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The Super Bowl Report: Bill Plaschke finally welcomes Odell Beckham Jr. to L.A.

Odell Beckham Jr. tries to break a tackle attempt by 49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas.
(Doug Benc / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Bill Plaschke on the Rams: Super Bowl Week is famous for its insatiable appetites, unabashed gluttony and wolfish overconsumption.

Which would make this a pretty good time to eat my words.

Three of the most famous initials in sports has joined the Rams, with one slight adjustment required to fit the situation.

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OBWhy?

Those were the first two paragraphs appearing in this space on Nov. 11, shortly after the Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr.

He has since shown everyone exactly why.

He’s impactful. He’s inspirational. I’m an idiot.

Thursday looks a lot like the other night when Matthew Stafford attempted to fling the football out of the end zone.

They’re wrongly attempting a hero play. They’re foolishly shooting for an unreachable star. They’re not even looking downfield.

Turns out, when the Rams signed Beckham to a $1.25-million deal, they were looking exactly downfield. Seeing the real Beckham. Throwing straight to him. Winning big with him.

The Rams steam into Super Bowl LVI on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals with the unquestioned knowledge that they would not be here without the man whose signing I ripped to shreds.

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Beckham is not Cooper Kupp. But he is Kupp runneth over. Anywhere Kupp can’t be, Beckham will be. Any ball Kupp can’t catch, it’s going to Beckham. His numbers aren’t huge except in the win column. His numbers there are darn near perfect.

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‘We’re going to kill ’em’: Super Bowl XI lives in Madden family history lore

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SUPER BOWL POLLS

Two Super Bowl polls for you to vote in: Which team will win, and who will be named the game’s MVP? Click here to vote. Results will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday.

GAME WILL BE A SNAP FOR HIM

Gary Klein on the Rams: Matt Orzech settled into his stance, clutched the football and then looked backward between his legs at the punter standing 15 yards away.

It was September 2013 and Orzech, an Azusa Pacific University freshman, was about to long-snap in a game for the first time — on the road against Grand Valley State, the winningest program in NCAA Division II history.

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“Of course, the very first thing that went through my head was, ‘Don’t snap it over his head,’ ” Orzech said.

Orzech listened for the count and then rifled the ball toward the punter. A moment later, the crowd was “going berserk,” he said.

“I turned around, and sure enough the punter is running for his life trying to get the ball off,” Orzech said. “Thankfully, he did.”

Orzech came off the field and was greeted by coach Victor Santa Cruz.

“Way to get the first one out of your system,” Santa Cruz said. “We expect it to be great from here on out.”

Orzech never had an issue the rest of his college career.

On Sunday, Orzech will become the first Azusa Pacific product to play in the Super Bowl when the Rams face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

THE KICKING GAME

Mike DiGiovanna on the Bengals: Joe Burrow has been so cool under pressure that one teammate described the Cincinnati quarterback as a “stone-faced killer,” but the 25-year-old gunslinger who will lead his club into Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Rams is not the only Bengals player with his foot firmly on the clutch.

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Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has hit five game-winning field goals this season, including a 31-yarder to give Cincinnati a 27-24 win over Kansas City in the AFC championship game and a 52-yarder as time expired for a 19-16 win over Tennessee in the divisional round.

McPherson, a fifth-round pick out of Florida who was the only kicker selected in the 2021 NFL draft, is 12 for 12 on field goals this postseason, making four in each game, and needs three field goals in the Super Bowl to break Adam Vinatieri’s record of 14 field goals in one postseason, set in 2006 for New England.

“Being a specialist, you’re kind of like a sniper,” McPherson said on a videoconference call Monday. “You get one shot and one kill. It’s really cut and dry. You either make the kick or miss it. It doesn’t matter if the crowd noise is at record decibels, you have this one shot, that’s it, all eyes are on you, and you have to make it.

“You know that subconsciously, but in that moment, you feel like nobody is watching you. If you start thinking about the crowd and the noise, you get thrown off and bad things are gonna happen. You have to zero in and not let anything affect you. For those 1.3 seconds, you don’t hear anything.”

The silence in McPherson’s head was similar to the hush that fell over Nissan Stadium in Nashville and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City after McPherson sent the Titans and Chiefs home for the winter. McPherson would love nothing more than to quiet Rams fans in SoFi Stadium with a similar kick on Sunday.

MAX TUERK’S FAMILY LOOKS BACK IN SADNESS

Dylan Hernández on the NFL: They were once like everyone else, gathering with family members and friends to watch the most-viewed sporting event in this country.

