Football season in North America officially ends later today in New Orleans (5:30 p.m. kick-off Regina time) when the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens take the field against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. For pigskin addicts, that means four months and a bit of going without. Not until CFL teams open training camp in late May/early June will they again be able to watch footballs being passed, kicked and carried in game competition.
Today’s game has the potential to be pretty good. The 49ers lost in OT in the NFC final to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants last season, and they were a solid team from day one this year. The Ravens were an AFC finalist last season too (they lost in New England to the Patriots), and they started strong this year, but did endure a five game losing streak near the end of the season. They beat Indianapolis Colts handily in a Wildcard game, then squeaked past a tough Bronco team in OT in Denver, then in the AFC final on Jan. 20 they manhandled the Patriots at Foxboro 28-13. The 49ers, meanwhile, pounded Green Bay Packers at home 45-31 in the NFC semi-final, then overcame a 17-0 first half deficit against the Falcons in Atlanta to claim a hard-fought 28-24 victory in the NFC final.
Heading into the game there are two especially compelling storylines. The first is that for the first time in Super Bowl history two brothers will oppose each other as head coaches. The Ravens are helmed by John Harbaugh, and the 49ers are coached by his younger brother (by a year) Jim. The second storyline features players at the end of and possibly at the start of great NFL careers. After 17 season, Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. 49er QB Colin Kaepernick, conversely, is in his second season, having taken over from former starter Alex Smith at mid-year. Against Green Bay, he set a single-game NFL record for most rushing yards by a QB with 181.
If anyone wants to make a prediction on the outcome, feel free to do so in the comments section. And in late spring we’ll be back with the first edition of Rider Fan Forum for 2013. By then, the free agent situation will have settled and the CFL draft been held. I should also mention that I’m in negotiations to add a fourth panelist to join Earl Camembert, Ron Mexico and Cal Corduroy. I’ve been wooing him for a couple of years now, but he keeps putting me off. He says he doesn’t know enough about football to comment intelligently. But when you sit and watch a game with him, you can’t help but marvel at the depth and quality of his insights. So we’ll see how that goes.