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Why is off-field drama taking shine off game?


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Did Ray Lewis use antler spray? Is Chris Culliver intolerant? Is Jim Harbaugh a fiercer competitor than John?

On the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, those are the most compelling questions heading into the big game.

And speaking of the big game, not a lot is being said about that.

Seems the ancillary dramas playing out in New Orleans are overshadowing the main event.

That’s too bad.

Because whatever Super Bowl XLVII lacks in panache, it makes up for in the potential to lift the curtain on a new era.

Which isn’t to suggest we’ve seen the last of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Or Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin. Or Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin. Or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Peyton Manning. But we might be seeing the dawn of new dynasties, with new luminaries lighting the way.

Granted, San Francisco and Baltimore are not great teams. But they have young coaches with great futures.

Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco are not stars. But they are determined leaders with star capability.

Frank Gore and Ray Rice are not flashy runners. But they are game-breakers who can light up defenses.

Those are just a few examples. Yet in the final Super Bowl analysis, we’ve heard very little about that.

What we’ve heard plenty of is Ray Lewis and antler spray. And Ray Lewis and the murder rap he beat in 2000. And Ray Lewis this, and Ray Lewis that.

We’ve heard a lot about Chris Culliver, too. An otherwise anonymous cornerback, he’s been center stage for saying a gay player wouldn’t be welcome in the 49ers’ locker room.

And we’ve heard about the Harbaugh sibling rivalry, ad nauseum. A natural storyline, yes. Unprecedented and interesting, too. But after a day or two of hitting it — and repeating it — from every conceivable angle, it’s time to move on.

Yet we haven’t.

Instead, we seem to get a steady stream of the latest updates of the same old stories — none of which sheds much light on the actual game. Which could be a great one, with or without star power. It could in fact be a star-maker.

Kaepernick? Flacco? Michael Crabtree? A Hall-of-Famer-to-be-revealed later?

Joe Montana had to start somewhere, and the Super Bowl was his launching pad. He wasn’t a household name until he won a few. Same for Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, et al.

The Super Bowl can immortalize coaches, as well. Think Don Shula and Tom Landry. Think Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs. Think Belichick, Tomlin and Coughlin.

The Super Bowl cemented their legacies. Will this one be the start of doing the same for one, or both, of the Harbaughs? The sibling aspect notwithstanding, they have both enjoyed remarkable success in remarkably short time. That’s what matters.

Yet most of the Super Bowl hype seems to be hyping everything but the Super Bowl.

Did Lewis use antler spray — which is banned by the NFL — to make a speedy recover from a torn triceps? Whether he did or whether he didn’t, is that really the big story?

And what about Culliver. Are his insensitive remarks the No. 1 story? Or is this particular Super Bowl so bland, so glitz-starved that it needs a tinge of controversy — exaggerated or otherwise — to prop it up?

Much of the buildup seems to have diverted our attention from where it should be: on the game. A little off-field drama is always fun, but it seems a bit forced here. Super Bowl hype should hype only the Super Bowl.

Antler spray?

Heard enough already, unless Ray Lewis grows antlers.

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