Manly Super Blog: Carving a path through Super Bowl week

NOTE: Nick Bakay will be updating his "Manly Super Blog" throughout Super Bowl week. Check back every day for updates, and then read Nick's Super Sunday blog during the game.

Sunday, Feb. 3, 11:13 a.m.

IT'S ALL SO SIMPLE WHEN WE BREAK THINGS DOWN SCIENTIFICALLY

Yes, at long last we can focus on the game on the field now that the endless wait for kickoff is only hours away instead of days and weeks. Don't forget to keep logging on after the game kicks off, as the Manly Super Blog lives up to its name by staying live throughout the game, when I'll be posting my quarterly reports on everything from game to the broadcast to the commercials - in other words the part that's fun, because it's completely informed by hindsight - a beautiful place where "wardrobe malfunction" isn't speculation, but a very real and grossly underwhelming reality.

By the way, that sure worked some hex-buster magic on Janet Jackson's career, now didn't it? Next stop, "Dancing with the Stars?"… "Celebrity Apprentice?"… "Jumbo's Clown Room?"

Yes, hindsight is child's play compared to taking a peek into the crystal ball and trying to forecast the outcome of the Super Bowl. This is when you open yourself up to ridicule if you get it wrong… but when has being wrong ever stopped me before?

You want intangibles? How about intangibles that have been belted by gamma rays and turned into the manly X-factors we proudly call…

SUPERBOWL XLII MANTANGIBLES

THE UNLIKEABILITY FACTOR:

Which team irritates you the most? I suppose this contest might be running neck and neck for the impartial football fan that watches the Super Bowl without a rooting interest.

Despite their remarkable excellence, the Patriots have done plenty to creep out the nation. They may or may not have cheated twice, but they most assuredly cheated once, and that's a problem. Anyone who disagrees, just do the simple math: The Pats are the NFL's jewel in the crown - a 19-0 season is something the league can keep selling for a loooong time, so do you really think they would have thrown the book at the best thing to happen to pro football since the Ice Bowl if it didn't have to? No way. No matter how tightly it rings Belichick and Brady's panties in a bunch, they messed up, and the fact that the tape was destroyed only underscores it.

Then there's the way New England spent plenty of Sundays this season humiliating teams, sending Brady back in after his backup tosses a meaningless interception, running up BCS points, picking the wings off of flies -- it's bully stuff, and as delightful as it may have been to Patriot nation, it doesn't have a whole lot of class.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants aren't exactly fetching, either. Tom Coughlin is one of the most unpleasant sourpusses to ever stride the sidelines of an NFL game, and that, my friends, is saying something (Two words: Gunther Cunningham!) Much has been made of how Coughlin finally loosened up, but it follows years and years of micro-controlling anal tidbits, from forbidding sunglass during Jacksonville's summer training camps to fining players for failing to arrive at team meetings ten minutes early. Marone. Every working adult has, at some point, worked for dictatorial martinet who confused control with respect, and that is the face we see in Coughlin. What can I tell you, right up until he led this team to a Super Bowl, even Giant fans have had a very hard time rooting for him.

Then there's the Eli thing - nothing against the kid, but here you've got Tom Brady winning the rings and dating his way through enough spectacular women that he is verging on Namath-status. Check that - no one can come close to Namath - but Brady is the closest thing we've got. Meanwhile, Eli forces a trade to Namath's old stomping grounds and does nothing with it. Sheepish, aw shucks, dateless, dull. It's irritating. The guy needs to go to the Learning Annex and take Derek Jeter's master class on "How to Be The King Of New York."

Strahan is just lame, whether it's the sordid details of his divorce or the incredibly uncomfortable vision of him playing air guitar in commercials. Every time this guy gets a shot at the spotlight, his energy reeks of "dude just wants it too much." Then there's Jeremy Shockey, who is apparently sitting this one out in a snit that the team is doing well without him. How much would you love to see Kevin Boss win Super Bowl MVP just as a burn? I could go on, but you get the picture -- these Giants are hard to love.

With all that bile being spilled, the simple fact is there is no way the Jints have what it takes to be an underdog compelling enough to be worthy of upending New England's march to the history books. Okay, maybe they cheated, but isn't it about time we were finally got to see those grumpy old '72 Dolphins get knocked off their pedestal?

ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

RUB SOME DIRT ON IT

For all their shortcomings in the likeability department, we dig the Giant attitude heading to Arizona. Trash talking, guaranteeing victory, cocky and loose -- it's the only way to go into the ring and battle Goliath. That being said, if Plaxico Burress isn't playing, or playing up to speed, they don't have a chance. My hunch is he will be there and contribute. He's a classic diva wide receiver. Remember Terrell Owens shaking off that broken leg and putting up big numbers for the Eagles in the big one? The power of sheer narcissism forces them to rise to the occasion when the spotlight is on, and this is the biggest spotlight going.

ADVANTAGE: GIANTS

THE CHARGERS PROVED TOM BRADY CAN BE HARASSED INTO MISTAKES…

And needless to say, the Giants have the pass rushers to get it done. Strahan, Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka? The Giant D-line alone could keep this game interesting. In fact, they better…

CHECK DOWN TO WES WELKER…

Unfortunately, Brady reads pressure better than anyone, and Welker is the answer because he reads blitzes almost as well as his all-world QB. All together now: What the heck was Miami thinking when they traded Welker, let alone within their own division? Show me one marginally competent fantasy football GM who makes a move that inane, even after fourteen shots of Bushmills?

