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Eric Walden: Breaking down the Super Bowl subplots
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As any pigskin-obsessed astrophysicist will tell you, Super Bowl XLVII has more angles than a tetrakaidecagon …

That would be a 14-sided polygon, for the few of you who didn't already know.

Some are banal subject matter for second-year psych students (sibling rivalry), some are faaaaaaaabuloussssssssly ironic (a San Francisco player making homophobic comments), and some are patently absurd (deer-antler spray, anyone?).

Let's narrow it down to a few of the biggies.

The Skinny, Part I: Harbowl

First off, yes, I am aware the term is trademarked, and no, I did not get express written consent. I'll take my chances.

Anyway, in the event you had not made the connection that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh are brothers, may I suggest you put down that bottle of Night Train and check into rehab immediately.

It's remarkable how little we actually know about them for as much play as this storyline gets. Everyone's "The Brothers Harbaugh" tale dutifully notes the same material: "John is the elder by 15 months … their dad was a coach … Jim was a star quarterback at Michigan and played in the NFL for 15 seasons … John took a long and winding road to being an NFL head coach …"

Anything there you didn't already know? Nope.

What I want to know is, how much rivalry do these siblings actually have? Are these brothers more Liam and Noel Gallagher or Angus and Malcolm Young? If the Niners win and Jim gives one of his too-aggressive back slaps, will John throw on a headlock and scream about how he never got to choose the posters that went on their bedroom wall?

THIS is the stuff we want to know.

The Skinny, Part II: Concussive Effects

Speaking of Bands of Brothers, I wonder if Jim Harbaugh consulted Eddie and Alex Van Halen for their insights on kicking a thriving frontman to the curb and going on to great success with the replacement.

Cue the mental image of Alex Smith in a David Lee Roth-style spandex bodysuit singing "Panama."

But wouldn't a far more compelling "celebrity" career arc for Smith to follow be that of Tonya Harding?

If Jeff Gillooly, Shawn Eckhardt and Shane Stant were to run onto the SuperDome field and kneecap Colin Kaepernick, Smith's once-promising season may yet be salvaged.

Simmer down — it's not like he's going to do it. While he's made it clear he's somewhere south of thrilled about being benched, he's also too much the consummate professional to engage in any shenanigans.

Then again, Diamond Dave's entire shtick is shenanigans, so you never know.

The Skinny, Part III: The Last Ride

All Ray Lewis wanted to do was smack a few Niners around, retire a two-time champ, and Squirrel Dance off into the sunset. Instead, he had to spend two full days denying he used a prohibited deer-antler spray to speed his recovery from a torn triceps.

And I thought I'd never encounter a stranger Super Bowl subplot than Raiders center Barrett Robbins' tequila and Tecate binge in Tijuana a day before El Juego Grande.

You could argue Lewis could've avoided this mess if he'd called it quits whilst still in his prime instead of going on for several seasons longer than he should have — kinda like post-Steve Carell episodes of "The Office."

Then again, I've never been one to tell athletes when they "should" retire. These guys have a finite window of opportunity in which their career consists of being extremely well-compensated for playing a game that suits their athletic skill set. Who am I to say, "It's all fine and well that you 'love the game,' but you really tarnished your legacy by coming back for one more season"?

And besides, "going out on top" means different things to different people. For some, it's retiring at the peak of their athletic prowess. Lewis may be past that, but I doubt he will have any regrets (deer-antler spray aside) if his final postgame cryfest involves holding the Lombardi Trophy.

The line

49ers by 31/2.

The pick

My heart says Ravens, while my gut says 49ers. However, since I really don't like the Niners, I'll engage in some fictitious and conveniently-timed self-loathing — ergo, if I hate my own guts, I'd better go with my heart instead.

Ravens it is.

See? Simple as a tetrakaidecagon.

Beyond sibling coaches, this Super Bowl is about rock stars, figure skaters and forest creatures.
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