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They were a football family, their son a standout offensive lineman at USC who went on to play in the NFL.

That was before.

Before their son’s mental health deteriorated. Before their son’s death. Before they received evidence of what football did to their son’s brain.

The Super Bowl will be played Sunday and the parents of the late Max Tuerk won’t be watching.

“Absolutely not,” said Greg Tuerk, Max’s father.

Max died on a hike in June 2020, an autopsy later revealing his heart was enlarged. The Trabuco Canyon native was 26.

The aversion to football shared by Greg and his wife Val has an earlier origin, the years in which their oldest son was beset by mental health troubles.

After Max’s death, Greg and Val sent their son’s brain to the Veteran Affairs-Boston University-Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Bank.

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Researchers there studied Max’s brain and confirmed Greg’s and Val’s longstanding suspicions. The diagnosis: Stage 1 chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

“It didn’t make it any easier or better, but it did provide some understanding for how things changed so dramatically, for him to go from achieving his dream and being on the top of his game to [how] he kind of lost it all,” Val said.

THE FIRST HALFTIME SHOW

Bill Plaschke on the Super Bowl: It will happen again Sunday during the Super Bowl halftime show, just as it happens every year, in several dozen living rooms where jaws are about to hit the floor.

A rapt group of fans will be gathered in front of the television watching popular entertainers perform elaborate numbers across a crowded football field when they will be interrupted by a gracefully aging woman who once attended Anaheim High.

She might be their mother, their grandmother, their aunt, maybe a family friend. She could be a retired businesswoman, a longtime homemaker, an expert bingo player. She most definitely will not be Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige or Eminem.

She will point to the screen, admire the bling, marvel at the production, then casually drop the hammer.

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“I was there in the beginning,” she will say.

“You were what?” they will respond.

“I was part of the halftime show at the first Super Bowl,” she will say.

“No way!” they will shout, and they won’t believe her, they never do, and she will laugh and stroll away fueled by the power of the annual revelation of one of the Super Bowl’s greatest shockers.

The first Super Bowl halftime show at the Coliseum in January 1967 featured 80 unsuspecting girls who had no idea their drill team was marching into the start of one of America’s greatest sports traditions.

Before Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen and Bruno Mars, there were the Ana-Hi-Steppers.

BEST ‘CHEAP’ SEATS IN THE NFL

Carolina A. Miranda on SoFi Stadium: When it comes to the design innovations of football stadiums in recent years, it would seem that a good deal of the innovating has been reserved primarily for the luxury suites.

Florida’s Hard Rock Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins play, features so-called “living room boxes” stocked with recliners and private television screens. At Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the arena the San Francisco 49ers now call home, a landscaped rooftop reception terrace shaded with solar panels offers views of the game as well as Silicon Valley for those with access to the suite tower. At Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the owner’s suite comes with football-themed stained glass, while TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., went full fall-of-Rome in a recent architectural revamp, adding private cabanas that come stocked with a swimming pool on the upper decks. (Pity the lifeguards and the structural engineers.)

SoFi Stadium, Inglewood’s $5 billion new arena — site of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday and home to the Rams and the Chargers — has by no means evaded the luxury suite trend. The stadium was designed with dozens of upscale suites at a variety of price levels, including field-adjacent cabanas that offer fans the opportunity to get closer to the action than at any other NFL venue.

And while it’s less over-the-top than some of the aforementioned stadiums — there are, for instance, no swimming pools at SoFi — the facility’s premium spaces can cost you a small fortune and, quite possibly, your firstborn. For the Super Bowl, a few quick searches on the booking website Suite Experience Group turned up suites in the $1 million to $1.3 million range — and, sacrificial child or not, you can forget about the field cabanas, because those are long gone.

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In the era of the luxury suite, however, the design of SoFi has managed something significant: cheap seats that can feel as special as some of the luxury seats below. Though “cheap” is a relative term. As I write this, nosebleed seats for Super Bowl are going for nearly $6,000 a pop.

WANT TO GO TO A SUPER BOWL PARTY?

Though the Super Bowl is America’s most-watched annual sporting event, its party scene isn’t nearly as accessible. During her 12-year tenure at ESPN, Jemele Hill was able to take readers into the NFL championship game’s biggest bashes. Her vivid, voice-driven columns became must-reads for football fans who can’t get past the velvet ropes.

