Celebrating our 15th anniversary, this year's Gay Guide to the Super Bowl.
WHAT: Super Bowl 50 will be played Sunday Feb. 7 between the Denver Broncos (14-4) of the American Football Conference and the Carolina Panthers (17-1) of the National Football Conference. The Panthers are favored to win the game by the Vegas oddsmakers by about 6 points.
For the first time, the NFL is doing away with Roman numerals for the game. They thought Super Bowl L would conjure up too many "L is for losers" memes. Next year, we'll be back to Super Bowl LI.
WHERE: The game will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., 45 miles south of the host city San Francisco. Santa Clara home owners hope to cash in, with 2-bedroom condos going for $1,000 a night and up on Airbnb for places within walking distance.
KICKOFF/TV: The game will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time after a pregame show that is about as long as one of those old Fidel Castro speeches. It will be shown on CBS, with Jim Nantz as the play-by-play announcer and Phil Simms as the analyst.
For a while, I chronicled on Outsports the homoerotic comments Simms would make from time to time. Here are some of his best:
- "He just pats Koppen on the rear end, he probably yells out, 'Get ready!'"
- In reference to Randall Cunningham's arm, Simms noted, "It's long and loose, and he can still really stick it in there."
- "Tom Brady, he's a handsome dude. He's also fearless and likes the action."
- Lamar Smith [Miami running back] doesn't look like much in his underwear."
FASHION NOTE: The Broncos are home team and get to choose their uniform color. At home, they wear bright orange but are wearing their road whites since the team is 0-4 in Super Bowls wearing orange. The Panthers will wear their black jerseys with silver pants, a combo that is 0-2 for them all-time in the playoffs.
Both teams look good in their chosen unis:
QUARTERBACKS: This is a battle between generations. Peyton Manning of the Broncos, who will turn 40 in March, is the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history. Cam Newton of Carolina won't turn 27 until May. It's the largest age gap between starting Super Bowl quarterbacks.
The two have some things in common — each was the first player taken overall in the draft (Manning in 1998, Newton in 2011) and both played for Southeastern Conference schools (Manning at Tennessee, Newton at Auburn).
Their playing styles couldn't be more different. Newton is a threat to run as well as pass, while Manning's speed is timed with a sundial. Newton is the league's MVP this season while Manning missed seven games with an injury and has clearly diminished physical skills.
Newton endorses yogurt, Manning Papa John's, the latter a wise investment in pot-legal Colorado. Manning is a hell of a lot richer, having earned an estimated $500 million through salary and endorsements in his career. If the Broncos win the Super Bowl, Manning will get a $2 million bonus. This might well be Manning's last game as a pro while Newton is a bright star who will be around for a while.
Their styles are even reflected in their choice of post-game wardrobes. Manning looking every inch the button-downed business exec, with Newton auditioning for GQ and clearly conscious of what he wears.
Newton did have a WTF? fashion moment though on Sunday when he decided to wear gold zebra pants on the flight to the Bay Area. A gay friend of mine was dismissive, saying that not even someone as good looking as Newton could pull them off and they made his ass look too big. I concur:
THE COACHES: Gary Kubiak of the Broncos and Ron Rivera of the Panthers are both ex-players and excellent coaches. They are also rather bland so I'll leave it at that.
THE FANS: These are two fan bases that are tolerable. I went to a Broncos game and found the crowd very intense but generally pleasant, unlike trips to see the Chargers and Raiders play, where the a-hole faction was sizable.
They have a cool tradition in Denver whenever an opposing team's pass is not caught. The P.A. announcer says "Pass ..." then pauses as the crowd roars in unison, "Incomplete!"
The Panthers fans have started a tradition that is becoming a staple at their stadium and it's generally cute. When a player scores, he runs over to the railing and hands the ball to a young fan. It can be adorable.
THE GAY ANGLE: The host city is San Francisco and Beyonce is part of the halftime show. The only way it can get any more gay is if Troy Aikman was the TV analyst and Aaron Rodgers one of the quarterbacks (I kid, I kid!).
Wait, it got more gay after I published this: Lady Gaga is singing the national anthem.
The woman who is dogsitting for Broncos kicker Brandon McManus is a lesbian, he told me. More importantly, McManus runs an anti-bullying group to help save lives and realizes the importance of the issue to LGBT young people.
Cam Newton is among NFL players saying they would embrace a gay teammate. In Denver, Broncos team president was among those welcoming Michael Sam when he announced he was gay prior to the NFL Draft in 2014. "I applaud Michael Sam," Elway said.
On a more disturbing note, unidentified members of the Panthers were accused of using gay slurs against Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during their game in December. The Panthers denied it and no Giants players came forward who said they heard any such thing.
The Giants organization has insisted such slurs were uttered. Beckham told former players he has been the subject of gay slurs this season. However, he declined to press the issue when he met with NFL officials over his one-game suspension for a series of altercations with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. I'm convinced something derogatory was said to Beckham since some Panthers publicly tried to feminize him by calling him a "bitch" and "ballerina." Howevere, this week Norman denied to me that he called Beckham a gay slur. It seems, though, that all parties thought it best if this issue simply went away.
On the non-football front, look for soccer player Abby Wambach, an open lesbian, say "gay" in an ad for Mini Cooper.
TEA BAG FOR TWO: There is always a level of homoeroticism and sexuality lurking in every football game. We saw that on display after the AFC Championship Game when an anonymous member of the Broncos said this to Robert Klemko of MMQB about sacking Tom Brady: "I tried to lay on him a few times. I tried to rub my nuts on his face."
