Leading up to the country's annual cultural spectacle, an NFL cornerback gave a post-game interview that instantly became a national Rorschach test.
Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman was either vaunted as an inspirational success story for his rise from Compton to Stanford graduate to NFL All-Pro, or derided as a classless thug for calling out an opponent as a "sorry" and "mediocre" wide receiver.
In fact, his behavior can encompass both.
When more than 100 million of us plop in front of our wide-screen TVs to witness this subplot in the Super Bowl drama, it may be worth explaining to the youngest viewers among us that those portrayed as heroes and villains on the screen are usually more complicated characters.
Sherman's case in point: He harnessed his insatiable ambition and work ethic to propel himself, the son of a trash collector, from a rough neighborhood in L.A. to salutatorian of his high school class. He motivated others to reach, not just for a football or basketball, but for their academic potential. He started a charity focused on giving inner-city kids the most likely keys to success: school supplies and textbooks.
Isn't that the kind of professional athlete we love to cheer?
He's also got a mouth that won't quit. He's a sportsman with a skewed sense of sportsmanship, in the eyes of many parents.
Like many other parents, we watched the NFC Championship game with our young children. Our 8-year-old son, in particular, cheered Sherman's spectacular play that clinched Seattle's trip to the Super Bowl.
Watching the post-game interview, he immediately looked to gauge our reactions after Sherman delivered a rant fit for a costumed professional wrestler ready to throw a metal chair.
"Did he just say some bad words?" our son asked.
"No, he didn't say any bad words. But he said some bad things about another player. And you would never say anything like that after winning a game," my husband said.
Odds are great that the vast majority of our children will never play in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB. They are not going to be among the world's elite athletes playing on the largest stages. But there will be millions of children playing in countless youth sporting events every weekend of the year.
Obviously, we want them to learn how to be gracious in victory and defeat.
The Super Bowl -- this annual most-watched, sexed-up and violent affair -- might be a strange place to look for life lessons. But it's an event that influences so many young notions of who and what is awesome. It's rife with teachable moments.
As someone who has loved the game since watching with my dad as a child and then cheering for my younger brother when he played in high school, I realized as a parent that watching professional football with children comes with some responsibility beyond that of a zealous fan.
We take for granted -- or relish -- the inherent brutality of the game. Just prior to Sherman's scene-stealing denouement, we witnessed another player's gruesome knee injury, replayed over and over during the game. There's also the issue of the lifelong damage done by repeated concussions, which the league attempted to settle with $765 million to brain-damaged former players. A judge refused to approve this settlement because it may not be enough to cover the damages.
President Barack Obama recently said that if he had a son, he wouldn't want him to play professional football, comparing it to the known risks one takes when smoking. Sports medicine and emergency room doctors have said they wouldn't let their sons play the game at any level.
There's an opening to talk about the importance of prioritizing one's long-term health and safety over the competitiveness in a game.
Besides the physicality of what happens on the field, the Super Bowl provides plenty for parents to discuss with their children during or after.
The $4 million ad spots are bound to glorify drinking, include some patently sexist images and detail the pharmaceutical solution to erectile dysfunction. The halftime show is unlikely to be as racy as a Beyonce number or lead to any wardrobe malfunctions, but it's still best to watch with the remote in hand.
Sherman's rant, much like the sport itself, was emotional, loud and over-the-top.
But within 24 hours, he apologized for "attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates."
There's a quote worth sharing.