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January 31, 2006

A Super predicament

A Super predicament

Who’s it gonna be, Steelers or Seahawks? When it comes to the Pittsburgh-Louisville connection, a river runs through it. Then again, we do like our coffee.

Your beverage preference: may say a lot about your rooting interests in the Super Bowl. Iron City beer is a Pittsburgh thing. Starbucks symbolizes Seattle.
Your beverage preference: may say a lot about your rooting interests in the Super Bowl. Iron City beer is a Pittsburgh thing. Starbucks symbolizes Seattle.

Only a few shopping days remain until Super Bowl Sunday, and I’m sorry to report there’s trouble right here in River City: We can’t decide whether Louisville should officially pull for the Pittsburgh Steelers, because our cities are connected by the Ohio River, or for the Seattle Seahawks, because a race horse named in that city’s honor won the Kentucky Derby in 1977 (or back about the time the bridges debate was first heating up).

Mayor Jerry Abramson, responding to this crisis in usual fashion, has established a blue-ribbon committee to ponder the issue and given it a deadline of Monday, Feb. 6, to make a decision. When someone pointed out that the game will be over by then, the Mayor quickly noted that he couldn’t think of a better way for Louisville to back a winner.

Unfortunately, as is the case with most things in Louisville, the city is hopelessly divided along socioeconomic lines.

The South End is Steeler Country, and every bar in the area probably has stocked up with Iron City beer and yellow hardhats. But the East End is leaning toward Seattle, which is known for its coffee, and every Starbucks from St. Matthews to Crestwood is offering a concoction known as “the Shaun Alexander,” in honor of the star Seahawks running back from northern Kentucky.

The West End is too close too call, even though Courier-Journal editorial writer Betty Winston Baye has urged her readers to support the Seahawks because Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher has decided that his team will wear its white jerseys instead of the black ones. To Baye, this is the worst example of Super Bowl racism since the white-dominated media vilified poor Janet Jackson for exposing a nipple during a halftime show. Had a white entertainer — such as Janet’s brother, Michael — done the same thing, Baye argued, it would have been no big deal.

Speaking of the nipple issue, it still resonates at Southeast Christian Church, where there’s been a movement to hold all 79 regular services on Saturday night so Sunday will be cleared to allow the game to be shown on the church arena’s large-screen TVs. Outgoing pastor Bob Russell has come up with a novel and creative fund-raising idea; he figured the collection plates could be passed every time a Steeler or a Seahawk points to heaven or genuflects after making a routine tackle or scoring an easy touchdown. Since the over-and-under number on this activity is 18, the Rev. Bob could see a lot of bucks rolling in. (For desperate housewives — didn’t Denny Crum coin that term years ago? — and other effete East Enders who might not know about the “over-and-under,” it’s a popular betting proposition in which an oddsmaker sets a number on, say, total number of commercials, and bettors then wager whether there will be more than that number or fewer.)

But the Rev. Russell was done in by the nipple issue. The congregation looks at it like this: If Janet Jackson can get away with such outrageous behavior, causing incalculable psychic damage to all of the innocent American youths who weren’t playing violent video games on their computers at the time of the incident, there’s no telling what Mick Jagger might do with his tongue, not to mention other body parts, at this year’s halftime show.

In the interest of being proactive, Southeast Christian has petitioned Gov. Ernie Fletcher to forget about intelligent design for a moment and, instead, urge his Michigan counterpart to ban several Rolling Stones songs, including “Sympathy for the Devil,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Get Off of My Cloud.”

Gov. Fletcher is fine with that, and he also supports Southeast’s request to ban “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on the grounds that he’s already sick and tired of hearing that from the General Assembly. But he refused to ask for a ban on “Paint It Black” because that might cause the Rev. Louis Coleman and his bullhorn to show up in the Governor’s office again.

