The NFL Conference championships on Sunday had plenty of drama, and at the end of the night, well, the media can start with some choice Family Feud jokes.
That's because it will in fact be the "HarBowl", or, Harbaugh Bowl, as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens advanced to Super Bowl 47, to take place on February 3 in New Orleans. It will be the 2nd meeting on the field for coaches---and brothers---Jim & John Harbaugh, and this one's for all the marbles.
The last time the Niners & Ravens met, Baltimore won a regular season meeting in 2011, which was a temporary bump in the road for the 49ers en route to the NFC Championship game.
For San Francisco & Baltimore, it was about redemption. The Niners were denied by the eventual champion Giants last year, embarassed at home. Now, however, with ex-Giant Mario Manningham on the roster, a victory in the Super Bowl would certify the rebirth of the 49ers as an elite team in the NFC. All they needed, really, was the perfect combination of coach & quarterback. In the 80's, there was Bill Walsh & Joe Montana. In the 90's, it was George Seifert & Steve Young, the latter now with ESPN. Today, it's Jim Harbaugh, the former QB out of Michigan who bounced around as a journeyman during his playing days, and Colin Kaepernick, the 2nd year boy wonder, who has been a choice blend of both Hall of Fame QB's before him.
As has been documented here previously, the Ravens were screwed by the Patriots last year, so this time, it was about karmic justice. Never mind that Baltimore had gained a measure of revenge during the regular season, even though that game did seem to play in the collective psyche of the NFL's "evil empire". The Ravens defense did the near-impossible, shutting down Tom Brady and the New England offense in the second half, holding the Pats scoreless. Oh, New England had their chances, but this time, there would be no last second rally. No miracles.
The Ravens have a lot more to play for. The Super Bowl will be Ray Lewis' last game after 17 seasons, and he'd love to go out a winner, just like the Giants' Michael Strahan and Denver's John Elway, who retired as champions. It will also be dedicated to the memory of owner Art Modell, who passed away a few weeks back. Destiny, then, seems to be on the side of the purple & black. Between the two franchises, the Ravens & Niners are undefeated in Super Bowl play, a combined 6-0, so something has to give.
I spoke before about karmic justice. That certainly was true, and if the Pats want someone to scapegoat for the loss, it can be the San Antonio-based media giant, Clear Channel, which on Saturday started a countdown clock on some of the billboards they own in the Boston area for Lewis. If that doesn't define arrogance on the part of the Patriots and their supporters, I don't know what does. The Yankees don't do stunts like that. They're smarter and more sophisticated than that, you see. And, then, I read about the latest example of Bill Belichick's poor sportsmanship after the game, blowing off a mandatory CBS interview, and delegating that duty to defensive back Devin McCourty, who demonstrated more class and humility than Belichick has in the last 6 seasons combined.
Personal note: I bowl in a mixed league filled with Giants fans. The Dolphins, Eagles, Steelers, Bears, Cowboys, 49ers, and, yes, the Patriots have fans in the league, and the Patriots fan was blowing hot air Saturday night, perhaps celebrating a wee bit too soon. He was so sure it would be 49ers-Patriots, he was blowing that hot air at the Niners fan, who was on my team. This coming Saturday, someone's getting some crow. Just sayin'.