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Super Bowl XLVII Rival Teams Coached by Brothers

February 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
NPR's Mike Pesca joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss what's at stake going into the upcoming Super Bowl, as well as the family connection between the two head coaches and widespread concerns over football-related head injuries.
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and we close with some real Super Bowl analysis now.

The two coaches are brothers. One quarterback has been a starter for barely half a season. The sport itself is under a microscope for its violence, and the setting, New Orleans, is where the home team found itself recently caught up in a so-called bounty scandal — bounty — excuse me — scandal.

The spectacle and the game, Super Bowl XLVII, between the Ravens and 49ers, it’s all set for Sunday, with an expected worldwide audience of more than 160 million.

Mike Pesca of NPR is in New Orleans and he joins us from Jackson Square.

So, Mike, start with this bit of history, the two brothers going at it.

MIKE PESCA, National Public Radio: Yes, it’s kind of amazing that one family can produce two Super Bowl coaches.

I’m more amazed at the coach of the Baltimore, John Harbaugh, because Jim had — it’s very hard to become a head coach, but his path is a tried-and-true one, an NFL quarterback, coach at a big-time college program, became an NFL head coach.

John was the guy who had to be scrappy and work at jobs, and be an assistant, and rise through the ranks. But they’re both here. They did a co-press conference today. That does not usually happen. The coaches do not usually make nice before the Super Bowl.

So, even though there is going to be hard hits and animosity on the field, the story of the brothers will, you know, be at least one nice, touching moment and certainly a bittersweet moment for their parents, no matter what happens, right?

JEFFREY BROWN: And then — yes, and then, of course, there’s the two quarterbacks, and especially the young one, who is for the 49ers, Kaepernick, who is just making — he actually took over mid-season from the starting quarterback who was injured.

MIKE PESCA: Right.

Alex Smith was injured, had a head injury, disclosed it, lost his starting job. That is usually not the case. But Colin Kaepernick represents not just an excellent quarterback and a hybrid runner/passer. He might be a new trend in the NFL, that is, if he can stay healthy, because the things he does and the things that he is able to do are kind of unprecedented.

Yes, there have been a lot of quarterbacks like Michael Vick and a former 49er quarterback, Steve Young, who could run with the ball and throw the ball. But Kaepernick has the pistol offense, which is on every play, if you want it to be, a run option, a pass option, a “fake the run and throw the pass” option.

And, right now, he is a big question mark and a headache for the Ravens defense in this, only his 10th start ever.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Mike, there is the spectacle and there is the game, and then there is all this sort of backdrop talk about violence, of course, a lot of focus on concussions.

I saw that, today, Commissioner Goodell was sort of defending the sport. And this comes after President Obama himself recently — he was asked — he said, if he had a son, he probably wouldn’t want him to be playing football.

MIKE PESCA: Right.

Very first question at the Goodell state of the sport press conference was reading the Obama quote back at the commissioner. Five, I think, of the first six questions were about head injuries. It is the big issue looming over the sport.

And, you know, the league has a lot of plans to make it safer. That is the word they use, to teach proper tackling, to penalize hits on the field, to have neurologists and doctors on the sidelines monitoring concussions.

But, you know, he never really talked about what safer means. And I don’t think anyone actually thinks that safer means safe. And it might not even mean, statistically speaking, that if you are a football player, even in this safe future that we all hope for — if you are a football player, you might not be able to avoid head injuries.

So it’s certainly the issue that they are talking about here in New Orleans. I’m not sure they are going to dwell on it in the game broadcast, because we do like our hard-hitting entertainment. But everyone knows that, if they don’t solve the problem of head injuries, the NFL, even though it is the most ascendant form of media in the United States, it could be in trouble.

JEFFREY BROWN: And just in our last 30 seconds, Mike, you just said New Orleans. What about the atmosphere there?

MIKE PESCA: I mean, it’s New Orleans.

I think, on Friday, it would be pretty much hopping.

But it gets extra charged. I was here last year for a Final Four. I have been here many times. I was here for three weeks after Katrina, actually. I love this city. And it’s great. This is like in the middle of Mardi Gras. They had some Mardi Gras parades already. Now they’re having a Super Bowl. Then they go back to Mardi Gras parades.

I don’t know any other city that kind of wedges a Super Bowl in between a constant party, but New Orleans can do it. And they’re really proud to host the world this Sunday.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Mike Pesca of NPR, enjoy yourself. Thanks so much.

And, online, you can play our Super Bowl bingo. We have board games for both 49ers and Ravens fans to follow along during Sunday night’s event. You can find those on our home page.