While Sunday's Super Bowl promises to be a good game between good teams, there is a notable lack of the sort of dramatic "Super Bowl stories" fans have come to know. There are no players guaranteeing wins, mooning helicopters, kidnapping congressmen, entertaining multiple prostitutes or getting publicly wasted. It didn't have to be this way. Here are some storylines that would have kept America rapt if anyone besides these two snoozers were in the Super Bowl.
Kyle's Gift: Orton Finally Discusses His Relationship with Kings of Leon's Followill Brothers
It was the story of the season, and it wasn't written until Week 17. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went down with a broken back, cauliflower elbow and problematized bowel, but insisted that he would be able to play in the season's decisive final game. "That is not my throwing elbow, I should point out," Romo said of his elbow. An emergency spleenectomy wound up making Romo's decision for him, though, and handed the starting job to journeyman backup Kyle Orton. To say that Orton didn't miss a beat would be to understate just how brilliant the run that followed was. Orton willed the Cowboys all the way through the playoffs, landing endorsement deals with Totino's Pizza Rolls and Heineken. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Orton's television advertisements -- most notably the one in which a shirtless Orton stares wordlessly into the camera while drinking a Heineken before burping softly -- were inescapable.
For those who knew Orton well, his magical run was the culmination of a heroic stretch of his life. At the end of the summer of 2013, the popular rock band Kings of Leon -- who'd been on a long hiatus before releasing their new record Southern Cousin Jingle Face -- had a massive crop of sorghum fail at the Oklahoma plantation they own. The entire property was repossessed by the bank, including the manor house the brothers had dubbed Fort Haircut. The banker scolded them for their poor business sense and inadequate crop rotation. He stood there dressed in the There Will Be Blood-meets-Steinbeck-style the boys relate to, with one notable exception. He was enormously fat. His jowls wobbled and shook, like a flag made of slab bacon. This was the bottom.
"Goddamn the name Followill," the banker yelled, as his golden watch dangled from a chain attached to his vest. The collective Followill wives wept and promised to do some emergency modeling in order to buy back the plantation. "Nothing but a bunch of shitbrains," the banker continued. "Planting but one sorghum seed on this land and expecting a forest. It's precisely that kind of thinking that starts droughts." As punishment, the banker burned the plantation to the ground, and the community performed a traditional Oklahoma shunning ritual that involved threatening the Followills' pets with handguns.
The Followills had nowhere to go, and their work suffered. In an attempt to generate revenue, they released an album that was both their least accessible -- the songs had titles like "Ship Snrrrr Deep Dish," "Shayuhay Stubbling," "Ghurr Narrrp Sex" and "Tack, Tile, New Bile" -- and least well-received. Just three dates into a world tour, their bus pulled up in front of good friend Kyle Orton's apartment in Dallas. They begged him to take them in.
"For me, it was a no-brainer," Orton said, Tuesday. "I mean, you have to remember, I was the backup. I didn't have anything going on, and these guys and their families and pets being all homeless and stuff, well, I thought it would be nice to have someone to watch television with."
Orton's humility, of course, kept him from admitting the depths of his generosity. Throughout the fall, Orton was in fact giving the Followills new hairdos, performance tips and various medicines collected from the "pill jug" at the Cowboys compound. Dez Bryant revealed the truth at Super Bowl Media Day to Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, Boomer Esiason, a topless woman reporting for the Brazilian morning show "Bom Dia e Butts", actor/activist Stephen Baldwin and other credentialed media.
"Kyle is ..." Bryant said, eyes welling with tears. "Saintly isn't strong enough to convey what I want to convey. I don't know if there's a word for this sort of generosity of spirit. Half the time in practice I was like, ‘No, don't throw me that pass, save your arm strength for the Followills. You need to make them dinner tonight, they don't even know how to order pizza.' Which they don't -- it's astonishing. The drummer has been known to actually put cologne on pizza to better differentiate its smell from his own. One time he ate an undershirt."
But the massages, the 3 am pizza deliveries, house-training of several puppies, co-signing on a loan to open a car wash and the pills -- none of it phased Orton. "Oh man, they always had earaches and stuff. And can they ever eat! We have a whole mini-fridge just for those pouches of yogurt Caleb likes," Orton said, dangling one of his new "nephews" Jebediah Followill on his knee. "But that's the way it is with musicians. I don't love them any less for it."