Speaking of the Rev. Coleman, he’s livid about the halftime entertainment. He doesn’t mind the idea of going retro — the Rolling Stones were stars at least III years before the first Super Bowl was played in 1967 — but since the game is being played in Motown, why couldn’t the NFL have picked James Brown (the singer, not the Hall-of-Fame running back) or Diana Ross or however many of the Four Tops who aren’t residing in assisted-living homes?

But truth be told, the halftime show is the least of the Governor’s Super Bowl worries.

The First Lady wants to hold a Super Bowl party in the Mansion and charge admission to raise funds for her mansion restoration project. As her guests of honor, she wanted to invite the Wisteria Lane crowd — Bree, Susan, Edie and Gabrielle. She thought Bree, whose husband and boyfriend have mysteriously kacked, might want to meet Attorney General Greg Stumbo.

Alas, however, the party may be canceled because of problems with the guest list. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell already has sent his regrets for that party and any future parties held by the Fletchers. Of course, the Governor pardoned Mitch and announced that if the party is canceled, he will go see “Brokeback Mountain” with Senate Majority Leader David Williams.

And there’s more.

The Governor’s crack staff of advisers, proving yet again that they have their fingers on the pulse of the electorate, have informed the Governor about rumors that there might actually be widespread gambling on the Super Bowl across the commonwealth. Shocked, the Governor sent Attorney General Stumbo a BlackBerry message ordering him to mobilize the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation and organize raids on any establishments where Super Bowl betting might occur.

However, the Attorney General refused on the grounds that his KBI agents were too busy checking e-mails regarding the merit-system scandal, and, naturally, the Governor’s spokesperson — is he on his IVth or his Vth? — immediately accused Stumbo of playing politics.

It’s a well-known fact, the spokesperson said, that Stumbo’s home district in Eastern Kentucky is a haven for rooster-fighting, which attracts a lot of betting. So it’s only reasonable to assume that the chicken owners will be betting every bit as much on the Super Bowl as, say, the members of every country club in Louisville and Lexington, not to mention all those heathens from Louisville who flee the state to bet their hard-earned Kentucky dollars at the riverboat casinos.

“We must stop this insidious spread of gambling!” thundered the spokesperson. “This is why the Governor courageously remains on the fence between the horse-racing folks who want more gambling because it will generate revenue, which Kentucky obviously does not need, and the religious leaders who oppose it on moral grounds — except, of course, for the Catholic churches that sponsor Bingo.”

When the spokesperson’s charges were reported to Stumbo, the Attorney General said, and we quote, “Ha, ha, ha.” After which he thumbed his nose and said, and this is verbatim, “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” Then, as a parting shot, Stumbo said, “The Seahawks have as much chance of winning as the Governor does of getting the support of all the Ford workers in Louisville.”

Geez, the Attorney General really knows how to hurt a guy, doesn’t he? He was referring to the Governor’s support of repealing the state’s right-to-work and prevailing wage laws, a move his opponents see as little more than an unbridled attempt at union-busting.

At Ford’s Louisville plants, this news was greeted as warmly as the corporation’s recent announcement that it will cut thousands of jobs and close plants because it hasn’t been able to figure out how to compete with Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi.

Since Pittsburgh, like Detroit, is a strong union town, it’s safe to assume Louisville’s Ford workers will support the Steelers more than the Seahawks, although the Seattle-based airline construction industry also has experienced its share of labor problems.

Call me impatient, but I can’t wait for the Mayor’s committee to make a decision. So I’ve already made my Super Bowl decisions. I’m going to find a bar or private domicile where the patrons will be guzzling Iron City, rooting for the Rolling Stones to expose something at halftime and betting one another on whether the points scored by the Steelers and Seahawks combined will exceed Mick Jagger’s age (which, by the way, is 62).

And I will root for the Steelers. Where liquids are concerned, the Ohio River connection is stronger in Louisville than the Starbucks connection. And in honor of a certain infamous Kentucky-related basketball event that happened in 1984 in Seattle, I’m saying the final score is going to be Steelers 33, Seahawks 3.

Contact the writer at billyr@leoweekly.com