ADVANTAGE: PUSH

GIVE A GENIUS TWO WEEKS, AND…

Bill Belichick will scheme a dastardly game plan guaranteed to throw Manning enough unprecedented curveballs the kid will be texting Peyton from the huddle. On top of that, Belichick has the game film of the Giants-Pats throwdown from earlier this season to dissect -- he might even have illegal tape of that game! Meanwhile, Eli still has one foot in the "just don't get your team beat" caliber of QBs.

This is a volatile mix. It also brings me to a bigger point - with the enormous pressure of the Super Bowl thundering down, which side do you see getting flummoxed if a cluster of bad things go down, say, in the second quarter? Here's a hint: It ain't Brady & Co.… ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

THE GREAT ONES PLAY HURT

Heading into this week, I was all set to call this a competitive game. When it comes to underestimating the 2007 N.Y. Giants, no one has been guiltier than yours truly. I barely noticed as they reeled off nine consecutive road wins, and found myself biting the pillow as they ran the streak up to 10 by stunning me, not to mention the Packers. I really didn't see that one coming. The Giants finally proved they can throw the ball in any conditions, with a special exclamation point for a game where conditions on the field were so cold, I fully expected New York's bench players cook Jared Lorenzen just to stay warm.

My regret for overlooking the Giants had me reeling and seriously considering them a viable contender… until sense of today's game changed when the scab of Spy-gate got picked in dramatic fashion, twice. First, Senator Arlen Specter decided to grab some headlines and face-time by demanding the league explain why the offending video was destroyed, implying foul play of some sort. Then the news lands that the Patriots may have taped the Rams walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI. If they can prove that one it's even worse than stealing the NY Jet defensive signals, which cost them a first-round pick as well as a bushel full o' cash. There is already speculation that it could force the Patriots to do the unthinkable and suspend or part ways with Belichick.

Of course, the way this affects the game could be incredibly negative… for the N.Y. Giants. No one plays better hurt and angry than New England - witness the early part of the season, when the scandal first broke and the Patriots transformed their humiliation into the kind of lopsided wins normally associated with a SEC team playing a warm-up game against a division three school.

Yes, the Pats have since settled into a mode of merely winning every game they play by increasingly human margins, but there has never been a team more capable and willing to pile it on, and the thought of these recent allegations once again tarnishing their place in history makes them far more likely to beat the Giants by a significant margin. The world just poked the bear, and if you're just hoping for a competitive game to keep the lights lit at your Super Bowl party, this is not a good thing… ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

FEARLESS SUPER BOWL XLII FORCAST

The Super-Secret NB number machine tallied the outcome of the game 28-20 in favor of the Patriots. Take away an effective Plaxico Burress and the gap widens considerably. Also factor in the way Super Bowl games tend to ratchet up nerves, leading to big plays and big gaffes, and I feel compelled to inflate the tally to a more decisive final score of:

PATRIOTS, 31-20.

We shall see, and of course, I'll be logging back on to take my punishment like a man if I'm wrong…

See you after the first quarter is in the books.

Saturday, Feb. 2, 10:57 a.m.

When is a "home game" an "away game?"

Now that the league has approved the Buffalo Bills plan to play one home game in Toronto, I cannot in good conscience deny my mixed emotions ...

On the supportive side, let me make this perfectly clear: I get it!

Despite the most passionate fans you could ever wish for, the Bills are a small-market franchise fighting to keep the team in town by scratching and clawing their way to a larger geographic reach, and Toronto is the big money, international city that might actually sell some corporate luxury seats worth the going rate in a big market -- and, as we all know, that's the revenue owners don't have to share.

In fact, initial reports indicate that the average ticket price for the Canadian game will quadruple the average price charged in Buffalo. Do the same math on a corporate box and it might just be the free agent price of a defensive tackle who can actually stop the run. Of course we had one, named Pat Williams, who was willing to give the Bills a home town discount ... and they let him leave without an offer. Yes, the same Pat Williams who is a Pro Bowler with the Vikings, but that's another story ...

I believe teams belong to the fans, not a billionaire, and as myopic as that may be I stand by my reasoning. I mean, if the Bills had to break out the tarpaulin and cover up 30,000 seats during a playoff season like they do in Jacksonville, that would be another story, but it is simply not the case. "Small market" doesn't just mean less money in the owner's pocket, it means less jobs, les pay, and less hope ... yet Bills nation sells out 75,000 seats come rain or come shine.

But fine. If a game in Toronto helps keep the Bills in my beloved hometown, I can live with it because it beats the hell out of the Portland Bills, so again, I get it!

However ...

If this is a slow roll to the vague geographical concept of the Buffalo Bills morphing into the "Western New York/Erie Basin/Southern Ontario/Tim Horton's Donuts Bills," I cannot tell a lie and it is weird, my friends. Not just because I believe teams should represent cities, not vague regions -- I prefer the Boston Patriots to New England, because as a fan with passion I don't believe any team should "belong" to an area so vaguely defined that it houses both Red Sox and Yankees fans. That's the principle, the more specific reality is that as a life-long fan of a team with the unforgivable shadow of relocation written all over it, I just tasted a little pre-vomit, and I'll tell you why:

It's hard for me to trust that one game in Toronto isn't just foreplay to a much larger betrayal.

