storybook ending for the Arizona Cardinals mean a damn thing in real life.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is indeed too tough, too badass for Whizzy’s flashy offense. Kurt Warner is old, and struggles against good defenses that get in his face.
In short, Mike Tomlin’s Men of Steel are the better football team and will take the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh for a record sixth time. Period.
End of story.