The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 30, 2013

Rueda column: Niners-Ravens a Super matchup

By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor

— On paper, Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens is a toss-up. For every fan out there who thinks the 49ers will win, there’s another who’s picking the Ravens.

NFL officials are licking their collective chops at the prospect of an even matchup because achieving parity has been the league’s goal for years. Mission accomplished. Most of the Super Bowls over the last 10 years have been close.

And that’s just the way we like it. Watching a game that is still up for grabs in the fourth quarter is a lot more fun that witnessing a blowout.

But even though Sunday’s matchup appears to be even, we like to pick a team to cheer for. Fans in California and Maryland will most likely back their home team but the rest of us need to find a reason to root for one or the other.

Defensively, Baltimore may have a slight edge. The retiring Ray Lewis is getting a lot of attention and some people will back him simply because it’s his last chance to earn a ring. But based on his off-the-field history, a number of people will be rooting against him, as well.

San Francisco’s veteran receiver Randy Moss has sparked a similar degree of pro and con sentiment. It’s probably his final chance and he’s a former Viking, but he’s never been the most likable guy off the field.

For me it comes down the quarterbacks.

I like them both, but the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick is simply more exciting to watch. His sometimes reckless style may not lend itself to a lengthy NFL career free of serious injuries, but it’s certainly sweet to see him use his legs to make plays as well as his arm.

That’s not to say Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is a dud. He may not be considered an elite quarterback at this point in his career, but he has a history of playing well in the postseason and does an excellent job of incorporating both his running backs and tight ends into the passing game.

So I’ll be cheering for San Francisco Sunday but I won’t be sad if the Ravens win. A good, close game is my fondest wish.

And somewhere (probably New Orleans), Roger Goodell and his NFL compatriots are smiling.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com.