1. Bad precedent

The day Art Modell packed up the Browns and moved them out of Cleveland, football fans everywhere may have been outraged, but football fans in Buffalo were outraged and terrified: If it could happen to an incredible fan base like our rust-belt brothers in Cleveland, then it could happen to us.

2. The league wants to go international, and this is the easy way to do it

Mexico City? Japan? Dubai?! Try to tell the modern NFL player he has to move to a weird and unfamiliar place and see how far you get. Compared to these options, Toronto is like asking them to move to Minneapolis-plus! Yes, the tax situation could be a huge problem, but Toronto starts the international ball rolling and on some level must be seen as a gateway to the more difficult expansions to come. Toronto lets the league set the precedent in the easiest of settings -- a glamorous, world-class city where English is the primary language.

3. I'm not sure these cities want to "share" anything

This might be the most important factor of all. Once again, I must elaborate: For some strange reason, most NFL fans are not NHL fans. Despite the fact that hockey is the only other sport that can offer the football freaks a proper mix of speed, skill, and violence, it is shunned for the soft and spineless crap-fest that is professional basketball. Now come on, you know hoops just doesn't get the job done -- how can it, when a player is allowed two free throws every time he gets nudged? SACK UP!

Seriously, if you're sitting there this offseason in a state of clinical depression brought on by a lack of football, give hockey a chance. It takes about five minutes to get the rules, it's a fantastic sport, the players sell out night after night, and if you enjoy a strong safety annihilating a receiver on a crossing route, you will fall in love with a defenseman leveling a forward when his head is down looking for a pass as he steaks across center ice. 'Nuff said, check it out, and thank me later -- excelsior!

All this NHL ignorance brings me to the crux of my third point: If you followed hockey at all, you'd know that the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the richest rivalries in the NHL. It's a hate/hate thang that it makes even the most mundane regular season meeting an electrically charged event. In football terms, this is Raiders vs. K.C., or Cowboys-Redskins. On a fan-base level, Buffalo and Toronto don't share anything, except contempt!

It's a tough and undervalued American city versus Canada's gem -- the poor town versus the rich town -- the economic gap is so wide, when the Leafs play in Buffalo the stands are often crowded with Toronto fans who can't afford a seat when the Leaf's play their home games. Which is why this strikes me as a marriage built out of business more than chemistry, and while the suits may say "That's fine, deal with it," acceptance on the fan level may prove more elusive ...

Yes, they are geographically close, but would you ever expect the Packers to play one home game a year in Chicago?

In the spirit of support materials, I offer you a tale of the tape. I think it will get you up to speed on a couple of things:

A. Despite the fact that everyone and his brother thinks they can rip off my tale of the tape concept, the simple fact remains that no one can come close to the master when it come to execution.

B. The NFL may not have a true handle on the complexities of its newest arranged marriage.

Nick Bakay's Tale of the tape

Buffalo vs. Toronto

Having grown up in a border town called Buffalo, I considered it a great honor to contribute this segment between periods during ESPN's coverage of the Eastern Conference Finals, and savored the opportunity to even a long standing score in one of hockey's better regional rivalries.

When Buffalonians and Torontonians meet, we often spend the time deriding each other's hockey teams and the local television programming we shared in our youth. Canadians delight in Eyewitness News' Irv Weinstein reporting yet another case of arson on the East Side -- the lead story in Buffalo for a good 20 years. Americans retaliate by deriding desperate and surreal CBC shows like Tiny Talents, which invariably featured a 7 year old accordion player from St. Catherines, or The Party Game, which starred obscure Canadian "celebrities" playing charades. At the end of the day, the strangest place to grow up gets a big Push. With apologies to my mom, who was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, away we go ...

Buffalo and Toronto -- a gritty punch line in the northern corner of a superpower vs. the fanciest city in a country whose entire population could fit in Ken Hitchock's pants. I should admit I grew up five minutes from the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, but my mom's Canadian, so I'm going to try to be very objective here. Sabres -- Leafs: the only Canadian team in the playoffs versus the only American survivor that hasn't relocated! Let's see how they stack up at the Tale of The Tape ...

Weather:

BUFFALO: Cold.
TORONTO: 90 northern miles colder, baby!
ADVANTAGE: Sabres. Yes! I don't get to rub that in very often.

Local kids want to go up to be:

BUFFALO: Employed.
TORONTO: American.
ADVANTAGE: Sabres.

What we got from them:

BUFFALO: Well, Toronto gave us Doug Flutie.
TORONTO: Well, America gave us electricity, freedom, civilization… did I mention freedom?
ADVANTAGE: Sabres.

What do their names do?

SABRES: Slice
LEAFS: Fall.
ADVANTAGE: Sabres

How regional snacks affect scoring:

TORONTO: Tim Horton's Donuts.
BUFFALO: Wings!
ADVANTAGE: Sabres! I'll take the hot scoring hand over a stay at home defenseman every time.

