The most ballyhooed event in all of sports

Jan 17, 2006 4:50 AM

Fasten your seatbelt and buckle your helmet.

The Hucksters of Hype are coming!

Immediately after Carolina beats Seattle and Denver beats Pittsburgh next Sunday, the Super Hype begins.

It has begun already, of course — the selling of Forty, Super Bowl XL -- but it will shift into overdrive late Sunday, when the Hucksters start selling the idea that the world has stopped except for the War in Detroit on February 5.

The Super Bowl, while frequently a lousy football game — more than half of the previous 39 editions have been won by 15 points or more, and more than a quarter of them by three touchdowns or more — has become the greatest ballyhooed event in sports.

It is appropriate that Pepsi and Burger King are the two major sponsors, for the game is the fast food of football, except that the appetizers and dessert often overshadow the main fare.

This year, for example, there will be the 8th annual Players’ Gala, described in the official ballyhoo as an event at which "NFL Stars and entertainment industry notables will once again walk the red carpet." It is being presented in Detroit’s "multi-level hotspot, the Elysium Lounge." This earth-shaking event, we are told the publicity for it, was created seven years ago "by a group of NFL players who saw the need to host an exclusive event that they could embrace."

If you believe that line, please let us know. We have a couple of NFL stadiums we will sell you cheap.

If by chance the Elysium Lounge isn’t your cup of tea — or glass of Diet Pepsi — you can always saunter over and become part of history at "the first ever Super Bowl Charities Bowling Classic."

The selling of the Super Bowl has been the most exceptional marketing job in sports history. Millions are spent on it, and between next Sunday and Feb. 5 millions more will be poured into the selling. There is a Web site, of course, where you can see "a complete list of who sang the national anthem" at each of the previous 39 games, something you undoubtedly have been wondering about for weeks or months.

Or you can check on every halftime show over the 39 previous years, something that will come in supremely handy for your home Super Bowl party: a trivia quiz. "What was the halftime entertainment in 1989?" will get your guests every time.

If those don’t do the job, try "Stats for every Wild Card playoff."

While all of this is going on, the press will be scrambling for stories.

If my infallible prediction proves right, expect to learn every secret of Steve Smith’s life, from what he ate growing up in Lynwood, California, to his present status as "one of the top five or six players in the NFL," according to Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. Having Bill Parcells say anything nice about anyone or anything is a story in itself. He is one mean, sour hombre.

The writers, if Carolina makes it, undoubtedly will remind devastated New Orleans that it waived good ole Louisiana-Lafayette boy Jake Delhomme not once but twice, and there will be stories about Cajun crawfish and his winning the World Bowl championship quarterbacking the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe in 1999.

You’ll also learn more than you ever wanted to know about durable Jake Plummer, the Broncos’ quarterback, and here the story turns inspiring. He twice has taken every snap in every game for an entire season, but he also started his Jake Plummer Foundation to help children’s causes and Alzheimer’s victims seven years ago, and it is refreshing to learn that guys who bash one another around can have social consciences.

If we’re wrong and Seattle and the Steelers survive, there will be inside-the-helmet stories, daily and hourly, of Shaun Alexander’s concussion and Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility, or how he once played wide receiver in high school at Findley, Ohio, before being switched to quarterback.

Covering the Super Bowl, you’ve got to dig deep, and regardless of who wins next Sunday on the road to Detroit, we’ll get all the flying dirt.