Monday, January 29, 2001

Super Sunday-night time-killer does its job

By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

  Okay, so Super Bowl XXXV wasn't much of a football game if you like flashy offence.

 But look on the bright side: It's never a bad day when you get to see Ray Charles sing America The Beautiful.

 As a warmup act for Survivor, the Baltimore Ravens' 34-7 win over the New York Giants pretty much did its job.

 How else are you going to kill time on a Sunday night in January? Study the XFL pre-season rosters?

 It's not as if nobody was warned. For the past two weeks, people solemnly have looked into the camera and acted as if they were telling us something we didn't know.

 "Well, Bubba, it's Baltimore and the Giants in the Super Bowl and my gut instinct is that it has all the makings of a defensive kind of ball game. That's the way I see it, anyway."

 Ya think?

 And don't be fooled by those 34 points the Ravens put on the board. The Baltimore defence had a hand in virtually every offensive series, giving quarterback Trent Dilfer and his offence superior field position all game. If it hadn't been for special teams -- when was the last time you saw back-to-back touchdowns on kickoff returns? -- then this would have been a game only a defensive co-ordinator could love.

 Whether you thought Ray Lewis should have been somewhere else, doing time or not, the guy is in a league by himself when it comes to playing linebacker. He set the tone early, tipping passes, making tackles and covering wide receivers with the speed and dexterity of a cornerback.

 Electrifying kickoff returns aside, this game was pretty much over before the half, with Baltimore up by 10 points and its defence pitching a shutout.

 The halftime show was kind of like the annual father and son game: Aerosmith and 'N Sync sharing a stage.

 Would you like a little Viagra with your Clearasil?

 It was about this time I figured out I wasn't watching the same telecast as about 95% of the viewers in Canada.

 On Bell Expressvu, they had one channel devoted to something called Super Definition, which is some kind of variation on high-definition TV, or maybe just a play on words. The picture did seem a little sharper, even on my ancient little set.

 Anyway, what made it absolutely super was the fact that I didn't have to listen to Phil Simms. Greg Gumbel is okay, but Simms just gets under my skin. On the Super Definition channel, the announcers were Kevin Harlan and Daryl (Moose) Johnston who, it turns out, is an entirely likable, articulate and informative colour man.

 He chided Giants quarterback Kerry Collins for holding the ball too long, allowing the Ravens to sack him.

 "You can't afford to get into second- or third-and-long because this defence will kill you in those situations," Johnston said. On the next play, second down and 18 to go, Collins was picked off by Ken Herring.

 CBS made a big deal about the introduction of EyeVision, a multi-dimensional version of instant replay based on input from dozens of cameras around the field. The first few times it was used, it was underwhelming.

 But then, late in the game, when the Giants challenged a Baltimore touchdown, arguing the ball didn't break the plane of the goal line, it was the EyeVision replay that showed without a shred of a doubt that the ball was in the end zone.

 By the time they got to the fourth quarter, the atmosphere in Raymond James Stadium had been drained of any semblance of drama.

 "Right now, it looks like Week 4 of the pre-season, with everybody just hoping to stay healthy for the opener," Johnston said. "But that's Baltimore's style. Their intent in every game is to break the will of the opposition and that's what they've done here."

 Nobody outside of Baltimore is going to wax eloquently about Super Bowl XXXV. This was a working stiff's championship, plain and simple. CBS saved all the glamour for Survivor.

Who do you think will win Super Bowl XXXV?

13%  voted for Ravens by over 10 points
35%  voted for Ravens by under 10 points
18%  voted for Giants by over 10 points
34%  voted for Giants by under 10 points

Total votes: 1419

Following Super Bowl XXXV, check out Jam!'s coverage of Survivor II