Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: A Date with Density

Today, Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling books “What I Really Meant Was… ” and “The Top 100 Lists of Top 100 Sports Lists “. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Who’s the Loudest? Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

Last year’s Super Bowl pitted two black coaches against one another for the first time, and in so doing, completely eliminated all traces of racism from our country. This Sunday, we will witness another clash, one even more historic: a clash of destinies.

I asked a prominent scientist who asked to remain nameless, how do you determine which team’s destiny is greater? How do you measure the surface area of fate? What is the body mass index of karma and kismet?

He told me that all of these things are ephemeral concepts and therefore immeasurable. So I asked him, about the teams’ density ? That sounds like “destiny”. You can measure that, right?

You could probably measure a team’s collective density, he said. But considering each team has the same number of players and personnel, any differences would probably be negligible and have little impact on the game.

Then I asked him to take a look at a rash that’s really been bugging me, but I don’t need to talk about that here.

But I beg to differ with this man of science. Anything can be measured, as long as you’re creative and don’t care too much about stuff like accuracy.

Let’s look at the elements of the Patriots’ destiny. Their 18-0 record registers off the charts on my Destinometer. So does Tom Brady’s excellence in the postseason, his grace under pressure, and his smoldering good looks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! (A Seinfeld reference; I’ve been seeing a lot of this show on late night TV lately. Definitely worth checking out, if you’ve never seen it.)

On the minus side, you have Bill Belichick, who’s unfriendly and cheats. And as we all know, unfriendly cheaters never succeed in any sport. They’ve also got Randy Moss, who totally gave up on the Raiders, which I find disgraceful since Al Davis might turn to dust any second.

Plus, he once mooned fans. Or at least he mimed pulling down his pants, which is a terrible example to set for our children. If a kid sees something like that, he’s liable to pull his pants down everywhere! Like my son Joey did during Sunday mass a few weeks ago. I blame Randy Moss for that, even though Joey doesn’t watch football and is 27 years old.

For the Giants, you have Eli Manning, who has certainly redeemed himself after a few shaky years. Those New Yorkers were certainly ready to run him out of town after several dozen terrible starts! That sure is an impatient city. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

You also have to respect and admire Tom Coughlin’s stewardship of this team. The way he bends at the waist, tilts his head, and looks incredulous each time a penalty is called. The way he screams at the kicker after missing two easy field goals. The way his face turns purple in subzero temperatures. That is a man who knows how to look like a leader.

Working against the Giants are players like Plaxico Burress. Don’t make predictions about
your own team! Leave that up to sportswriters like me. I’m quite proud of my 34 percent success rate in picking this year’s games. It’s a bit lower than that if you account for the spread, but still a marked improvement over last year.

Once we calculate all these factors, do some quick math (no long division, though; too hard), add in pi, allow for inflation, apply the golden ratio, and multiply the secant by the hypotenuse, we get the following:

Patriots: 73i+ö8%

Giants: ≈ £9dy/dx-4¡

Clearly, these numbers mean it’s anyone’s ballgame.

But the real winners of this year’s Super Bowl will be the fans! Of course, the team that wins will be winners, too. And I guess that’s more of a “real” win than any of the fans will experience, depending on what’s going on in your life. I know there’s plenty of days when I don’t feel like much of a winner! Like when you’re stuck in traffic and you’re gonna be late to work! Or when you keep having to bail your son out of jail because he won’t stop dropping his pants in public!

But the fans are luck. They get to see all the great commercials in the comfort of their homes, instead of a cramped luxury suite with an open bar and bottomless shrimp cocktails. I just hope they don’t use the GoDaddy girl again this year. I’m all for looking at pretty ladies, but that kind of suggestiveness has no place on TV. I much prefer ads where two guys almost kiss each other and horses fart on people.

Plus, the fans get to watch a fantastic halftime show with an up-and-coming band like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. No danger of a wardrobe malfunction there. Last year, Prince was a little too “street” for my taste. And he played a guitar in the rain–he could have been

A lot of reporters complain about how media week at the Super Bowl is a “circus.” And I agree, it’s just like a circus–because it’s really fun! Instead of clowns, I get to expense meals every day. I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden three nights already–and I might just have to go back tonight; I just can’t stay away from the Neverending Pasta Bowl. Maybe tonight I’ll see one of those colorful elderly uncles from Sicily who are in all the commercials.

And instead of guys walking on tightropes, I get free stuff everywhere I go. Yesterday, I went to a media event where everyone got gift baskets from Merck, with a free sample of a trial drug. Can you believe it? Sure, it gave me heart palpitations and I can’t feel my left leg, but I got to try it before everyone else did. Amazing!

And you would not believe the celebrities you get to rub elbows with at the Super Bowl. Guess who I saw exiting a bathroom just ten minutes ago. TV’s Mark Harmon! I would’ve asked for an autograph, but he was having trouble zipping up his fly. But he gave me one of those “how are ya?” nods. Mark Harmon: class act.

It’s stuff like this that reminds me why I became a sportswriter. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to go home, and sit up and wonder why my wife is coming home after 4 in the morning.

Enjoy the game, everyone! But before I go, here’s my Deadlock Prediction: Patriots by 3, unless they pull ahead early, in which case Patriots by 12, but if the Giants are leading or close at the end of the 3rd quarter, then Giants by 4, but possibly Giants by 1.

A bold prediction, I know, but I stand by it.