The would-be tea bagger wasn't identified but everyone assumes it was Broncos superstar linebacker/pass rusher Von Miller who has a history of genitalia-related plays. Here's Miller grabbing his crotch after a sack of Brady:
Here's Miller humping air during a game with the Chiefs:
And here's Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce wanting to jerk off in Miller's face, saying, "I thought [Miller] had a cheap shot on my QB, so I thought he deserved a shot to the face."
Miller is No. 58, so keep your eyes on him when the Broncos are on defense. And keep a towel handy.
ENTERTAINMENT: The halftime show this year is Coldplay, with a special appearance by Beyonce and Bruno Mars. In addition, the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, led by LA Philharmonic's Gustavo Dudamel will perform, a first for classical muisc. It's an odd mash-up and seems like it's thrown together to appeal to as many demographics as possible. The NFL said that "Coldplay front man Chris Martin is designing a show that will echo elements of the NFL's On the Fifty campaign — honoring the past, recognizing the present and looking ahead to the next 50 years, including other special artists."
Since I will be the game this year, I will have little choice but to watch.
THE COMMERCIALS: CBS is charging $4.8 million per 30-second ad. Among the ads are ones with Willem Dafoe impersonating Marilyn Monroe for Snickers; Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan for Bud Light; openly lesbian soccer player Abby Wambach for Mini Cooper; one for Pokeman and the first one ever for Amazon. Super Bowl ads used to be at least a surprise but now most of them are released ahead of time so you can get sick of them even sooner.
FOR THE EYES: Football players are pretty studly and there is someone for everyone's tastes. Several Broncos and Panthers made our All-Hot team this season, but here are four who stand out, in order: Devin Funchess and Luke Kuechly of the Panthers and Brandon McManus and Vernon Davis of the Broncos.
THE GAME: This year I am doing something different. I will write why Denver will win and Jeremy Brener will tell you why Carolina will win. Jeremy is a 17-year-old high school student from Houston who has been writing about the NFL from the perspective of an openly gay teen. I have T-shirts that are older than 17 years so we'll see if youth or experience is smarter when it comes to football.
Jeremy is in trouble, though. The Pooch Predictor race, held by the Palm Beach Kennel Club, says the Broncos will win. The Broncos greygound beat the Panthers' one, and the race is 13-6 in picking Super Bowl winners.
Jeremy Brener: Why Carolina will win the game
I think the Broncos can do it, but that doesn't necessarily mean I think they will. After the Panthers beat up the Cardinals 49-15, the Panthers look like they won't be beat. Carolina has had a fantastic season. Cam Newton has had an unbelievable year, and is very likely to win the MVP. But Cam Newton has not faced a defense this season of Denver's caliber.
Von Miller had an unbelievable game in the AFC Championship, Chris Harris Jr. has had a Pro Bowl season, and veterans like DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward have made this defense the best in the league. Are Carolina's receivers talented enough to beat the shutdown secondary of Denver? I'm not sure.
Carolina's defense is also very stellar, and their leader Luke Kuechly has two touchdowns this postseason. However, they are beat up. Thomas Davis, Bene Benwikere, Jared Allen, and Charles Tillman are all injured. Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, and Charles Johnson will have to be fast to get to Peyton Manning, as he will look to get the ball out quick.
Ultimately, it comes down to who is the better team, and I think Carolina is the better team. They have been the best team the entire season. However, I do think it will be closer than others think and people should not count the Broncos out so quickly. This game will be closer than people expect, and I don't think it will be a repeat of what we saw when the Broncos were last in the Super Bowl.
I don't have any rooting interest for this game. I'll be happy for whoever wins as the team will deserve it. I just hope they give this season the ending it deserves and provide the viewers an entertaining game. They have a tough act to follow from last year's game, but what more can you hope for? Panthers 24-21.
Jim Buzinski: Why Denver will win the game
Carolina is an understandable favorite. They are 17-1 and have looked dominant in the postseason. But people predicting a repeat of two years ago when the Broncos were blown out 43-8 by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl have got it wrong.
First off, 16 of the players who started for the Broncos two years ago aren't even on the team. This includes the entire linebacking corps and secondary. The 2015 Broncos defense was first in the league for a reason and made Tom Brady's life hell in the AFC title game.
Cam Newton offers a much different challenge with his size, speed and strength. He will be impossible to stop but the Broncos have fast, tough players like Von Miller and Brandon Marshall to contain him and minimize him running wild. They also have the defensive backs to play man coverage against a rather average group of wide receivers. Containing tight end Greg Olsen will be the key, since he is Newton's go-to guy. The Panthers have a great running game but the Broncos have stopped the run all season. The Panthers will get their points but won't ride roughshod unless Denver turns the ball over.
The Broncos have played virtually error-free in two playoff games, with one fumble on a fluky backwards pass. They have realized that punting is not always a bad thing since teams have a hard time getting long drives against their defense. Peyton Manning is not the same QB he was 18 months ago but he will have had two weeks of rest and needs only to summon up 60 minutes of solid play.
There will be opportunities to make some plays passing against a Panthers secondary that has some holes not named Josh Norman. Running the ball will be difficult against the Panthers front seven but not impossible. In two playoff games, Manning has led 10 scoring drives. Only three have resulted in touchdowns so he will need to up that ratio.
I see a tight game and that's something the Broncos have thrived on, going 11-3 in games decided by seven or fewer points. They've also played a tougher schedule, with nine games against playoff teams to six for Carolina. I see Manning rising to the occasion on what might be his last game ever playing football and leading a fourth-quarter drive for the win. Broncos 24-20.
(All photos from Getty Images and USA TODAY Sports. GIFs from SB Nation.)