A word has been missing from most of the news out of Tampa surrounding Super Bowl XXXV. That word is "hype."
That's due in large part to the fact that there aren't a lot of marquee head-to-head matchups of superstars to promote when the Ravens and Giants take the field Sunday.
Instead, two teams with players who have gained more notoriety off the field than on lately will knock heads at Raymond James Stadium.
Make no mistake, both teams have some very talented and accomplished players, but none that inspire the buzz of some recent renewals.
The Ravens have the NFL's defensive player of the year in linebacker Ray Lewis. On Media Day Lewis was surrounded by reporters and cameras and inundated with questions, but most were attempts to get Lewis to open up about the murder charge he faced last year and the plea deal he eventually took.
"It's a little different," said Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, who won two Super Bowls with the Broncos with John Elway callin the signals. "You don't have the big names like John Elway and Brett Favre, or Terrell (Davis) and Jamal (Anderson) going at it."
While it might be a little disappointing to the media, the players don't seem to care a bit.
"We're not here to make stars of ourselves," Giants linebacker Jesse Armstead said. "We're here to win a championship."
The apparent lack of star has created a bit of a dilemma for Lewis.
"We go for something called a tone-setter - our defense thrives on it," Lewis said. "Basically, it's taking your star out of the game."
But when pressed to identify the Giants' star, Lewis fell silent.
"You can't ever walk on the and see your opponent across from you and think, 'Hey man, he's good,' " Lewis said, perhaps trying avoid giving the Giants any blackboard material. "The thing we live by is you never have to respect anybody else you're playing against, but don't disrespect them. That's when you take it to a totally different level."
The Giants have no problem with their relative anonymity.
"We've been a team that is worried about Sundays and not Monday through Saturday and all that is said," said Giants running back Tiki Barber. "We're about what gets things done.
"We don't care about publicity. The reason we do not get a lot of credit is we don't have the one big name, the Marshall Faulk. We're role players who don't gravitate toward the spotlight and mouth off," Barber added.
"You can be yourself in New York, because there are so many different personalities. We're overshadowed by the Yankees and the Mets and the Rangers ... "
The ironic thing about these teams playing in the world's most renowned football game is that when it's done, there's a pretty good chance at least one star will be born.
"Whenever you're on center stage ... you want to show your best," Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said. "This is the biggest stage in football. It's a place where stars are made."
Produced by John Esterbrook
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