Super Bowl XLIII That Guy

Last year I debuted my Super Bowl That Guy column, noting that there’s always some little-known player who rises to the occasion for the big game. Click to read last year’s column for some perspective.

To refresh your mind, here are the rules to qualify for That Guy status as we head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIII matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Rules to qualify as That Guy in a Super Bowl:

  1. Starting quarterbacks are automatically ruled out. That means no Kurt Warner and no Ben Roethlisberger.

  2. Pro Bowl selections are also overqualified. That means that, in addition to Warner, receievers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, safety Adrian Wilson and special teamer Sean Morey are ineligible for Arizona. For the Steelers, linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior and safety Troy Polamalu are off limits.

  3. Fantasy football studs are ineligible. This net catches several players already ruled out. Add to those names: Willie Parker, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

  4. Veterans with a significant playoff history. Deshea Townsend and Aaron Smith each have at least 10 years of experience and a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers already. They’re exempt. On the Arizona side, there’s a lot less playoff experience, but Edgerrin James definitely qualifies.

  5. No repeats. If you were already named That Guy in a Super Bowl, you can never be him again. The Steelers’ That Guy from Super Bowl XL, Antwaan Randle-El, is no longer with the team. No one on either team has ever been That Guy before.

Arizona Cardinals top five nominees for Super Bowl XLIII That Guy

5. Mike Gandy, LT
Protecting Kurt Warner will be a key to the Cardinals’ success. Gandy is in charge of protecting Warner’s blindside against the Steelers’ rush that will feature NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.

4. Matt Leinart, QB
The one-time golden boy has been relegated to the bench, but if Gandy and company fail to protect Warner, the Heisman-trophy winner Leinart will be called upon. Warner has managed to stay healthy this season, so there’s no indication that he’ll go down. But the Steelers’ defense is the best and arguably hardest hitting in the league. What a chance that would be for someone who was once the guy at USC to become That Guy in the Super Bowl.

3. Bertrand Berry, DE
The 11-year veteran had played in just two playoff games prior to this season, losing both. But after starting just four games during the season, he’s started in all three Cardinals playoff victories this year and recorded two sacks. He knows that Super Bowl opportunities do not come around regularly and that should motivate him to get some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.

2. Tim Hightower, RB
After scoring six touchdowns in a reserve role, the rookie runner started seven of the team’s final nine regular season games, but he scored just four times as a starter. Nonetheless, he remains an important complement to Edgerrin James and will need to contribute if the Cardinals have any hopes of mounting a rushing attack against the Steelers’ vaunted run defense.

1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB
In his first postseason run, the rookie corner has been stellar, tallying 15 tackles and two interceptions during Arizona’s playoff run. Whether he’s matched up against Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward or deep-threat Santonio Holmes, Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be tested by the Steelers receivers. If he can win his share of those battles, the Cardinals just might win the war.

Pittsburgh Steelers top five nominees for Super Bowl XLIII That Guy

5. Dennis Dixon, QB
This is the ultimate long-shot, but hear me out. The Steelers always seem to know when to run the trick play. They ran one to perfection in Super Bowl XL when wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El hooked up on a touchdown pass to fellow wideout Hines Ward. Who was the offensive coordinator then? Ken Whisenhunt, now head coach of the Cardinals. Wouldn’t the Steelers love to kill the Cards coach with a dose of his own medicine? And, if so, Dixon, the athletic rookie from Oregon could figure prominently. If he gets onto the field, keep an eye on him.

*4. Limas Sweed, WR
The rookie wideout is my brother Mike’s pick, so I’ll list him, but after his drop last week against the Ravens, I just don’t see it happening for Sweed. To hear more of Mike’s thoughts on the game, check out the first episode of The Winning Hand Sportscast available for download or streamed on

3. LaMarr Woodley, LB
The third-year linebacker from Michigan is also the third-ranking linebacker for the Steelers, but that’s only because he plays alongside the best linebacking crew in the NFL with James Harrison and James Farrior. The young’n of the bunch, Woodley is every bit as capable of making big plays, and with the attention the others demand, he may find himself free to make some of those plays against the Cardinals.