Do their socks have stripes in band of three:

TORONTO: Yes.
BUFFALO: Yes -- No! Not part of the "new look"
ADVANTAGE: Sabres. Memo to the Leafs: we cut the lollipop guild sketch!

Forces of darkness:

TORONTO: Domi.
BUFFALO: Satan. "Please allow me to introduce myself; I lit the lamp 40 times this year."
ADVANTAGE: Sabres. Besides, I've always preferred the original Tie Domi -- I believe they call him Rob Ray!

Insults that could cause a donneybrook in the loge:

TORONTO: Wide right, eh?
BUFFALO: Just be thankful we didn't trade you at Yalta for future considerations!
ADVANTAGE: Push. Kids -- no one wins when Mr. Hate comes a calling!

Big-time local marketing:

BUFFALO: Flutie Flakes.
TORONTO: Flutie Fluids ... ohhh ...
ADVANTAGE: Buffalo.

What locals fervently wish for:

BUFFALO: Lord Stanley's Cup.
TORONTO: American TV.
ADVANTAGE: Sabres.

Disgrace:

TORONTO: Fears of Quebec seceding.
BUFFALO: The fact that Dominik Hasek went to Germany to consult a "soft tissue" specialist.
ADVANTAGE: Push.

Tooth count of starting lineup:

TORONTO: 170 out of a possible 192.
BUFFALO: Four out of a possible 192. Now that's a playoff smile.
ADVANTAGE: Sabres.

Greatest athlete:

BUFFALO: O.J. Simpson. Oh. Move on to the next one ...

Favorite way to go over the Falls:

TORONTO: In a barrel.
BUFFALO: In a muscle car.
ADVANTAGE: Sabres.

Trick question: Number of Super Bowls:

TORONTO: 0
BUFFALO: 4
ADVANTAGE: Buffalo! I knew the day would come when I could turn those losses into wins.

So there you have it, it's so simple when you break things down scientifically. In a clanger off the crossbar, the advantage goes to Buffalo. But hang in there, Toronto -- for some reason, you're still the only one with a Major League Baseball team. Until next time, I'm Nick Bakay reminding you the numbers never lie.

Friday, Feb. 1, 2:35 p.m.

FOR THOSE STILL VAPOR-POCKED ABOUT WHAT TO EAT THIS SUNDAY:

BREAKING NEWS: I was just subpoenaed by Arlen Specter, demanding that I face a House Senate subcommittee and come clean about my secret Buffalo Wings and blue cheese recipe. You know, the one that created a sensation two years ago when I finally taught the world how to cook wings the right way.

I knew there would be fallout after millions of football fans came to realize they had been eating a joke their whole lives, but now they have gone too far!

Through my attorney, Mr. H. Pylori, esq., I informed Senator Specter that his strong-arm tactics were nothing more than political grandstanding, because, as anyone who reads the annual Manly Super Blog knows, there are no secrets!

I put my recipe right out there every year, along with a new recipe guaranteed to land you in a rascal scooter way before your time!

It's what I do! Any hep person knows that you cannot go wrong with a Super Bowl spread that includes my recipes. I keep 'em easy, and I keep 'em dee-to-the-liscious!

And away we go!

WINGS:

Let's just admit that the Buffalo wing is the best thing to happen to Super Bowl Sunday since the two-line Tivo that let's you record the Lingerie Bowl and save it for a quiet, introspective moment.

The wings have it all: heat, meat, and a dipping sauce with a crippling fat count, guaranteed to put your arteries on at least an elevated orange alert. They even offer the illusion of healthy eating, thanks to the perfunctory nod you toss at your celery sticks before submerging them, three knuckles deep, into the aforementioned blue cheese glop. (You'll note the word "glop" -- if it looks like "salad dressing," you have failed miserably.)

I grew up in Buffalo, so I could be accused of a nasty case of homerism here, but clearly the wing is a national affair. Like all culinary guilty pleasures, this is magic forged from a discarded animal part. In the pantheon of game-time gorging, the chicken wing has taken its place alongside other remnants-gone-great, like sausage, pork rinds, ribs, and even more nefarious regional delights like the snoot sandwich. (Don't ask…)

The Buffalo wing has reached a state of saturation than can only be captured by a really big word rarely used in a football blog - ubiquity. So I'm not a homer, and I'm not alone.

I'm just a guy who cares.

That's why it's time to bring the hammer down, and tell you that 99 percent of the wings consumed this Sunday are a travesty! Wet, sloppy, pallid nubs that are prepared by cooks who have Buffalo's greatest hit confused with barbecue - cook it, then slather it with sauce and serve.

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

If you want the real deal, you sauce 'em, and then you bake 'em.

