This Super Bowl week begins as the last one ended, with the Seattle Seahawks excelling in an underappreciated element of their success.
The Seahawks arrived Sunday afternoon, and head coach Pete Carroll and sundry players coolly addressed and entertained the media.
As cornerback Richard Sherman reminded the media: “It’s a kids’ game, man, it’s a joy to play.”
And to most of these guys, talking about their jobs seems equally easy.
While Sherman has avoided controversy much of the season, hoping not to deflect attention from teammates, he managed to slip in a barb that jabbed both commissioner Roger Goodell and the under-suspicion New England Patriots.
Safety Earl Thomas, meanwhile, told the media: “God has my heart smiling.” His injured shoulder surely is frowning, though, and will be a story we follow all week.
A short-term explanation for their comfort in such circumstances is the experience gained when the game was in the media center of New York/New Jersey last season.
But there’s more to it than that.
Few teams can be better prepared for the carnival of the absurd that is the Super Bowl, because the Seahawks tend to resemble a traveling circus all season anyway.
As Sherman says, “crazy is normal for us.”
The roots of the team’s customary composure lie in Pete Carroll’s belief that the most effective teams are those that can cope with chaos.
So he creates it on a daily basis.
“There are a lot of things we do that try to create a little bit of chaos, so that we get comfortable,” Carroll explained late in the season. “There’s noise, music and a lot of things. Our guys have to learn how to shift gears well and handle the serious times, the fun times … whatever it is.”
The approach, he said, should help make this a multidimensional team that won’t be distracted by external forces.
Meanwhile, those forces will be focused on the Patriots, who will now face several thousand questions seeking explanations for how the game balls in the AFC Championship Game managed to get deflated below standards while in the Patriots’ possession.
The topics for the Hawks this week?
Surely, one that will occupy Carroll is his firing as the head coach of the Patriots in 1999.
Consider it doubtful that the inquisitions will be anywhere near as tedious as those at the last Super Bowl, when the East Coast press continually asked how upset he was to have been fired after just one season by the New York Jets.
Carroll answered those with grace and often humor. He charmed them all week long. This week will be a breeze by comparison.
Sherman’s experience was even more dramatic. Last season, he arrived as a newly anointed “loud-mouth thug” after his post-NFC championship game rant with sideline reporter Erin Andrews.
Those who only knew Sherman from that exposure expected him to be a great target during Super Bowl week. They quickly tried to lead him into inflammatory rhetoric.
But Sherman was so intelligent and articulate and respectful that the New York Daily News was profoundly disappointed, running a full-page cover shot of him with the caption: “The Mouth That Bored.”
Sherman will be a big star at the podium again this week.
A couple others who will elevate their public profile? Defensive tackle Michael Bennett will be one. Bennett is not only a pass-rushing ace, but comfortable in front of the microphones as well as pedaling a bicycle in the celebratory aftermath.
Safety Kam Chancellor, as his renown as a devastating hitter grows, also has found greater ease in expressing himself.
There is a notable exception, of course. But we won’t know until Tuesday’s media day how tight-lipped running back Marshawn Lynch will deal with the league-mandated media obligations.
Last year, it was a painful experience for everybody.
Recently, he’s relied with a few phrases that he repeats regardless of the question. So, I guess the trick now is to ask the right questions.
If he’s answering with one of his favorite answers, “No juice,” perhaps we can ask: “What was your major complaint about the breakfast buffet at the hotel?”
If he’s answering, “I appreciate it,” we can ask: “What do you think about the fair and accurate coverage the national media gives you?”
Last week, Sherman kidded that he was going to sit down with Lynch and show him how the whole media thing was done.
Lynch couldn’t have a better tutor; Sherman might never have a more reluctant pupil.
But that’s all a part of the chaos that puts the Seahawks at ease when they hit the game’s biggest stage.