Forget Politics and Race, Just Enjoy the Football

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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In the Super Bowl, I am cheering for both Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman. Both are spectacular players, and this game is about football, not race or politics.

Bloggers, and even some politicians, have tried to paint the contest -- a showdown between a great veteran quarterback and a brash young defender -- with racial (white versus black) or political (red state versus blue state) overtones.

This is inane. The majority of players for both the Broncos and the Seahawks are black; that's true with about every National Football League team. Colorado and Washington state, the respective homes of this year's Super Bowl contenders, both voted Democratic in the most recent presidential election, as did New Jersey, the site of Sunday's game. So much for any political connotations.

I have watched every Super Bowl. I also have the NFL Films tapes of most of the games, which I still watch sometimes. In short, I'm a football fanatic -- overlooking some of the game's troubling violence issues. Few Super Bowls have offered a more interesting or competitive matchup than this year's contest.

The two marquee performers in this year's Super Bowl are fascinating studies in contrast. The 37-year-old Manning is, in my view, one of the three greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game; the other two are Johnny Unitas and Tom Brady.

Manning is a fierce competitor who comes from a wonderful football family and overcame a debilitating neck injury to join the Broncos last year. In 2013, he enjoyed the finest season of his great 16-year career.

The 25-year-old Sherman has come in for lot of criticism for his outspoken, abrasive comments after Seattle's NFC Championship victory over San Francisco two weeks ago. He plays a rough game and occasionally goes too far.

But besides being as good a defensive back as there is in football, Sherman is an exceptionally interesting and smart young man. He graduated second in his high school class in a rough community where he avoided violence and the drug scene. He graduated from Stanford University, where he played two sports.

After his outspokenness two weeks ago, he was labeled a "thug." It's difficult to imagine a white player, in the same circumstances, being called that.

Senator John McCain didn't use that or any other racial suggestions, but he did criticize Sherman for being a "loudmouth." One question for the Arizona Republican, who is also a great boxing fan: Do you think that brash young heavyweight who came up in the 1960s was a loudmouth? You remember that kid . . . Muhammad Ali.

As for picking a winner, I'm tempted to go with Seattle, but that would be based on the false premise that defense wins championships. Instead, I'll await the views of the unsurpassed football analyst Greg Cosell of NFL Films, a protege of Steve Sabol. Today, I am interviewing Cosell -- this qualifies as a shameless plug -- on Bloomberg Television. You can watch it Friday at 9:30 p.m. or midnight, again on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. or 9 p.m., and on game day at 8 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. (all times EST).

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at