The two-week layoff between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl allows for some much-needed rest for the players involved, but it also gives more time for negative press leading up to the Super Bowl.
This year has been no different, as a few negative storylines have surfaced leading up to the Super Bowl showdown set to take place 6:30 ET Sunday between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
The first piece of negative press stems from a report courtesy of David Epstein and George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated. The report brings to light allegations that linebacker Ray Lewis used the banned substance Deer Antler Spray while he was recovering from a torn triceps injury earlier this season.
Here are the details:
Ross says he provided the products free of charge...All Ross wanted in return, he told Lewis, is for the future Hall of Famer to tell the truth—that he used S.W.A.T.S. products—when he returned to the field.
Ross prescribed a deluxe program, including holographic stickers on the right elbow; copious quantities of the powder additive; sleeping in front of a beam-ray light programmed with frequencies for tissue regeneration and pain relief; drinking negatively charged water; a 10-per-day regimen of the deer-antler pills that will "rebuild your brain via your small intestines" (and which Lewis said he hadn't been taking, then swallowed four during the conversation); and spritzes of deer-antler velvet extract (the Ultimate Spray) every two hours.
Most of the attention surrounding Lewis in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl has been uncharacteristically without controversy, centering around his imminent retirement from the sport. That press has been the positive aspect of Lewis' story, but now this news has overshadowed that.
Is two weeks too long between the AFC/NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl?
There is no hard proof that Lewis did use the banned substance and he has flatly denied using the Deer Antler Spray. However, considering the history of major athletes denying and then admitting the use of banned substances, it's hard not to at least suspect that Lewis could be dishonest.
The next piece of negative press comes from disparaging comments made in a radio interview by 49ers second-year cornerback Chris Culliver, per Cam Inman of MercuryNews.com:
"I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that," Culliver said during a taped, one-minute podcast with Artie Lange.
Asked if the 49ers have any homosexual players, Culliver responded: "No. Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff." Culliver reiterated that was a true statement, and when asked if a good player might be welcomed anyhow, he said: "Nah. Can't be ... in the locker room, man. Nah."
An explanation of why these comments are so wrong isn't really necessary, but clearly the word "tolerant" does not seem accurate in a description of Culliver. Granted, he has a right to his own opinion, but sometimes things are better left unsaid.
Thankfully for the Big Game itself, these two stories will not come close to overshadowing what is far and away the biggest event of the NFL season. The Super Bowl is a national sensation each and every year, so it's nearly impossible for anything or anyone to overtake the event itself in terms of media buzz.
Nevertheless, had there not been a two-week interval before Super Bowl XLVII, these stories would have been fodder for after-season discussion. Instead, people are talking about them with little else going on while the long wait for the Super Bowl winds down.
Not to mention, this time allows for athletes like Culliver, who otherwise wouldn't get much of a stage to talk, to be overexposed, thus giving way to the possibility that they say or do something extremely dumb.
The NFL will likely never change the two-week rest period because it seems to be a necessary evil for both the media and game's participants. That said, while Lewis didn't have a choice in having this report released about him, let Culliver's comments be a lesson to players who will take part in the pre-Super Bowl festivities in the future:
Sometimes, less is more.