In the buildup to next week's Super Bowl, we're about to answer a question that only a sadistic media-think-tank wonk would dare to ask: What happens when you multiply the Super-Bowl-week content sprawl by the volume and velocity of Twitter?
To paraphrase another sport's cutesy marketing catchphrase: Awesome happens, that's what. In addition to the pre-Super Bowl narrative mainstays -- veteran-seeks-elusive-first-ring (Charles Woodson), unit-triumphs-over-adversity-in-the-form-of-shredded-ligaments (the Steelers' offensive line) -- we'll be avalanched with 140-character bursts of content as well. It'll all be too much, and it'll all be blissfully tranquilizing.
That said, some among us might not want to expose themselves to the amplification. To spare them the drain of clicking hundreds of truncated bit.ly links, then, here's our annual summary of Super Bowl storylines.
These are the tales that will be told ad nauseam in the days that follow, ranked in order of potential for sanctimony and impartment of life lessons. Read them now, then turn down the volume until kickoff. Just promise not to do anything productive with the time you save, OK?
1. The Steelers and Packers both hail from Footballtown, USA: Football means something where they come from. Why, the morning after a Steelers loss, the townsfolk wander the streets as if concussed. Similarly, on Mondays after a Packers defeat, grief counselors set up shop in every area store that sells processed meat (which is to say: all of them). It's not like Seattle, where locals fret more about the environmental impact of discarded we're-No.-1 foam fingers, or Philadelphia, where the natives smother their disappointment in Cheez Whiz and bury it deep in an Amoroso's roll.
Pittsburgh and Green Bay fans care, man. They care so, so much. Their emotional attachment has made Super Bowl XLV less a game than a passion play, complete with the requisite flogging of nonbelievers. It has also made Dallas the country's hottest travel destination, which in turn has given travel writers an unexpected Super Bowl subject of their own (chronicling alternative ways to reach the game, like self-smuggling into Mexico and doubling back through El Paso). There is no hotter ticket in humanity.
2. The Steelers and Packers do things the right way: Both organizations believe in the sanctity of The System. They snag the players who fit and discard the rest. For instance, you'll never see the Packers draft a receiver dispositionally unfit for the West-Coast offense, or the Steelers fill a vacancy at defensive end with a third baseman.
Those who disrespect The System or prove unable to master its complexities are banished into the forest -- or worse, into the NFC West. Do not taunt The System.
3. Aaron Rodgers shall complete his ascent into the Peyton/Brady/Brees tier of quarterbacks, and receive a bounty of the finest silken threads for his efforts: Sure, the two-second video clip that went viral last week offered conclusive evidence that Rodgers hates people with cancer, but otherwise his play and comportment has been lofty. Rodgers even appeals to those who credit individuals for team achievement: He has already won as many playoff games on the road as the guy who preceded him at quarterback in Green Bay. You know the one, with the truck and the impish grin and the yeee-haw!
Rodgers' anointment ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday at noon CST. Roger Staubach and Dan Fouts will preside. Dress is business casual.
4. Ben Roethlisberger sings the sweetest redemption song: He is penitent, truly, for his bluster, ego, motorcycle follies, less-than-gallant courtship of Jell-O shot enthusiasts and the other alleged allegations that have allegedly been alleged. We know this because he told us so and because he's gone nearly 11 full months without being subpoenaed.
Even in a society where innocent-until-proven-guilty is less a defining principle than a casual advisory, Roethlisberger has paid for his indiscretions in the form of, like, lost endorsements. He heard the boos and they totally motivated him to execute a turbo-fast personal turnaround; he even asked a sweet small-town gal for her hand in marriage (she said yes!!!). All together now: I once was losssstttttt, but now am fouuuunnnnddddd...
4a. But what does the re-embrace of Big Ben say about you and me?: Perhaps we value winning over character. Maybe our culture of celebrity worship has blinded us to what matters most -- which, of course, is setting a good example for all the innocent little children. Shame on us. We should be sent to bed without dessert. [Insert irrelevant Michael Vick analogy here.]
4b. Meanwhile, shouldn't Roethlisberger be ranked in that elite quarterback tier as well? He makes plays with his arm and his legs, plus his bulbous head outweighs most defensive backs and thus renders him impossible to tackle. Deplore him as an individual if you must, but give the guy his due as a performer: Indeed.
5. Mike Tomlin and Mike McCarthy are decent, congenial human beings: They don't cheat, talk crap or puff out their chests. Deadspin hasn't (yet) exposed them as genitalia self-portraiteers or belt-buckle fetishists. Their next controversial pronouncements ("Rodgers can't win the game by himself," "The Steelers tackled sloppily on approximately three punt returns this season") will be their first.
So please -- if you have even mildly incriminating information on either coach -- say, a receipt for the purchase of a Mad About You DVD set -- forward them this way immediately. Daddy's got deadlines.
6. Clay Matthews: Generations: Clay Matthews III plays football in the NFL, as did his father, grandfather and uncle. His cousin plays pro football and his brother plays college football. His children and grandchildren will play football, unless the women who bear them are spastic dwarfs. The takeaway here: Genetics works.
7. There is no more principled and dignified family in the history of familial organization/subdivision than the Rooney family: They're fiercely loyal to coaches and team personnel. They've prodded the NFL into considering people who don't look like Jim Fassel for head-coaching gigs. They've, like, restored diplomatic relations with Ireland or something.
If you break bread with a member of the Rooney family, you leave the table feeling like you've consumed a 37-ounce wisdom filet. If you make eye contact with a member of the Rooney family, you shed the bifocals within minutes. Before long, the Rooneys will even convert crazed guerrilla helmet commando James Harrison into a soft-spoken line-toer. We should send them into every prison and junior high shop class.
8. James Starks emerged from Lake Michigan on January 9, 2011 fully formed as a running back, an event that has prompted scientists to reconsider long-held theories of evolution: Who is this guy? (A person who plays football.) Where did he come from? (Niagara Falls by way of Buffalo.) What dark secret in his past is he hiding? (A mild case of fumblitis, which was treated with antibiotics.)
Prior to the NFC playoffs, nobody knew Starks' name, except for this guy Seth in my Fantasy league. Now everybody knows Starks' name. Hollywood producers looking for the next superhero-origin story to mythologize, here's your man.
9. Brett Keisel has a beard: It is a long beard. It is a strong beard. It was grown either to amuse his teammates or protest inhumane labor conditions in Malaysia. If you pull on it, it hurts.
Also, Brett Keisel is pretty good at football.
10. This could be it for a while, kids: With labor headaches on the horizon -- on March 3, the owners will lock the players out of their Acuras, as I understand it -- there's a chance that Super Bowl XLV will be the last NFL action for months, years, decades. "But surely they wouldn't throw away all that cash, or deny America the thing it cherishes more than democracy, grandma and cheeseburgers combined," you say. To that I respond: Yeah, it'll probably get worked out before the 2011 season is put at risk, but this is the same league that has given us excessive-celebration misdemeanors and multiple Wade Phillips regimes. Let's not assume common sense will seize the higher ground.
Just in case, then: Send us out on a high note, glory franchises. Packers 25, Steelers 20.