So much negativity.
We’re just days away from the biggest sporting event of the year, and most of the media hype surrounding the game has focused on a “scandal” involving deflated footballs, and an egotistical athlete who has made a sport out of refusing to engage with reporters.
“They’re missing a great story,” I told my husband. “It’s right under their noses.”
Although it’s been more than a decade since I’ve covered any type of sporting event — and even when I did, it was a far cry from the Super Bowl — I still know how to sniff out an interesting storyline. But in a case like this, when there are hundreds of media outlets competing for a fraction of the public’s attention, “interesting” isn’t going to cut it. It’s become a contest to see who can post the most shocking headlines.
To the hardcore sports fans like me, however, there’s no need to sensationalize, because this year’s matchup comes with several compelling plotlines.
There’s Bill Belichick, the controversial, polarizing coach who owns five Super Bowl rings (three as a head coach and two as defensive coordinator for the Giants, the team his Patriots lost to the last two times they were in the big show).
There’s Tom Brady, who is on the brink of solidifying his position as the best quarterback of his generation. The guy who can seemingly turn any receiver into an All-Pro. The guy who can win a fourth Super Bowl, something that’s unheard of in this era of parity.
There’s Pete Carroll, a man whose resume is equal parts highs and lows. He’s one of only three coaches who have won both a Super Bowl and a college football championship, and yet he’s known just as much for his involvement in the USC scandal and his forgettable stint with the New York Jets.
There’s Russell Wilson, a QB who was completely overshadowed in the 2012 NFL draft by Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, yet is playing for his second Super Bowl ring. He’s smart, talented, and a class act.
But he’s not the story. None of them are. The real story, if you ask me, is LeGarrette Blount, the running back who has resurrected and ignited New England’s ground game, making Tom Brady all the more dangerous.
Here’s the interesting part. Blount wasn’t a Patriot at the start of this season; he was a disgruntled team-hopper who was stuck in yet another undesirable situation. For years, Blount had been pegged (and rightfully so) as one of those athletes with so much potential who just can’t stay out of trouble. For every accomplishment, there was a destructive act that would make anyone question his character.
At the University of Oregon, he set the school’s touchdown record as a junior, but was suspended for most of his senior year after an incident in which he punched an opponent and “angrily confronted fans.”
As a result, he had to fight his way into the NFL as an undrafted free agent (and even then barely made it after getting released from his first team after another punching incident). But then he thrived, becoming the second undrafted running back to rush for more than a 1,000 yards, and seemed on his way to greater things. His career, however, sputtered — until it almost crashed. In November of 2014, he walked off the Pittsburg Steelers’ sideline after a win, frustrated over his lack of play, and was given his walking papers.
But then, the Patriots came calling. Although Blount hasn’t been the star, he has played a key role in elevating New England’s running game. And what’s even more amazing — he’s done it with a smile on his face. According to a recent article, Blount was beaming as he talked about the winning formula in New England, the team owner who talks to his players every day, and the “personalities and leadership” that he says are a better fit than he’s ever had.
To me, that’s compelling. Not because a gifted athlete is finally able to reach his potential after all of his struggles (self-inflicted or not), but because it’s so relatable. So many of us have stumbled again and again on the road to success, knowing that if we could just find the right environment, we would thrive. And so we kept trying; kept fighting.
My LeGarrette Blount moment came years ago when, just a few months into a new job, I was given a significant responsibility — something that had never happened with my previous employer (no matter how many times I asked). It was like being told, “We trust you. We know you can do this.” Whereas I had been used to being micromanaged and denied the lead role on projects, now I was being handed the ball. I knew I had landed at the right place, with the right people, and it made all the difference.
That’s my story.