Here now, a simple and proven technique. Trust me on this, and thank me before you drift into a diabetic stupor:

BUFFALO WINGS

FOR THE WINGS:

5 pounds of chicken wings, separated into drumette and bow sections, dried overnight on paper towels in the refrigerator.
3/4 cup of Frank's Original RedHot Sauce (or for the heat seekers, up your Scoville units with the hot sauce of your choice)
1 stick unsalted butter
2 capfuls of white vinegar
Peanut oil for frying

  1. Pour yourself an iced shot of tequila, take a deep breath, and contemplate greatness.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. Use aluminum foil to create a "collar" on a Dutch oven, electric frying pan, or cast iron skillet to prevent splattering. Add peanut oil to a depth of about 4 inches and place over high heat until oil registers 375 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer. Working in batches, place wings in hot oil, stirring frequently with a slotted spoon, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Cook until wings are golden brown, anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels, or if you want to kick it old school Buffalo style, drain 'em on some brown paper grocery bags.
  1. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and mix in Frank's sauce and vinegar for medium-spicy wings. Add more butter to lower spiciness, more sauce to raise spiciness.
  1. Place cooked wings in a large bowl, ladle sauce over wings, and toss to coat.
  1. Transfer coated wings to a large baking tray, and bake in oven: 15-20 minutes, or until wings are not sticky to the touch.

Serve hot with blue cheese dip, celery sticks, and beer.

Savor greatness.

THE BLUE CHEESE DIP

Say hello to the magic of the right kind of dipping vehicle revving it's engine as it rolls you down the cholesterol highway in style, thanks to my mom:

NANCY BAKAY'S SIGNATURE RECIPE:

2 tablespoons chopped onions
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
cayenne pepper to taste

Combine the above in a blender or food processor, then let it stand in the refrigerator overnight so the flavors can blend.

I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

SPECIAL SUPER BOWL XLII MOUNTAIN OF MEAT!

For those of you who have mastered the wings and feel the need to conquer new mountains, say hello to a recipe that comes with an epic flavor and a sassy touch of naughty…

BONELESS BOSTON BUTT ROAST ALERT: I saw this one on an old TV special about barbecue hot spots, long before there was a food network and barbecue how-to shows were unheard of.

I knew we were on to something special, because the chef who created this magic was so huge, they had to roll him out in a wheelbarrow.

CAJUN PORK ROAST:

¾ cup minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons tiger sauce (sweetened hot pepper sauce)
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 tablespoons steak sauce
2.5 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning (not too salty)
1 boneless Boston butt roast, 6 pounds

Combine the garlic, onion, sauces, mustard and seasoning.

Take a knife and pierce 8-10 small slits into each side of the roast. Using your hands, work the mixture inside all of the cuts. Then rub the meat on all sides with what you have left over.

You can cook it inside or outside:

Outdoor grill: Cook the roast with indirect heat until you hit an internal temp of 170 degrees.

Indoor oven: Pop in there at 350 degrees for about three hours.

How easy was that? Once again, I fulfill my moral obligation to hip you to recipes that are guaranteed to delight your palette, and put a bigger beating on your bowels than that thing in "Cloverfield…"

Enjoy!

Friday, Feb. 1, 8:27 a.m.

ZIG WHEN THEY ZAG...

From the West Coast offense to the Cover Two defense, the NFL has always shown itself to be a copy-cat kind o' league. Mix the fear of falling behind with a healthy dollop of owner meddling, and you get a handful of innovators leading a large pack of followers.

Witness the current rage for head coaches who just put down the Oxy 10 before it smeared the keys on their cell phones as they texted their votes in to American Idol.

I know Lane Kiffin is the latest in a long line of coaches who appear to have been eaten alive by the lion-in-winter eccentricities of Al Davis, but before you just jump on the consensus bandwagon here and assume Kiffin is the second coming of Paul Brown, open your mind to the possibility that, at the end of the day, he may not know more about football than Mr. "Just Win, Baby."

Seriously, who do you think knows more about the game -- the Machiavellian genius with the Super Bowl rings, or the kid who wasn't even the offensive coordinator at USC?

Believe it or not, I'm not trying to trash Kiffin, I'm actually trying to make a bigger point: If you don't at least entertain that notion that consensus thinking is flawed, then you aren't really trying. You aren't really examining the ongoing mess in Oakland, you're just taking other people's word for it. For all the fun that has been made of Al Davis, is he any crazier than Daniel Snyder? Or Jerry Jones? Wayne Huizenga? High-profile owners all with no significant playoff winning to show for all their input over the past decade.

Needless to say, it's a contrarian frame of mind that is guiding my hand in today's entry, but I ask you, when has it ever hurt to at least consider the minority report? This might be an interesting time to point out another contrarian tidbit: For everyone who thinks it's an original and daringly contrarian concept to believe the Giants have been established as an unfair underdog this Sunday, how do you feel about your clairvoyancy when I tell you that, as of this moment, some very trusted and valid sources have informed me that 67 percent of the public likes the Giants this Sunday?

Time to ask yourself how much you trust the masses when it comes to crystal balling the final tally of important games. The same rings true for all these new head coaches who have been brought in to revive the flagging fates of teams bad enough to give their incumbent head coaches the proverbial hook. The Ravens just hired a guy who hasn't even been a coordinator. Jason Garrett now makes as much or more than Dallas head coach Wade Phillips does. For every Jim Fassel and Mooch rumor, just as many say the Skins are waiting on Giant D-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

Why? Because young head coaches are cool, and old pros are screwed, and I'm not all aboard the trend -- which brings me to Ted Cottrell - the man who designed a Chargers' defensive game plan that, for the first time since I can remember, made a mature, three-rings-and-counting Tom Brady look like Eli Manning circa week nine! Seriously, when have you seen a defensive mind pull that one off in a huge game? Correct answer: never.