2. Heath Miller, TE
He’s not Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, but Miller fits the mold of a Pittsburgh Steelers tight end. He’s a big body, great blocker and, next to Hines Ward, seems to be Roethlisberger’s go-to target on third down. Tight end is a position not being talked about much in this game, but Miller has the edge and that could pay dividends for the Steelers.

1. Mewelde Moore, RB
When Willie Parker was injured earlier this year, Moore was more than a serviceable fill-in. In the four games he started, Moore averaged 20 carries for 90 yards (4.5 yards/carry) with three rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Parker broke through with a big effort in the Steelers’ last Super Bowl while playing somewhat in the shadow of Jerome Bettis. Parker doesn’t cast quite as large a shadow as The Bus did, but Moore will look to follow in his footsteps.

My Pick for Super Bowl XLIII That Guy
Steve Breaston, WR/returner, Arizona

The Rationale
The Cardinals are a pass-first offense. Their quarterback and both starting receivers are Pro Bowl starters. Surely the Steelers will do everything they can to limit the number of passes directed toward Fitzgerald and Boldin. Naturally that leads to additional opportunities for the number three man, Steve Breaston. His numbers for the year: 77 receptions, 1,006 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not too shabby. And that doesn’t even factor in his electrifying ability as a kick/punt return specialist, which is where he really made his mark in college at Michigan. As a multi-dimensional weapon, Breaston is a leading threat to take That Guy honors on Sunday.

Matt’s Super Bowl XLIII pick
Arizona 24, Pittsburgh 20

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The Winning Hand Sporstcast with Matt and Mike Hubert 1/27/09

The debut of The Winning Hand Sportscast with Matt & Mike Hubert is loaded with sports chat.

Matt deals the face cards to Barack Obama, the late Kay Yow and Jay McGwire. The brothers continue to share a brain when it comes to picking NBA all-stars. And they finally make their picks for Super Bowl XLIII.

All that and more in the first installment of The Winning Hand Sportscast.

There are several options to listen:

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Will the Raiders Ever Hire a Coach?

In this week’s “You pick it” question on Bill Williamson’s AFC West blog, I followed my heart and talked about the Raiders, specifically Al Davis and his inability to make a decision regarding the team’s head coaching position.

I don’t know if Williamson puts these responses in any order, but it’s always nice to have the pole position of prominence and my comments are featured first this week.

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Change is Coming to

Yes, change is coming to the site in the form of a brand new podcast. This past week’s show (1/20/09) was officially the final podcast, but it’s not the last time you’ll hear my brother Mike and I discuss the hottest topics in the world of sports.

Next week will debut a brand new podcast, “The Winning Hand Sportscast with Matt & Mike Hubert.” While you shouldn’t expect a drop-off in quality, you should expect a brand new format. The new show will have a new opening/closing theme, but more importantly, its content will be more organized and include featured segments including “King,” “Queen,” and “Jack” Ass of the Week awards, “Ace” predictions and more.

No, we won’t be talking poker, Texas Hold ’em or any other card games, but we will be shuffling through the deck to talk about a variety of issues from the world of sports every week. As with the old show, we’ll focus primarily on pro and college basketball and football, but no sports topic is off limits.

The decision to change the show was made primarily to give Mike more stake in the podcast as it clearly was more than just my project. But I also wanted to give the podcast its own identity to differentiate our work on the podcast from my writing on the site. Both the writing and podcast will remain hosted together on

So thanks to everyone who has listened to the podcast since we first launched last December. Mike and I certainly hope you’ll stick with us and find the new show even more entertaining.

We generally record Tuesday evening. Then I put it through some simple post-production. I generally have it uploaded to the Internet by 11 p.m. Tuesday night. It’s not a schedule that is 100 percent set in stone, but we try to stick to it as much as possible. Of course, the best part of a podcast is that you can download it, store it on your iPod and listen to it on the go whenever you have 30 minutes (give or take) of downtime.