Confidence restored, Kings of Leon released the New Buddy Tuck-Ins EP, which became their best-selling record. Kings of Leon won't perform at halftime on Sunday, but you will see them on the sidelines, in uniform for the Cowboys. They won't be allowed on the field under any circumstances, but still hope to make the special teams plays that will win the Cowboys a Super Bowl -- and repay Orton for the "special team" he made when he took them into his home.
Roethlisberger Questionable After Alleged Snowman, Rake Incident
When asked how he was doing Wednesday, Steelers' Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose face was purple and more visibly swollen than normal, said, "I feel good. I feel ready to compete. I want to talk about that."
Roethlisberger had just finished volunteer work at a tavern in Ocean County, New Jersey, some 71 miles from the team's hotel, in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He explained that he tries to get into the mindset of "partiers" and then remind them of everything good in their lives that occurs when they are sober. "If this takes an entire evening of pitchers, darts, ‘advanced nachos', karaoke, air guitar, visits to massage parlors, visits to ATMs at massage parlors or chartered late-night flights to Las Vegas, then that's what it takes," Roethlisberger told the NFL Network's Rich Eisen earlier this year. "Call it heroic if you want. That's not why I do it."
"I got in my SUV and began to drive back to the hotel," Roethlisberger explained on media day when pressed about his bruised face. "I saw a snowman that looked like it was falling down. I wanted to do something nice and fix it up. Just, like, as a thing for the kids. Put some goodness into the world."
Surveillance cameras at William Parcells Elementary in Old Bridge, NJ captured images of a man who resembles Roethlisberger climbing out of an SUV, removing his shirt and running at the snowman in what appeared to be an attempt at a tackle. Because of the metal rake that had been ensconced in the snowman, the would-be tackler got the worst of it.
"I don't know how you do it where you're from," school groundskeeper August Birch said, "but here our children put a spine inside every snowman. It could be a rake or a broomstick. One class even put in a central nervous system and lungs made out of old Big Gulp cups. It's something we take pretty serious."
Footage shows that the rake appeared to anger the tackler, who wrestled with and shouted obscenities at it for nearly a quarter of an hour. The noise attracted the attention of neighborhood dogs. The video concludes with the snowman-attacker fleeing an enraged Shiba Inu.
Roethlisberger later showed up at a nearby emergency room, refused a breathalyzer and told hospital officials that his stapler had malfunctioned. He was impatient with reporters who sought to discuss the incident at Media Day. "We're here to win a football game, guys," the quarterback told the assembled media, "and we're not going to let you distract us from that."
Chiefs Lucky Reid is Still Along For Super Bowl Ride
Andy Reid had one of the most successful seasons in NFL history as a head coach in his first year with the Kansas City Chiefs, leading a team that was one of the NFL's worst just a season ago all the way to the Super Bowl. But the reality is that he almost quit the Chiefs gig several times during the 2013 season to pursue the one thing he finds as gratifying as coaching football.
One of Reid's hobbies, which has come to consume more of his time in recent years, is creating and activating social media strategies for brands. "I find that connecting people with the brands they're passionate about brings me a lot of joy." During the preseason, Reid accepted a job as social media manager for designer Stella McCartney's eponymous brand last February. He figured he could handle both an NFL head coaching gig and boosting McCartney on the web. "Managing my time has never been an issue for me," he told Ad Age. "And having a hobby keeps me fresh during the season."
However, Reid's role soon grew dangerously out of control. After McCartney discovered some "really brilliant sketches" Reid had done of jodhpurs and scarves, Reid soon found himself helping to design a collection and sniping publicly with Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz. McCartney's reliance on Reid's vision for her brand deepened throughout 2013. By October, it was nearly untenable.
"Andy did not sleep," Chiefs safety Eric Berry said on Media Day. "I know because he insisted that they build Chiefs barracks at the team facility, because he thought it would build team cohesion and is really into slumber parties. He was supposed to sleep in the bunk under mine, but he was never there."
Further complicating things was Reid's secret third gig as creator and designer of Eileen Fisher Quonset, a beachy apparel offshoot of the famous women's brand. Reid made this zestier, flirtier version of Fisher's traditionally staid offerings into a hit through an ingenious bit of marketing -- the clothes could only be purchased via mobile devices located in tropical/resort areas.
"He had women in Sacramento mirroring St. Barth's IP addresses just to get the stuff," says Kate Lanphear, style director at the New York Times. "Shorts were going on eBay for $3,500."