Cottrell is a veteran defensive coach who has always garnered a ton of love and passion from the guys who played for him, he has survived the rigors of being hot and cold as a coordinator in the toughest league going, and once upon a time he came very close to getting the head coach gig with the Niners (they opted for Dennis Erickson, and we all remember how well that one turned out) Witness the in-season adjustments in S.D. this year, and while Norv Turner garners the praise for finally getting the Chargers past their Marty-ball playoff failures, Cottrell's defense was the real star of the AFC Championship Game.

Again, he made Brady look mortal. In fairness, we'll see how red-hot coordinator Spagnuolo's Giants D does against the Pats in the big one, but if the Giants do the same, tell me they didn't go to school on Cottrell's schemes? Yet, even in the era of the Rooney Rule, not one head coach interview for Ted? Next time I get my hands on a billion dollars and buy a team, he's my first interview ... and my last.

Thursday, Jan. 31, 9:02 a.m.

Somewhere in Micronesia, they think the Bills won a Super Bowl ...

Picking up where we left off regarding pre-written Super Bowl victory books and piles of pristine, never-worn "2007 World Champs" hats, tees, and all the other victory swag the losing team has pre-commissioned for this Sunday's game got me a little nostalgic. As a native son of Buffalo, in the back of my mind I have always wondered if there was a sad, yet enormous warehouse -- no doubt deep in the industrial bowels of Niagara Street, where yours truly once drove a forklift and inhaled fumes -- stuffed with all the "winner!" gear that was piled high before each of the Bills' four consecutive Super Bowl losses, only to be sent away, unworn and unloved.

Did they rack 'em up every year, or did they finally get wise, say around the third quarter of the first Dallas game, and just recycle the old stuff until a win finally landed? I doubt it.

Are they still sitting there, waiting centuries for some Super Bowl love, just like the little robot boy in A.I.? More likely, they were they sold for pennies on the dollar and shipped to the third world, where they were worn with pride, and the name "Buffalo Bills" became synonymous with "dynasty."

Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Speaking of "wide right ..."

Now that my life is filled with 3 a.m. formula heating, I must confess one of my night-shift perks is watching all those Super Bowl games being re-run on the NFL Network. It's really interesting to experience these games again with the benefit of time and wisdom.

The other night, I was watching the Patriots win their first ring against the then-mighty St. Louis Rams, who, much like today's Pats, entered the game as an exorbitant, double-digit favorite. A couple of things stood out from XXXVI, including watching Bob Kraft celebrate the win by hugging everyone except his wife -- not once, but twice! Once in the luxury box after Adam Vinatieri nailed the win down, and yet again on the field for the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy. Private jet or no private jet, that must have been a long plane ride home -- back me up, fellas!

He may have taken a few years off his life with that move, but in terms of the lifespan of the typical NFL player, I was caught a little off-guard by how much time has already passed since this game was played. Seven years ago, believe it or not. So long ago, John Madden was announcing the game ... with Pat Summerall! I also was struck by how many of New England's key players are still on their current roster -- Tom Brady, Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, just to name a few.

As invincible and timeless as the Patriots machine seems, that's a lot of mileage, especially when you factor in all those additional playoff games and the toll taken. As irreverent as it may seem, it might be time for many of those involved to savor this moment -- time waits for no one.

Fate is a game of inches ...

I also enjoyed watching the Pats squeak out another win against the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and it also got me thinking how endlessly strange it is when destiny labels one cat a scapegoat, while other guys seem to walk away from the wreckage intact.

Exhibit A: There is no question John Kasay lost that game for the Panthers when he unforgivably booted the final kickoff out of bounds after Carolina tied the game in the final minute. That racked up Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots for a gimme shtoink as time ran out on the fourth quarter.

It was such an enormous gaffe, I still remember at the time shouting and cursing, because the Panthers were on the verge of something remarkable and the last thing you want is the remarkable to get smeared with kicker-sweat.

If you watch the game again, there is a great shot of John Fox shaking his head on the sideline -- he already knows they just gave the Super Bowl away because their kicker couldn't do the simplest part of his job -- keep the damn ball in play. Yet, for Kasay it has been no harm, no foul. His gaffe wasn't dealt with properly during the game, or even afterward. No one ever talks about it. It's gone.

Meanwhile, the whole world seems married to the idea that Scott Norwood is forever the face of kickers blowing Super Bowl wins -- despite the fact that he had a long, difficult kick, and he almost made it.

Give the guy a break -- it's not like he choked and launched a damn kickoff out of bounds.

Wednesday, Jan. 30, 11:29 p.m.

What the hell else am I going to read in the offseason?

For anyone whose panties are still in a bunch over the Boston Globe pre-printing a book commemorating an undefeated Patriots season, it's time to exhale and stop trying to read the tea leaves. Those who say the book's presumptuousness adds insult to N.Y. Giant injury are missing some pretty obvious stuff:

1) The Pats have nothing to do with this -- it's the local press rushing to exploit an event. Sort of like the way cheap paperback biographies of the Anna Nicole Smiths of the world appear at your local drugstore bookrack within days of their demise. I'm sure someone in Boston did the same thing when the Sox won that hex-busting World Series, and Red Sox nation got to savor the moment over and over again thanks to a hastily-penned tell-all about Bronson Arroyo.

