In the two weeks leading to the Super Bowl, armies of world-weary journalists pour out oceans of ink in utterly predictable stories about the two teams that are playing in The Big Game. There are, of course, profiles of the quarterbacks -- along with daily updates on how they are feeling. There is the great comeback story, the guy who was down but now has a chance at redemption. There is the unsung team leader story. There's the tragic injury story, including the occasional profile of the cheerleader who pulled her hamstring at the last minute, days before the big dance of her life.
Folks, journalists don't scratch the bottom the the barrel this time of year. They map it and then dig underneath.
It matters little if some of the stars in the game are already famous and have been profiled over and over and over and over. It doesn't matter if their team -- let's say the Pittsburgh Steelers -- are consistently excellent and they have starred on this stage before or even recently.
Profiles will be written. Great insights will be found, somehow, insights that will impress editors and receive acres of space in newspapers and online. When did the Super Bowl XLV pregame show start? Last week?
With all of that in mind, please click here and read a completely predictable Washington Post mini-profile of Mike Tomlin, the excellent and frightfully young (38 years old) head coach of the Steelers.
Insights? This is about as close as this hopefully inspirational story gets:
Tomlin's Steelers players praise him as a motivator. He strikes a balance between being stoic and buoyant, quickly shifting one way or the other depending on the situation.
"He knows how to push buttons," said nose tackle Chris Hoke. "He knows how to get us focused and get us going. He has a certain message for every week, and he pounds that message in every single day."
Says defensive end Brett Keisel: "He understands the makeup of this team, and I think that's what great coaches do. When it's time to push us, he pushes us. When it's time to pull the reins back, he pulls the reins back. That's the makeup of a great coach, understanding your players."
Can't you just feel the emotional bonds there? Me neither. He knows how to push buttons? Whoa.
Yet if you watch Steelers games -- I live in Baltimore and have seen more than a few -- you know that the players would run through walls for Tomlin. There is fire there and there seems to be a stunning amount of trust and respect. So what's the crucial element? The tie that binds?
Now I am not saying that the following Baptist Press feature on Tomlin is the be all and the end all of pre-Super Bowl features. I already knew that Tomlin -- like his mentor Coach Tony Dungy -- was a strong believer. Nevertheless, the story does contain new information, images and anecdotes and, during the days before the Super Bowl, that is rare. Most of all, it makes me wonder if that Post feature needed to consider whether or not actual faith was mixed into the hard facts of the story its feature was covering.
I especially like that the story makes it clear that Tomlin, as a believer, is in the minority of the institution that he is leading. He needs everyone's respect, not just the folks in his prayer group. That's reality. Check out this chunk of the story.
Looking up at the colossal dome of Cowboys Stadium on Tuesday, Tomlin used words like "blessed" and "humbled" to describe being on the world stage again in arguably the biggest sports and entertainment spectacle on the planet. If being the youngest coach to win the big game is important to him, he doesn't let on.
"It's down the list, to be quite honest with you," Tomlin told Baptist Press. "I'm a husband. I'm a father of three. I'm blessed enough to be the head coach of this group of men, countless other things. I'm a brother. I'm a son. It's down the list."
Such priority comes from a public but gently stated Christian faith. Tomlin doesn't quote Scripture every time a microphone is near, but he doesn't shy away when asked about it either.
"It provides a confidence, not only for me but for everyone who's a believer," Tomlin said as media crowded around him. "Football is what we do; it's not who we are. It is our job, it is our business. We all are very passionate about it, we all want to do very well at it, but [faith] keeps it in perspective."
That theme -- "football is a job, it's not who we are" -- was prevalent among the Christian players at media day. Tomlin's example has influenced his team in the most difficult of seasons, even if the committed believers on the team are the minority, as they are in most workplaces.
Does faith need to dominate the story? No. Yet, when I read the Post story, it seems like something is missing. It does seem that religion is part of the Tomlin story. For sure.
Edit the two pieces together, maybe?