As with the old podcast, we’ll work to get The Winning Hand Sportscast listed on iTunes as soon as possible. In the meantime, I hope you keep coming back to the site to hear our insights on the sports world.

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A Guide to Fandom and Team Loyalty

The other day at work someone asked me a question: “Is a person allowed to have more than one team?” The question was asked with the suggestion that I could support the Steelers in addition to the Raiders. I quickly slammed the brakes on that idea.

The simple answer is no, you can’t have more than one team. That would be like being married to two wives. But while polygamy is clearly defined, polyfandom is a bit more complicated. So, let me do the honors of breaking down the rules of sports fandom once and for all.

As far as I’m concerned, your team allegiances should pretty much be set by the time you’re learning to read. By that point, you’re either fully indoctrinated by your diehard parents or have been swayed by something—a player, a jersey color, a team name—to choose to call a team your own. Let’s hope that something wasn’t that the said was always winning. Nobody likes a bandwagon.

Once, you’ve got your teams, there’s no turning back.* The fact that the Raiders have set an NFL record as the first team to ever lose 11 or more games in five straight seasons doesn’t change the fact that I support the silver and black 100 percent. Michigan football missed a bowl for the first time in my lifetime. But I’m no less enthused for next season, and have three—count ‘em—three Michigan calendars displayed in my office right now (Page-A-Day desk calendar, mousepad calendar and a wall calendar.

Once your team is eliminated from the playoffs, it’s fine to pick a team to root for, but the rule is to go for the underdog, unlikely and unproven team. Do not jump upon the bandwagon of the hottest team. Do not cheer for a rival team. And if your underdog does win, don’t gloat or enjoy it too much. It’s not your team.

It’s also important to note the difference between professional and college sports. The guidelines are a bit more lax for college allegiances but not much. In the NFL, there are 32 teams. The NBA has 30 as does the NHL and MLB. Meanwhile, there are well over 100 Division I NCAA football and basketball programs. So, it’s permissible to flirt with a second college team permitted that they play in a different conference. Most times the rooting interests will never cross paths, but you need to have a clear number one designated if they ever should meet.

For me, it’s Michigan. I like UCLA, but if they ever play Michigan (as they did earlier this season), there’s no doubt in my mind who I’m rooting for. Maize and blue all the way! If you hesitate or need to weigh the pros and cons of one of your teams beating the other, you’re in serious trouble of being labeled a non-serious fan. Don’t hedge your bets. Pick a horse, saddle up and enjoy the ride. It may be bumpy along the way, but the finish line means more if you were riding from the start.

Being a true sports fan isn’t that hard (even if being a Raiders fan is). It requires commitment, loyalty, enthusiasm and optimism. “There’s always next year” beats “I think I’ll just switch and cheer for someone else this year” any day. So make your allegiances clear. Stand proud when they win. Stay firm when they lose. And you’ll be just fine. Trust me.

*Exceptions apply if you’re a fan of the team in your city and that team that moves away (Cleveland Browns fans should not have cheered for the Ravens) or your city suddenly gets a new team (People in Charlotte were free to switch to become Bobcats fans when the franchise began a few years ago.)

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Super Bowl History in the Making

Super Bowl XLIII will feature a matchup of two franchises on different ends of the Super Bowl history spectrum, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Take a look at the chart on the left, detailing the NFL’s 32 teams and 42-year Super Bowl history leading up to this season. Either team will make history with a win.

The Steelers, playing in their seventh Super Bowl and second in four years, can break a tie with Dallas and San Francisco to become the first team to win six Super Bowls.

On the flipside, the Cardinals are appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, leaving just five teams without a Super Bowl appearance.

The Cardinals will attempt to become the 18th NFL franchise to win the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Steelers will attempt to become the first franchise to have enough rings to start loading up a second hand.

The smashmouth tradition of the Steelers against the high-octane offense, nobody-believed-in-us Cardinals. It’s Super Bowl XLIII, and it’s 13 days away, so expect plenty of hype, stories, analysis and predictions between now and kickoff on Feb. 1.

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