2) How do you think this Sunday's Super Bowl champs manage to kiss the Lombardi Trophy while wearing 2007 world champ t-shirts and hats? Because both teams have already licensed and commissioned them. Much like the proverbial cases of champagne on ice, somewhere printers are humming with victory swag featuring both the Giants and the Patriots. It ain't blasphemy if someone gets it right.

3) The real number that Giants fans should be worried about is the 23-17 final score Plaxico Burress predicted out loud. Don't let that smiling, playful Tom Brady sound bite fool you -- come Sunday, Dr. Jekyll will most certainly have transformed into Mr. Hyde, and this is the kind of stuff Brady ends up screaming in an opponent's face after he builds a 21-point lead.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the Giants players are showing the perfect amount of chutzpah this week. This is no time for shrinking violets, and the Jints' level of swagger speaks of a confident team, and even more importantly, they sound like a relaxed team. That's one of the big factors that makes this one look like it might actually be a real, competitive game.

Now that they are issuing 6,000 press passes to the zoo that is Media Day, I doubt you can still take the same kind of pulse you did in older and less exploitive days, but I still remember using my media access to get the general vibe of each team. It wasn't hard. In fact, you couldn't miss it -- one team was always loose and playful, while their rivals felt tight -- you know, that sweat-on-the-upper-lip kind o' tight that speaks of missed reads and turnovers. The kind of tightness that makes you realize these guys are focused on not getting blown out. That never works on the big stage.

Wandering around the various podiums and bleacher crowds always reminded me of being at a horse track, eyeballing the parading horses before a race -- you can vibe things. And if you are paid to be there and ask off-beat questions, it's like a license to get inside heads.

Super Bowl XXX, Steelers and Cowboys: No matter what kind of questions I lobbed at Aikman, Deion and Switzer, I was rewarded with really funny answers and energy. I expected the same out of the Steelers, but they were tight.

I asked Aikman if, in spite of all the warnings, he ever put anything smaller than his elbow in his ear -- and he cracked up. I asked Switzer if the (dating myself here) Lisa Marie Presley-Michael Jackson divorce had been a distraction to the team during preparations, and he rolled with it, delivering a really funny, off-the-cuff speech about how he had tried to calm down his team on the bus ride over.

Then I asked charismatic Steelers veteran Kevin Greene if he expected Super Bowl triple-X to be a particularly sexy Super Bowl, and he ripped me a new one ...

Advantage: Cowboys
Final Score: Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17

The following year in New Orleans, Super Bowl XXXI let me re-test the theory, and I got the same results: Drew Bledsoe was friendly but really tight; Bill Parcells was unfriendly and so tight I almost wet my pants waiting to annoy him.

The Packers? Loose like a goose. So much so their answers comprised my entire ESPN segment.

Advantage: Packers
Final score: Green Bay 35, New England 21

The next year I have to get back to Media Day, it will make my game prediction so much more credible ...

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 7:21 p.m.

Sorry for the delay -- I have a newborn son in the house, and there are moments when my sleep deprivation reaches staggering levels. In fact, I just hallucinated that Lord Ganesh was topping off Otis Sistrunk's Jack 'n Coke ...

On the other hand, I swear to God I just saw Paulie Walnuts starring in a commercial for ... Denny's?

My life may be a Carlos Castaneda book, but we always say the great ones play hurt. Time to rub some dirt on it, come out fast and punch this blog right in the mouth.

HOW ABOUT "THE STOLEN IDEAS" AWARDS? Anyone who spends any time here in the Manly House of Football knows that one of the biggest criticisms I have for the world of sports broadcasting is the rampant lack of originality. To put it bluntly, I am sickened by all the stealing -- in no small part because I have seen my own concepts stolen over and over: The tale of the tape, the fat guy gambling with the hot chick, and while Craig Kilborn's career may currently be appearing on a milk carton near you, it wasn't until he ran off with everything from my catch phrases to entire departments I did on Comedy Central before his time there.

Oh, sure, they all get what they deserve in the end, but in the meantime stolen material is an unacceptable burn to people in the comedy/writing community and deserves to be called out. Witness any of the fine YouTube clips that feature Joe Rogan confronting Carlos Mencia for stealing jokes from his opening act. Like we always say, it's funny/awkward 'cuz it's true. In my world, you may be able to steal, but you are also a marked man. Not so much in the world of sports. Case in point: At some time between now and the Super Bowl kickoff, viewers will be presented with a half-hour special called "Howie Long's Tough Guys."

Gee, where have an entire generation of football fans seen this one before? The answer leads us down a daisy chain of lazy sports producers and suits flat out stealing someone else's idea, in this case a legacy that started with a great original concept: "The All- Madden team." While I doubt Madden cooked up the original idea, it was the perfect marriage of concept and voice, and it worked. I mean, before Mr. "Whap!" who ever singled out an offensive lineman for praise?

"The All-Madden Team" implied enough toughness it didn't need to be embellished with extra embellishment like "Iron," or "Tungsten" or "Bad-ass." Nope, the name "Madden" was enough. Admittedly, he was never a pro player. Madden the coach was, in fact, the enormous blob real linemen used to have to push up and down the field on a blocking sled -- but Madden's passion for those who toiled in the trenches earned him the right to hand out the tough-guy awards.