None of this went to Andy's head, though. During the team's Week 10 bye, Reid smoothed out hurt feelings with both his new team and McCartney. But as criticism of Reid's moonlighting grew in intensity, his need for total creative control -- at all of his gigs -- created conflict. We saw this as recently as early January, when Reid left the field during a playoff game against the Colts to fly to New York, where he held court at McCartney's pre-collection party at the Harold Pratt House.
From Women's Wear Daily:
The most literal examples were great jackets embroidered with graphic drawings by artist Gary Hume -- based on designs not by McCartney, but by Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid -- inspired, the coach said, by a fling he once had with the director Sofia Coppola. Geometric intarsia sweaters and oversize blanket coats with fringed details served as an homage to the real native American chiefs of the Great Plains. More feminine styles included a sleeveless dress with giant off-kilter polka dots, inspired by Reid's continuing fascination with Pod-era Breeders stage-wear.
But from the Media Day podium Tuesday, Chiefs GM John Dorsey tried to make sense of everything and quell rumors. "Look, we've been dogshit basically since Bill Clinton was President," Dorsey said. "Now we're winning. Andy can do what he wants, as far as I'm concerned."
With Gostkowski Uncertain For Sunday's Game, Gramatica Brothers Get Call
Four things about what has become the biggest story of Super Bowl weekend are beyond question:
1) Stephen Gostkowski rented a helicopter in New Jersey while his teammates rested.
2) Stephen Gostkowski landed that helicopter on a truck delivering 1,400 cases of Dr. Pepper 10 to area Target stores.
3) Stephen Gostkowski removed the driver from the truck and then drove the truck into the swimming pool of a Howard Johnson's on Tonnelle Avenue in Jersey City.
4) Stephen Gostkowski asked strangers to "enjoy the bold flavors of Dr. Pepper 10" with him. When they refused, Gostkowski became obstreperous enough that the police were called.
He now awaits trial, amid speculation that the entire incident was "some idiot viral thing, like a 'what's the most extreme thing you'd do for soda' type thing," in the words of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. Super Bowl 48 kicking duties, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained, will go to one of the Gramatica Brothers. "Whichever one gets here first," Belichick told NESN.com. "They're both good kickers."
49ers Coach Harbaugh in Custody For Playing "The Knockout Game"
When the 49ers landed in Newark after a tumultuous 17-hour flight -- it included, at the insistence of Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, a nine-hour layover in Banff, Canada for sightseeing -- Harbaugh found himself without his luggage.
Her Majesty's Royal Buttons Detective Agency, the Canadian version of the TSA, had confiscated Harbaugh's luggage because it was deemed insufficiently clean. Their intent was, per HMRBDA procedure, to launder the clothing and forward it on to the passenger's final destination, with a nice note. Further investigation revealed a quart of expired potato salad in Harbaugh's luggage, which HMRBDA deemed a biohazard. In Canadian law, the traveler with the "spoilt salad" is supposed to use coins to fly a pet, niece or fraternal twin to Canada to "consume, then pass" the expired foodstuff under the watchful eye of the entire nation.
Harbaugh is due back in Canada on February 19th to make a court appearance and film a 90-minute PSA about adhering to expiration dates on food packaging.
Harbaugh reportedly continued to simmer on the team's bus ride to the Bayonne Marriott. "He told me, ‘I've got no pants now,'" 49ers Running Backs Coach Tom Rathman said. "‘These khakis I wear, if you wear them too many times they turn to paste. They turn to freaking cookie dough, Tom.' He was as upset as I have ever seen him."
When the team finally arrived at the hotel, a scary in-bus Fox News report about the widespread evils of "The Knockout Game" had aired on loop over 412 times. Harbaugh commented to Quinton Patton that it looked like "a game for winners."
Reports indicate that Coach Harbaugh exited the bus, walked quietly up to the front desk and -- apparently referring to the violent game -- told the clerk, "I'm Jim Harbaugh and I'm here to play the knockout game with your face and your head."
The attempt did not go well for Harbaugh, whose uppercut punch caught the underside of the formica check-in counter, which shattered, leaving Harbaugh with six broken bones in his right hand. Arrested for criminal damage to property, Harbaugh claims he was merely trying to "set down [his] glasses on the counter."
"It's really dumb," says running back Frank Gore.
If Harbaugh is not out of jail by Sunday night, the 49ers are expected to ask former head coach Mike Singletary to guide the team.