JÁNOS S. TÓTH 2021.02.08 00:35 Frissítve: 2021.02.08 10:00

Exceptionally, he can also cheer– Richard Faragó and the Super Bowl

SportTV commentator and founder of the NFL’s spread in Hungary talks about the Brady-Mahomes special match, the tangle of rules and why he wouldn’t be upset even if Tampa wins the Super Bowl.

“Even if Brady at 43 is able to add his seventh champion ring to the already impressive collection, I won’t be unhappy.” (Photo: Károly Árvai)

 

– Kansas City won the Super Bowl again last year after fifty years. Would you have thought during the long wait that the Chiefs could win for the second time?
– Ever since Andy Reid took over the professional training, the team has usually made it to the playoffs, but the extra step required for the Lombardi Trophy cannot be done with Alex Smith in my opinion. Patrick Mahomes' draft opened up a new horizon, but in 2017 I had no idea that he was such a great quarterback.


– What was more unexpected: winning the 2019 championship or Kansas being in the Super Bowl again?
– Perhaps being in the finals again is more surprising. While the Patriots dynasty was already noticeably unstable, Kansas smartly built up the team. In addition to Mahomes, several key players renewed their contracts, which was a necessary condition for reaching the two finals. However, on February 2, 2020 in Miami, for three quarters it didn't look like the Chiefs could reach the Super Bowl against San Francisco 49ers. Then came the last 15 minutes of 21-0. Moreover, there has been no precedent for a team to play the Super Bowl back-to-back since 2004.


– Can a single athlete play such an important role in a club's ascension?

– The Chiefs wasn't much weaker with Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce along with many other key players, but Mahomes' arrival needed for all the pieces of the puzzle to be put in place. It's the same issue with the other finalist, Tampa Bay. The Floridian team finished the previous main round with a 7-9 record with the same squad, but with Tom Brady's draft in March, the Buccaneers got into the playoffs after an improved record of 11-5 and reached the Super Bowl. Anyone who's familiar with the sport knows exactly that a quarterback isn't just a position of many. It's important where the quarterback throws the ball, but his leadership qualities are even more important. Mahomes undoubtedly has these qualities, even more so Brady.

– Mahomes was “only” the 10th pick in the first round of the 2017 drafts. Did the Kansas staff have a flare for him?
– Obviously, no one could foresee that his draft would be a great hit, but the stars aligned for the Chiefs when he arrived. At the same time, let's not forget about the other players. Receivers like Tyreek Hill are rare in the NFL, and there's also Alex Smith. There's a good chance that the number one quarterback won't be welcoming to his young rival. Smith, now playing in Washington, D.C., helped the rookie integrate so much in his first season that it was unusual. Regarding the draft in 2000: Brady was acquired by New England in the sixth round and ranked 199th in the draft. Now shall we say that the other clubs were blind at the time?

– Sports commentators are reluctant to mention their sympathy for clubs. Haven't you regretted that it's revealed you're a Chiefs fan?
– Not at all. It wasn't just my decision; we consulted with the colleagues in advance. When the NFL broadcasts started on SportTV, viewers at home didn't have ties with American football or the League. Because of the lack of fan base in Hungary, we could easily rattle each other with Chicago Bear fan Kovács Sanyi or with Gyula Udvardi who yearned in vain for the success of forever-looser Dallas Cowboys. Most viewers accepted, and perhaps even enjoyed it. We wouldn't have done that in any other sport.


– How have the NFL and Super Bowl changed in the past 15 years?
– There's no big difference in terms of the final, but it seems they're trying to open to youngsters for the halt-time show. As far as the game is concerned, the overstating of safety is the most striking. American football is a contact sport, and now it's being pushed in the opposite direction. I understand the need to protect the health of the players, and there really is no room for unnecessary brutality, but every time when the defensive tackle just touches opponent quarterback's the helmet, the penalty flag is up, and it makes me wonder: how do they want to play American football with this set of rules? It's not unique as it's become fashionable to prove that every sport is extremely dangerous to health.

– Is it possible for someone to be familiar with every NFL rule?
– I don't think so. This is supported by the fact that former judges, who have been asked to be experts on TV, evaluated some game situations differently than the final decision.

– Maybe due to the NFL rules are being regulated to death, it was impossible to follow for years when a catch was legal or illegal. Can this be related to the news that the NFL's popularity is reportedly declining in the United States?
– It's a complex issue, and I don't want to get on the ground of politics but listening to the anthem kneeling down before games and other politically correct opinions have strongly divided the American public. In addition, the big names are slowly disappearing in from the League: there's no Payton Manning and Brett Favre and Drew Brees' and Tom Brady's career is almost over. My opinion is that the NFL's popularity, even if it's not plummeting, is beyond its peak.

