Boldin just made Super Bowl week interesting
Crazy outburst by Cardinals WR gives game much-needed dose of villainy
by Mike Celizic, NBCSports.com
You don't need a bad guy to make a great Super Bowl. But it sure helps Super Bowl Week go by if you have one handy.
This is why we should be sending e-mails and test messages of thanks to Anquan Boldin of the Arizona Cardinals. Just when we thought we were in for another dull week of all-for-one, one-for-all interviews, Boldin showed up off in the corner of the clubhouse proclaiming, "I'm in this for myself."
It was a display worthy of such shy and unselfish players as Terrell Owens, Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson and Randy Moss. Millions of fans watched in disgust as Boldin berated offensive coordinator Todd Haley while Haley was trying to direct the winning drive. And when they learned that Boldin didn't even stick around after the game to celebrate with his teammates, a lot of them decided the team would be better off if coach Ken Whisenhunt left the me-first wide-out behind when the team heads to Tampa.
That's a natural reaction. Fans want players to behave impeccably at all times. And if one doesn't, he should be hung by his thumbs in the public square and pelted with vegetables that are two weeks past their sell-by dates.
There's reason for that sentiment. Football is the ultimate team sport, and no team needs a player thinking about himself when the team is trying to win the league's biggest game. If he's got a problem, the least he can do is save it for after the season.
But suspending Boldin may be a bit hasty.
For one thing, his talent may come in handy. The Cardinals already dealt with a similar situation. During the season, running back Edgerrin James squawked and whined about his lack of playing time and demanded that he be released so that he could pursue his personal goals. But the team kept James around, dusted him off for the playoffs and got contributions vital to Arizona's brilliant run.
The only real difference between James and Boldin is that Boldin chose the NFC Championship game as the time to air his grievances, while James had the decency to do his whining during the week and between games.
The point is that the Cardinals can't afford to jettison a talented player for one sideline eruption, no matter how poorly timed and selfishly motivated. Look how well the Giants played once Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. He may have been a self-absorbed, me-first knucklehead, but the man sure could catch a football.
But there's another reason we need Boldin to go to Tampa, and it has nothing to do with what he can do for Arizona. It's about what he can do for us.
Let's face it. This was shaping up as a boring Super Bowl Week. Think back to last year: Greatest Super Bowl ever played, great teams, great game, great ending, yadda yadda yadda. But what about the week before the game? We managed to manufacture a victory guarantee out of pretty much nothing when Burress said he thought his team would win the game. But other than that, it was like spending five days trapped in Disney's "It's a Small World" ride, but without the conflict.
This year promised to be the same. The Cards are the ultimate underdogs. The Steelers have all that tradition. Kurt Warner's a battler. Ben Roethlisberger's a stud. There are only so many ways you can spin those stories before your eyes glaze over.
That's where we need Boldin. Whisenhunt on Monday already indicated that the receiver's outburst was no big deal - just a highly competitive player losing it in the heat of battle. At some point this week, Boldin will apologize to his teammates, they'll forgive him, and the Cardinals will move on to the business of getting ready for Pittsburgh.
That may be the end of it for the team, but not for us. We've now got an official bad guy of Super Bowl XLIII. Beginning with Media Day on Jan. 27 and continuing for three days of team interviews, Boldin is going to have to tell people what he was thinking.
It will be pretty much a manufactured story. Most of them are. In six years with the Cardinals, Boldin has become a Pro Bowl receiver and a good team player. It was only after fellow wide-out Larry Fitzgerald got a big contract extension last year that Boldin, who used to be perfectly happy with his deal, blew a fuse.
He was already trying to talk himself out of town and into more bucks elsewhere when he found himself on the sidelines watching Fitzgerald get all the glory during the Cards' drive for the winning touchdown.
Rather than cheer on his team, Boldin chose that moment to get into a heated argument with his offensive coordinator, Todd Haley. Showing an admirable ability to multi-task, Haley managed to supervise the winning drive while telling Boldin what he could do with his complaints.
There were reasons for Boldin to be on the sideline. Haley wanted to go with one wide receiver - and the results back up that decision. And Boldin had missed the previous week's win over Carolina and was nursing a thigh injury.
But even if he were healthy, he'd still have no complaint. The object of the game is to win, and the Cardinals won. That makes all coaching decisions perfect and final. All a player who's left out of the crucial drive can do is shut up, congratulate his teammates and wait until after the season to go into his idiot act.
But he didn't do that, and for that we should be grateful. Until Boldin went ballistic, it was looking like another Super Bowl week that could be packaged and sold as an insomnia cure. But now we've got our bad guy and our controversy.
If this were Week 2, I might say bench him. But in Week 2, we didn't need his story line. Now we do.
Welcome, Anquan, to the worst week of your life.
Mike Celizic writes regularly for NBCSports.com and is a freelance writer based in New York.
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