The pending Super Bowl has me all upset at the NFL.

Thing is, I actually find myself looking forward to the Patriots-Panthers match-up and have made plans around distinctly watching this year's game. This enthusiasm poses something of a hypocrisy problem for me.

You see, every fall as I watch NFL games here and there, I feel myself becoming disillusioned with the professional game. In all respects I will agree that the quality of the game at the professional level definitely exceeds that of the college level, and I love the fact that the half of the NFL's biggest stars even registered on most people's sports knowledge before they suddenly became the toast of what increasingly has become America's National Pastime (seriously, had any of you heard of Donovan McNabb before he suddenly became this amazing scrambling quarterback? Did most of you know that Tom Brady went to Michigan and quarterbacked the team before the much-maligned Drew Henson?)

I much prefer college fans to NFL fans in terms of class and loyalty, and while I enjoy the competitiveness of the college game, I must admit that NFL parity and great talent certainly trumps watching Florida State undeservedly reach yet another BCS game. From a pure spectator standpoint, the NFL wins.

But the problem lies in the fact that we don't just watch the game. We have to deal with all that extra-curricular shit that goes on, and the NFL players have gotten so excited about themselves that it has become so completely annoying that it has alienated me.

It's the celebrating, the showboating, the pulling the Sharpies out of a sock and signing the football moves (though I have do have to give Terrell Owens points for originality, whereas Joe Horn failed miserably on that one). I absolutely loathe the defensive players who have to perform a celebration dance every time they make a tackle. They have as their single general responsibility the task of bringing the offensive ball carrier to the turf. Yet you don't see the UPS man pelvic thrusting away from your mailbox every time he delivers a package. He just goes out and does his goddamn job.

And seriously, every defensive player who has to showboat on a tackle when their team trails by 20 points and the tackle occurred after a 31-yard gain gets an immediate spot on my "Biggest Idiots" list. I would like to know exactly what they feel they have to celebrate. They look like idiotic, self-promoting egotistic morons without any concept of the idea of "team."

Guys like Marshall Faulk don't come along too often, the guys who put up big numbers and make big plays as though they have done it before. I love watching Faulk score a touchdown, set the ball down, accept congratulations from his teammates and hustle back to the side lines. You'll only see Faulk do a little extra celebration when he scores late in the 4th quarter of a big game, when the emotional moment makes a little display of excitement more than understandable. But guys like Faulk and Eddie George are few and far between, so, at least as I can see it, the NFL consists by and large of showboating assholes.

All of which makes this year's Super Bowl so troubling. The Patriots have the concept of team down. They make me seriously believe that they believe in it. Bill Belicheck has shown he knows exactly what it takes to win, and he barely pushes his team past that point, but nonetheless, he team reaches that point. Tom Brady doesn't flash but he does find consistency, and the New England defense works to make tackles for short yardage and force punts, not to bring big sacks that make one defensive lineman look good.

Same with the Carolina Panthers. Anyone remember their 1-15 record a few years ago? Chris Friggin' Weinke took snaps under center for them. And in two years, they have gone from "we still look like an expansion team ten years after the fact" to NFC Champions. Seriously, it's right up there with the idea of the Montreal Expos or the Los Angeles Clippers making it to the World Series or NBA Finals next year. How could you really maliciously root against them?

So in the league's defining game of the year, the sports entertainment I want to leave behind has me all excited for the simple fact that what the NFL will provide to me will not in any way match the actual truth, in terms of image, of the real thing.

But hey, we are talking about the Super Bowl. I have no doubt that the hype of it all will bring these NFL imposters back to the image of the rest of the players.