Sunday night’s Lions-49ers game is one of those times, and Don King is the man for this time.
King’s proven promotional genius could take the game from the playing field and home TV to the marketing stratosphere.
By whatever name the game is called – Handshake II or the Handshake Bowl – the flamboyant style that made King, now 81, a legendary boxing promoter is perfectly suited for the rematch of last year’s game.
The storyline was set after last year’s game, a 25-19 49ers victory at Ford Field that ended with a dustup between the two coaches – the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh and the Lions’ Jim Schwartz.
They clashed after the post-game handshake on the Lions’ sideline, and Harbaugh said later that he was too aggressive with his handshake. Schwartz wound up pursuing Harbaugh into the tunnel on the way to the teams’ locker rooms.
Sunday Night Football has become the NFL’s signature game, and anything that adds to the storyline translates into higher ratings for the network.
NBC’s cameras are certain to focus on both coaches the moment they step on the field at Candlestick Park.
The vision of King banging the promotion drum for a full week brings back memories for those who covered the fights he promoted.
Imagine ring-card girls on the field after every change of possession, with strobe lights blazing. King would have the glitz crowd sitting in “gold ring” seats on the 50-yard line. In a Don King promotion, the “gold ring” would be at midfield, not in the stadium bowl.
Football stats are kept for yards, tackles, catches and other plays. King would have a running tally on “punch stat,” recording every hit.
Five minutes after the game, King would pitch a rematch. It wouldn’t matter who won. King would find a way to have both teams under contract. And he’d probably move the game to one of the big casinos in Las Vegas.
“Only in America” was King’s catchphrase for his ability to rise from the streets of Cleveland to become a fabulously wealthy promoter.
But “not in the NFL” is the reality of how Schwartz and Harbaugh have refused to get caught up in any war of words of emotional venting for Sunday’s game. They’ve been asked about it often in the last year, and Wednesday was no exception.
“I don’t have any reaction to people talking about it,” Harbaugh said in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media.
Asked if he would shake hands with Schwartz at any time Sunday, Harbaugh’s reply was one word: “Yes.”
Schwartz said at his Monday press conference that he and Harbaugh have met at several league functions “without incident” in the offseason.
He made it clear on Wednesday that he’s done talking about it.
“I think I’ve addressed the situation enough, and that’s it,” he said. “I mean, we can get into Christmas cards and everything else, and I’m not going to. We have too much stuff to talk about with this game.”
He knows the rematch is being hyped.
“Yeah, of course,” Durant said. “People love drama. Drama always sells. That’s going to be something. But we’re the two teams that have to go out and play.”
“It’s kind of comical now,” he said. “Cosmetic-wise, it might put an extra spin on the game. Between the lines, there’s enough motivation and there’s enough talent and fire on the field that the handshake -- we have nothing to do with that.
“It’s kind of funny now.”