– How much can the coronavirus pandemic hurt classically business-based American professional leagues? Can they endure another season without spectators?
– It's hard to tell, but the fact is that we're facing a terrible Super Bowl as far as the number of on-site spectators is concerned. Tampa breaks a negative record with 61,946 people having interest in the first finals, and now no more than 25,000 fans in Raymond James Stadium are allowed. Television royalties will reduce losses for a while, but probably another closed-door season cannot fit in. Clubs have begun to push for changes to the collective bargaining agreement, but of course players don't want to make less money. If the parties push each other, it could cause a big mess.

– We're not facing a traditional Super Bowl in Hungary either. Thanks to SportTV broadcasts sports bars have been crowded in recent years. However, they are now closed due to the pandemic. In addition to the sold-out sports bars, you have unbeatable merits in promoting the sport domestically, as indicated by the fact that you are now in the third edition of your book with László “Galuska” Gallai, which introduces the 100 years of the NFL.
– Let me not react to my own role. Of course, it feels good that those interested in the sport are likely to buy our book because they think that this pair of authors will put a quality piece on the table, and our professional credibility has obviously been established by our previous work on TV. The first edition was produced for nearly three years, we worked on the current updated version from February to the end of November last year, and the scope increased by one hundred and eighty pages.

"I'm very curious to see how Mahomes can handle the psychological pressure” (Photo: Károly Árvai)

–  Could SportTV have a similar missionary role by bringing baseball league games to the domestic market?
– As much as Hungarian fans liked the NFL at the time, the ratings for the first MLB season are encouraging as well. This is also a testament to the fact that we are consumers of sports that are considered new here. Maybe in a few years, the book on baseball history will be on the shelves, but I'm not writing that one. I leave this task to the younger generation.

– American sports are unimaginable without statistics. How many NFL matches have you commentated?
– I don't have a record of that. When my editor colleague “Galuska” took a short break three years ago, we agreed we were over 1,000 matches. In the 16 seasons, I could be at around 1,300 games in total.

– How many NFL stadiums have you visited during this time?
– The 14 Super Bowls were held at eleven different locations.

– Do you have a favorite stadium?
– Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium is an architectural wonder, yet the most special is the San Francisco 49ers' home in Santa Clara: Levi's Stadium is ultra-modern yet evokes the atmosphere of old, open stadiums. Lambeau Field is the Packers' sanctuary. There hasn't been a Super Bowl yet, and I don't there will be any, but NFL fans are almost obliged to visit it. Green Bay is on my bucket list as well.

– Which players are the closest to your heart?
– I saw Joe Montana playing for the Chiefs live. Brett Favre's personality and his love for the game impressed me while Tom Brady is the best American football player of all time in my opinion. Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing him, but we also met at press conferences. His demeanor, attitude, and everything he's done for the sport is impressive.

– Speaking of Brady. Would it be offensive towards the other players to refer to this year's Super Bowl as a battle between Tampa's and Kansas' quarterbacks?
– A quarterback's role is unquestionable, but which team can put the Lombardi Trophy in their display cabinet depends on a thousand other factors. At the same time, it'll be a great experience that the GOAT, or the Greatest of All Time in the U.S., will face the current best player. I'm very curious to see how Mahomes can handle the psychological pressure. He fired up by the last quarter in Miami last year. Of course, it will also be interesting how Brady can perform at home, whether he will wear himself out in his 10th Super Bowl as he did in certain situations at the conference championship finals game against Green bay.

– Where will you watch the game?
– I avoid gatherings because of the pandemic, so the plan is to sit down in front of the TV only with my mom for the first time. At the time of announcing my first Super Bowl in 2005, my mother didn't know much about football, but now she thoroughly learned it and sometimes she surprises me with her insights. I'm happy she is fond of the game. Unfortunately, my father (legendary guitarist of Scampolo, István “Judy” Faragó – the editor) was left out of the NFL madness because he passed away in 2003. I think my mom and I will not be talking about the game professionally this time, but she might have to calm me down if my blood pressure seems to go up due to Kansas City not playing well. I must say even if Brady at 43 can add his seventh champion ring to his already impressive collection, I won't be unhappy. If one likes the sport, they know they can appreciate seeing this brilliant quarterback still playing on the field.

(This article was published in the Saturday edition of Nemzeti Sport Supplement, Képes Sport, on February 6, 2021.)

Translated by Vanda Orosz 

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