Then Madden moved over to Fox, so CBS decided to steal the concept and hand it over to ... a quarterback. I guess Phil Simms was a tough signal-caller, but still, when do you need to see a signal-caller handing out tough-guy trophies? It's pretty wrongheaded, but far more important in the network's eyes was the simple fact that Simms was now their lead analyst replacing Madden. Mix this with a complete lack of creativity, and "Phil Simms All-Iron team" was born.

Then Howie Long stole the idea a few years back, adding "Tough Guys" just so we know it's the same old dance. Okay, he doesn't really "steal" it so much as says "yes" when a producer suggested it to him.

Color me a dreamer, but what's really strikes me as funny is there is no reason to be lazy -- for all the stealing and scrambling, the ratings of NFL pre-game shows have always been a fait accompli. Whoever has the NFC gets the bigger numbers because it's the conference that houses the cities with the biggest populations. Your Nielsen's are as simple as Dallas vs. Jacksonville. It's as true now as it was when CBS had the NFC and dominated the ratings game with a studio crew that featured a lineup of Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, Jayne Kennedy and Jimmy the Greek. I'm just glad the kids of today will never have to sit through that kind of studio torture -- it gives me hope.

I feel like Donald Sutherland in Oliver Stone's "JFK:" "Follow the money ..." But since you're already a winner before the studio show is even aired, why not cook up your own ideas?

Arguably, Howie Long is the man most qualified to decide who is tough, thanks to his Hall of Fame career in the trenches, but here's a crazy idea: Come up with a new idea! Or if that's too much to ask, how about taking five minutes and putting a new spin on it?

Like "The Joe Morgan Award For An Analyst Who Is Inexplicably Allowed To Work For Two Or More Networks At The Same Time?" I mean, Cris Collinsworth has elevated triple-dipping to an art form (NBC, HBO, NFL Network). The man deserves some hardware for the mantle!

Or "The Jerry Jones Award for Owners On the Sideline During the Last Five Minutes of a Game." Under normal circumstances you could just pencil Arthur Blank's name in here, but I suspect the Falcons' atrocious season on and off the field might open it up to other contenders in 2007.

For the even more mean-spirited, how about an anti-tough guy award, like the "All-Alligator Arms Team." Did someone just say Dennis Northcutt?

See? I just wrote that while changing a diaper, and I came up with more new ideas than the collective networks have over the past thirty years.

I think my consultant fee just tripled ...

Monday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m.

Everybody take a knee as we humbly offer up a simple pre-blog prayer: It is not enough that Nick Bakay's Manly Super Blog succeeds ... victory will not be complete until all other blogs fail and we hear the lamentation of their women.

Amen on two!

And thus, the third year of the Manly House of Football breaks out the machete and blogs a clear path through the vast wilderness of Super Bowl week. As ever, our goals remain true to the original mission:

1) To provide a lifeline during the endless wait between now and kickoff.

2) To shine a light on the good, the bad, and the ugliest moments of media coverage and sports broadcasting as it culminates in TV's annual ad revenue abondanza.

3) To make sure you are fed properly during the most cholesterol-enabled Sunday of the year. (Three words: Discount Internet stents ...)

4) To go above and beyond to prepare you for the game on the field with unique gridiron insights, peppered with our most unique contribution to the art of analyzing the game of football: THE MAN-TANGIBLES.

5) To keep it coming all the way though the final score -- that's right, those in need of manly reality-checks will be able to log in here all the way through the game itself, when, each quarter, I will be updating the scroll and jamming on the facts, the spin and the outrages!

Enough with the super-secret game plan. Everyone take a deep breath, wipe the fear-sweat off your top-lip, and away we go!

THE "VIVA VIAGRA" AWARD FOR ADVERTISING-INDUCED FEVER DREAMS: We have a lot of candidates waiting in the tall grass until Super Bowl Sunday, not the least of which is the hugely awkward image of Michael Strahan playing air guitar (a.k.a. the best advertisement for signing a pre-nup since Brigitte Nielsen's Psychic Friends Network). That being said, the early front-runner has to be Eli and Peyton Manning for shamelessly padding their nine-figure incomes by shilling for Oreo cookies. Yes, the Super Bowl's first brother/brother QB team thought it would be worth it to sign on to star in an ad campaign called "The Double-Stuff Racing League" -- and no, I am not making this stuff up.

As shameless as the Manning clan's endless thirst for lucre may be, we have their collective greed to thank for the tag line of this young millennium:

"YOU COULD WIN A TRIP TO LICK RACE AGAINST THE MANNINGS!"

As Rod Serling might say, "File this one under 'Dignity Takes a Holiday.' " Color me too square to enjoy such pan-sexual rituals, but I can think of at least a thousand opponents I would prefer to face when the time comes for a lick-off, and none of them have ever played in a Super Bowl.

While it hurts me to take such a strong stance against trans-fats, I have no choice this time. Much has been made of Peyton's endorsement over-exposure, but this one takes the cake, I mean, who the hell is advising these guys? What was said and how many dollars were offered to sell them on any idea that came within 500 feet of the unsavory concept of a brother vs. brother lick race?

Can't wait to see how this one pays off on Super Bowl Sunday. I'll be watching while hiding behind a large couch pillow…

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