Within a few hours Tuesday at the Superdome, the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers both posed for their Super Bowl team pictures.
It was impossible not to notice the differing attitudes and atmosphere that prevailed during their shoots.
While the 49ers were setting up, their head coach, Jim Harbaugh, took complete control of the situation. His voice echoed through the dome as he waved his arms, told players where to line up and jumped into the picture at the last minute. His players did as ordered, somewhat soberly. A nice shot surely resulted, but the NFC champs were all business.
When it was the Ravens’ turn in front of the camera a few hours later, the players mugged and cracked jokes as they lined up, then blew so many takes with goofy faces that a team official finally had to step in and tell them that, ahem, this was important, guys, so please, please do what the team photographers want.
Businesslike, they weren’t … unless businesslike means impersonating a kindergarten class.
It should come as no surprise that
The moral of the story? At least one team is as loose as a pair of baggy pants down here, and, well, it isn’t the team from the laid-back West Coast.
You never know how a team is going to react to being in the Super Bowl and all the craziness that entails. There is a range of possible reactions. The attention makes some teams uptight and even swallows a few whole. Others love the spotlight so much they almost forget they’re playing a game on Sunday and end up paying for that.
Having covered my share of Super Bowls, I would say the Ravens’ reaction to being in the Big Game in the Big Easy is just what you’d want. They’re rolling with the craziness, having fun with it. The players have smiles on their faces.
Basically, the Super Bowl seems like a natural habitat for them, a casually perfect fit.
I wouldn’t begin to try to characterize the 49ers’ overall mood from one photo shoot. They might be having just as much fun behind closed doors. Or a more businesslike approach just might be how they roll, and since they’ve made it to the Super Bowl, you can’t dispute that it works for them.
But several members of the NFL’s media team have told some Ravens staffers that the Ravens do seem more relaxed.
Harbaugh, having found just the right emotional chord to strike with this team, said he plans to let the players’ kids run around on the field during Saturday’s walk-through practice, a privilege not every Super team gets. Harbaugh has genially chatted his way through his press conferences, while his brother has seemed grumpier.
Yet at the same time, there’s no doubting that the coaches have the players’ attention. Ask a wonky X-and-O question and you get a long answer.
It’s no surprise, really. You probably only need one hand to count the times the Ravens have genuinely seemed uptight this season. They weren’t happy in their locker room after the three games in a row they lost in December, but even then, as receiver
They’ve been a loose group from the outset, probably because they have so many accomplished veterans who have been through the pro football wars and experienced pretty much everything there is to experience. It’s just not in their DNA to fret over anything. Why would the Super Bowl be any different?
As for what that might mean when the game finally begins Sunday night, it’s hard to say for sure. If the Ravens win by two touchdowns, the narrative will piece together nicely in hindsight. They knew all along!
Of course, life does not always work out quite that perfectly, so we’ll see. But my two cents is that being relaxed always improves your prospects.