Less than two days remain to Super Bowl XXXIX, and football fans everywhere are checking off their must-have lists: beer, chips, dip, fake cheese, TV ... and an Internet connection.
There is a profusion of sites springing up around the latest Super Bowl, with some of the best Web coverage coming from media outlets in the Boston and Philadelphia metro areas. Seeing as I'm someone who writes about the Internet, we figured it was up to washingtonpost.com to point out some of the more interesting sites.
Now just in case some foul calumny reaches your ears about my leanings, it is true that I am Philly-raised. I'm as Philly as pork roll; I love "Trading Places"; and I know what a cheesesteak is supposed to taste like.
Nevertheless, I don't know or care if God hates the Eagles and -- not being a big football fan -- I can say with certainty that Philly Phans will torch Center City no matter who wins. (I'm kidding, sorta) Likewise, I can't say whether Patriots fans are classier and I can't even tell you the difference between encroachment and a false start. (One's an offensive call and one's a defensive call, right?). But I know what looks good online, so here's the rundown:
Newspaper Web sites serving the Northeast corridor are playing to their base of Eagles and Patriots fans. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe sites both feature extensive coverage of their respective teams, though the real knockouts are enthusiastic presentations by the Courier-Post, Gannett Co.'s primary South Jersey satellite, and the Providence Journal.
The Courier-Post has a running clock, which as of this writing, provided the football fetishist's countdown to game time (the charmingly ungrammatical "1 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes and 48 seconds left until Super Bowl Sunday). It also contains a trivia contest (Day 1 and Day 2). There's also a photo gallery and photos from the Eagles-Falcons NFC championship game. Of course it's the fan photos that really resonate with readers, and the Courier-Post doesn't skimp there either as it presents multiple galleries. Particularly telling is the snow sculpture from Blackwood, N.J., of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb crushing a New England Patriot. It's hard to tell what part of the Patriot is bleeding, but suffice to say, blood has been shed.
Also see the Courier-Post's presentation of the Associated Press's interactive Super Bowl presentation. It's cool even if you're not a football fan.
The Providence Journal gets special recognition for tech excellence, doing its best to hawk an RSS feed of Patriots news right on top of its Super Bowl page. Fun reads show up with ProJo staff writers Jack Perry with his "A View From the Cybersideline" blog and "Pats Chat" with Tom Curran, who doffs his cap to the Delaware Valley tradition of referring to the "Iggles."
RSS ("Really Simple Syndication") is one good way to promote easy access. Another company trying to broaden its reach is Sirius, which is broadcasting Super Bowl coverage not only in English, but in Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and German.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has a decent article pointing out how the Eagles don't snub their fans when it comes to signing autographs. Nice way to root for the home team, but someone forgot to tell philly.com management that the Friday before game day is a good time to put a prominent link to Super Bowl coverage on the homepage. Here's hoping that changes by tomorrow. To get Super Bowl coverage, you have to go to the main philly.com page, which features a handsome-looking interactive package.
The Inquirer does weigh in on technology intersecting with sports in another fashion: "It's going to be a sad day in Philly if Dave Holt's numbers pan out. Holt, a computer programmer from Chattanooga, Tenn., has predicted 13 of the last 17 Super Bowl winners. And this year? Sorry, Birds fans. The Patriots have the edge -- with or without Terrell Owens in the game -- and should win, 31-24."
As staff writer Leah M. Zerbe reported, "Holt and colleagues Alan Stephenson and Steve Olson just finished running a 20,000-game simulation after plugging Eagles and Patriots statistics into their program. When all the games are done, a representative game is spit out. That game had the Birds on the short end. 'The program has no frills. It's purely a number-crunching application,' Holt said. 'It plays every down, every situation, and then spits out a result. It goes through about 500 games a minute, so this computer system is cooking.'"
The Boston Globe, meanwhile, does right by its Pats fans. Among its interesting features is a "pic of the day," as well as the alarmed concession that Eagles fans are outnumbering their rivals in Florida. Of course, that shows up just over this headline for the blog featuring Boston.com's Eric Wilbur and Philly.com sports editor Aaron Knox that shows good old-fashioned trash talk is alive and well in the 21st century.
There are some other worthwhile news sites to check out for in-house football coverage. The Florida Times-Union is seizing the day almost as if it senses that Jacksonville's population might never swell so high again. With its graphics-intensive page, blogs and reports on the fans flooding the town, you'd think the Jaguars were on tap to provide the halftime entertainment.
Here are some other sites in and around Philly and Boston providing Super Bowl coverage:
* The Delaware News-Journal
* The Asbury Park Press
* NJ.com (The Trenton Times and Star-Ledger among others)
* The Boston Herald
Meanwhile, popular online sports destination ESPN.com is highlighting its appropriately titled "Crash Course." As the site notes in prominent type: "Super Weekend Is Here, So It's Time For Some Last-Minute Cramming On The Pats And Eagles." This, of course, is the sportsfan's sportsfan site, featuring a number of engaging "cheat sheets" for the final exam prepared by "the brains and class clowns at Bristol U."
Among others are Page 2's Sports Guy Bill Simmons with Super Blog II, the Tom Brady vs. Donovan McNabb quarterback poll, the live Super Bowl chat and some classy videos.
Foxsports.com is complementing its network's presentation of the Super Bowl with a creatively titled primer "It's OK to pick the Eagles." That comes courtesy of SportingNews feature columnist Vinnie Iyer, who predicts a 27-24 victory in favor of the birds. Also on the site is a page dedicated to halftime performance anchor Sir Paul McCartney, looking ever more like the walrus that Beatle John claimed he was.
Plug in the Fans
Dave Bry, a 33-year-old operations manager in the automobile repair business, runs eaglesfanclub.com. He lives in Colorado but maintains a loyal fan site that he pays for out of his pocket. But the best insight into the burn-down-the-mission mentality of Philly fans shows up at the aptly named nestofdeath.com. Check the top side of the page: "Welcome Philadelphia Eagle Fans! The Nest of Death is Where Philly Fans are Philly Tough." That shows up next to lovely images of the implosion of longtime Eagles aerie Veterans Stadium. One other site to check if you're not averse to blue language: 700level.com.
For New Englanders, patsfans.com delivers a thicket of information. At first it looks like an independent effort, but it turns out it's a "strategic media partner" of radio behemoth Clear Channel Broadcasting. Gopats.com is run by fans Mike Maddaloni and Clint Mills, who reveals in the "about us" section a level of adoration for his boys that others might view as extreme: "I did almost miss the Cleveland game in 2001 as that was my wife's due date with our 3rd child, but she said 'not to worry', and she was right as we didn't need to leave for the hospital until the following evening!" Thank goodness for small favors.
About.com provides a good rundown of Patriots Basics, especially for non-fans, though it serves it up with a side of pop-ups that don't do anyone any favors. NE-patriots.com also offers a competent rundown for Sunday.
And taking a quick look at the other flotsam and jetsam, an eBay seller is hawking an Eagles garter, while another is selling a green "Dead M&M" that somehow prophesies a Pats victory (see it to believe it).