Three Big Questions – Super Bowl, Rolo, And Kobe Bryant

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As I made my way through a week’s vacation in Hawaii (sorry), there were three sports topics that dominated my stay in paradise.

Everywhere I went random people, my family, and even my vacation group all wanted my opinion, or at least wanted to give their opinion, on who was going to win Sunday’s “Big Game,” what I thought of  Washington State University’s new football coach, and, most recently, what my reaction was to the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

So here are my thoughts on all three.

“The Big Game”

As a Seattle Seahawks fan, it is hard to get overly excited about a Super Bowl that the Hawks aren’t in. But Sunday’s game is intriguing on many levels.

It will pit one of the most dangerous offenses against the No. 2 ranked defense in all of the NFL.

In the regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs averaged 379 yards per game (419 in the postseason) while the San Francisco 49ers’ defense yielded just 281 yards per game (252 play-offs).

Something has to give. Right?

But the Chiefs are not all offense just as the 49ers are not all defense. Both teams can score points, and both teams can play tough defense.

So who has the edge?

I think it will come down to the quarterbacks’ play. Chief’s signal-caller Patrick Mahomes is a beast. Look at his numbers alone: 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. He has a rocket for an arm and can get out of the pocket to extend plays. I think that will be crucial against the ferocious Niners defense.

They will come at Mahomes in waves, and he will either have to get rid of the ball quickly or move around to avoid the rush. How much pressure San Francisco puts on Mahomes will dictate this game.

I’m just not convinced 49’ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is for real. Yes, he put up big numbers this year (3,978 yards, 27 tds, 13 int). However, in the big games, he just wasn’t compelling enough to convince me he can up his game on the big stage.

It should be an exciting game. I see 35-28 Chiefs.

Rolo

As I made my way around Maui in my Washington State Cougar gear, I got stopped repeatedly by Hawaii football fans scolding me (WSU actually) for stealing their football coach, Nick Rolovich.

The Rainbow Warriors’ coach for the past four years, Rolovich apparently built quite a fan base. The ones I talked to were very sad to see him leave the sunny shores of Honolulu for the Palouse.

I think it is a great hire for WSU.

Beyond the fact that his offense is similar to his predecessor Mike Leach, and he should be able to keep many of Leach’s recruits, I really like the way “Rolo” is going about endearing himself to the Cougar faithful.

As a Seattle resident, I thought it was a brilliant move on Rolo’s part, bar-hopping around town, hitting all the Cougar bars where his followers watch most of the games.

I think it makes it more “real” for us fans. Westside fans and alum, at times, feel left out of the mix when we can’t make it over the mountains to cheer on the team in person. Mike Leach never made an effort to reach out to us. It makes me feel like Rolo is going out of his way to get to know ALL fans in person. It most certainly can’t hurt fund-raising efforts as well.

If Rolovich can build a fan base anywhere close to what I recently witnessed in Hawaii, I think Cougar fans are in good hands.

Now let’s see what he can do on the field. Defense, anyone?

Kobe

Sunday’s news about Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others perishing in a helicopter crash was, needless to say, a stunner. I was preparing to board my flight home, going from 85-degree weather to pouring rain and cold in Seattle. So my depression was peaking when my daughter texted me with the sobering news, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve been in the sports media business for over 20 years and have met and interviewed a vast array of athletes across all sports. But I can say I’ve never met anyone quite like Bryant.

By no stretch of the imagination can I say I knew him on any level other than getting pre- or post-game quotes around his NBA games and at the ESPY Awards. I maybe did that just a handful of times, but they were always memorable.

Like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Tiger Woods, among others, he had a presence or confidence about him that was hard to explain. He was both cocky and confident but always backed it up.

Bryant was the type of player that you hated, maybe even despised, playing against but would have taken him on your team over few others.

He was one of the best and he knew it.  He was always gracious with his time, and from everything I’ve read in the past days, more than just a basketball player.

My interactions with him were brief. But looking back now, they left an impression I am just now realizing.

Kobe Bryant will definitely be missed.

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About Author

John D. Hunter is Montana native but grew up in the Tacoma/Seattle area and proudly attended Washington State University. He is a former morning show producer on KJR SportsRadio in Seattle. For 7 years he produced ‘Knight in the Morning’ with Michael Knight and New York Vinnie. From there he moved to ESPN.com where he spent another 7 years as an Interactive Editor and Soccer reporter/writer. He has covered 3 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, 1998 World Cup in France and many more sporting events.

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