Sunday is the Super Bowl, and NPR's Mike Pesca is covering the big game from New Orleans. He talks with Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin about the controversies ahead of the game, and provides some analysis of the two teams.
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ME AND BOBBY MC GEE")
KRIS KRISTOFFERSON: (Singing) Busted flat in Baton Rouge and heading for the trains./
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Do you recognize that voice? Coming up, music legend Kris Kristofferson on his new album and staying humble.
KRISTOFFERSON: To my surprise, I feel nothing but gratitude for being this, you know, old and still above-ground living with the people I love.
MARTIN: Stay tuned for Kris Kristofferson. But first, it's time for sports.
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MARTIN: It is game day, people. Seriously. The Super Bowl is mere hours away. The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens will play for the championship title in New Orleans, and NPR's Mike Pesca is in the Big Easy for the big game. Hi, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
MARTIN: So, before we launch into the breakdown of all the important issues you need to look for in this game, let's talk about the controversies, because there are some swirling around right now, right?
PESCA: Upheaval, yeah. A couple of them, I think, are the kind of controversy that if this weren't the Super Bowl might not even make the smallest type of item in the Bay Area Chronicle. One of them is that a defensive back - a rarely used defensive back - cornerback for the 49ers, Chris Culliver, made some anti-gay comments, or at least kind of, if you listen to the tape. He played along with the comedian and author of "Too Fat to Fish," Artie Lange, who was baiting him into talking about gay players in the locker room. And Culliver was like nah, nah, I wouldn't do that. Culliver has apologized. He literally answered over 100 questions in a follow-up interview. And it's definitely not the right comments to make. And he said he's sorry and that really got blown up. The other big thing was that Ray Lewis, who you may have heard of, he's gotten some attention...
MARTIN: I've heard of him once or twice, yeah.
PESCA: He apparently - not apparently - he allegedly took some deer antler spray. What is that? They crush the antler of the deer - usually the European Red Deer - and this is supposedly the fastest growing organic thing on earth. You spray it under your tongue and it helps you regrow. Well, Ray Lewis did come back from a triceps injury that was supposed to keep him out during the season.
MARTIN: Wait, just back up one second. Deer antlers - it's like a performance-enhancing thing?
PESCA: Right, right. It has an ingredient that is banned. But Lewis just says he never took it. And so it's just out there as an allegation. And even if Lewis said nothing, they would take weeks to test and the Super Bowl would be over by then and he's retiring. So, again, it's one of those kind of controversies.
MARTIN: OK. Controversies, check. Let's get onto the really important stuff - the Harbowl(ph). I, for one, is not sick of the story of the two Harbaugh brothers battling it out but I imagine it's gotten a lot of play in your world.
PESCA: Yeah, of course. You got to pay attention. It's an interesting family dynamics, as all families are interesting, right? I would just say this: Jim's the more fiery one. He was the former NFL quarterback. He's the coach of the 49ers. John is more the scrappy guy who never played in the NFL, took positions at a half-dozen different small colleges and was named coach after the Ravens' preferred candidate turned it down. So, if you want the scrappy underdog, it's John, coach of the Ravens. If you want the golden boy, it's Jim. And if you want to break the tie about which Harbaugh to like, Jim once costarred in an episode of "Saved by the Bell" as Screech's cousin.
MARTIN: There you go.
PESCA: That may factor in.
MARTIN: OK. Do you have a curveball?
PESCA: I do.
MARTIN: Quick one.
PESCA: This week, I went to a great event. There is something called Gridiron Glory. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has a touring exhibit. They were in the New Orleans World War II Museum. And the guy conducting the tour talked about one aspect of it, which was entertainment.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We look at football as pop culture in this part, in this segment. So...
PESCA: And as he was talking about pop culture, the guys on the tour were Barry Sanders and Jim Brown, I'd argue the two greatest running backs of all time. And someone noticed, hey, there's a Wheaties box with Barry Sanders's picture on it. And I noticed there was a box for the video game Madden Football. And I said to Jim Brown this: you sued Madden, right?
JIM BROWN: Absolutely, man, absolutely. I'm glad you said it. You're the person that brought his name into it. Yeah, can just take my stuff.
PESCA: John Madden was sued by Jim Brown...
MARTIN: Oh, man.
PESCA: ...Jim Brown lost the suit. Jim Brown didn't like that there was a guy in the Madden game that looked just like Jim Brown. Don't take Jim Brown's stuff, is the lesson.
MARTIN: That is the lesson. NPR's Mike Pesca in New Orleans. Thanks, Mike.
PESCA: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.