“I created a very interesting job for myself: I’d attend all the parties, rate them and then, at the end of the week, I’d give an award to whoever held the best one,” she said. “It was definitely one of the more brilliant things I’ve ever done.”

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Hill about who gets into these exclusive parties, how the scene has changed over the past decade and why this year’s Los Angeles gatherings might be relatively muted.

Click here to read the conversation

SUPER BOWL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Super Bowl Sunday
Feb. 13
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by 4 1/2 points

TV: NBC and Telemundo.
Radio: Westwood One radio (AM 570 in Los Angeles), SiriusXM NFL Radio, NFL GamePass.
Streaming: NFL app (iOS, Android), Peacock app (iOS, Android), Telemundo app (iOS, Android), Yahoo Sports

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To buy tickets (after mortgaging your house to afford them): Ticketmaster, OnLocation, HOFExperiences, VividSeats, SeatGeek

Halftime show: Recording artists Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL has yet to announce who will sing the national anthem before the game.

Coronavirus guidelines if you attend: Under Los Angeles County’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Fans attending the game will be required to wear masks and will be given KN95 masks. For further coronavirus rules and guidelines, click here.

BEST PRO FOOTBALL TEAM TOURNAMENT

Just for fun, over the next two weeks we will be running a tournament to determine the best Super Bowl/NFL/AFL champion of all time. The teams have been seeded 1-64 (using a combination of regular season record, regular season point differential and playoff point differential) and put into four regions, just like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Using the Second And Ten computer game, we will run the games to determine the best team of them all. Since there are only 55 Super Bowl winning teams, we chose nine teams from before the Super Bowl era to compete, all champions of either the NFL or the AFL. They are: 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1951 Los Angeles Rams, 1953 Detroit Lions, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 1961 Houston Oilers, 1962 Green Bay Packers, 1963 San Diego Chargers, 1963 Chicago Bears and the 1964 Buffalo Bills.

We continue with the second-round results from the Joe Montana Region:

No. 1 1976 Oakland Raiders d. No. 9 1981 San Francisco 49ers, 14-9
Ken Stabler threw touchdown passes to Cliff Branch and Dave Casper.

No. 7 1999 St. Louis Rams d. No. 2 2016 New England Patriots, 24-18
Kurt Warner threw two touchdown passes and the Rams jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead. Marshall Faulk had 55 yards rushing and 109 yards receiving.

No. 3 1989 San Francisco 49ers d. No. 6 1950 Cleveland Browns, 17-16
The 49ers trailed 16-7 going into the fourth quarter, but Joe Montana rallied them, as Roger Craig scored with 10:24 to go, and then Mike Cofer kicked a 27-yard field goal with 28 seconds left to win it. The Browns got three field goals from Lou Groza.

No. 13 1983 Los Angeles Raiders d. No. 12 1995 Dallas Cowboys, 24-21
Jim Plunkett threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns, two to Marcus Allen, with the winning points coming on a short one-yard toss to Allen with 3:06 remaining.

Tomorrow: The semifinals and finals of the Jim Brown region. The teams:

No. 1 1972 Miami Dolphins vs. No. 4 1973 Miami Dolphins
No. 2 1962 Green Bay Packers vs. No. 11 1993 Dallas Cowboys

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOTBALL PLAYER?

I asked you to send me the name of you favorite football player and why, and I was deluged with answers. Answers will be printed starting today. Keep sending them in by emailing me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.

Lewis Leader of Carmel Valley: Jaguar Jon Arnett was a fast, quick and shifty running back, flanker and punt returner. He starred at Manual Arts High in L.A., at USC and then with the Rams. He also played some on defense in college. It was remarkable to watch Arnett run. It’s been decades since he retired, but those who saw him play won’t forget his prowess.

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Cindy Victorino of Nipomo: My all-time favorite football player is Kenny Stabler. He made football fun. With his confidence and relaxed style you could never count him out. Add Madden to the mix and every game was a party.

Robin Sefass: My favorite player is Joe Namath because he made me, as a young girl, interested in football and become a lifelong fan. He was never afraid to look silly and I will always love that his “guarantee” to win the Super Bowl came true! Finally, he was honest (before it was fashionable) about his addictions and actually did something about it.

And finally

Highlights from Super Bowl XXIX (Chargers vs. 49ers). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XXX (Cowboys vs. Steelers). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XXXI (Patriots vs. Packers). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XXXII (Packers vs. Broncos). Watch and listen here.

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Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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