Tomorrow the nation will watch Super Bowl XLIX, which by the way will be the final Super Bowl referred to by Roman numerals. Next year’s installment won’t be Super Bowl L, but Super Bowl 50. And if there’s any justice in the world, that game will be a matchup between Detroit and Cleveland, (That would be my dream game, anyway. But who to root for? I’d be for Detroit, but not heartbroken if the Browns won.)
Instead, this year we get the New England Patriots, who are continuing a dynastic string of Super Bowl appearances that began in the wake of 9-11 (remember the “tuck rule” game between the Patriots and Oakland Raiders?) and continued to this year’s game, which will be their sixth in that timespan. They have victories over the Rams, Panthers, and Eagles but have more recently lost to the Giants twice.
Their opponent is the Seattle Seahawks, who are trying to do something not done since New England did it a decade ago – win back-to-back Super Bowls. Prior to this, their Super Bowl history was a loss to Pittsburgh in a Super Bowl hosted by Detroit at Ford Field. (That was Super Bowl XL, which was a great Roman numeral to use.)
It’s also interesting that, for the second year in a row, the top seeds from each conference meet in a championship game. But one might forget that there’s a game given that the news about this event has been focused on something that happened two weeks ago (the so-called “DeflateGate”) and on someone who’s famous for not talking, well, not talking: Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks is known for being taciturn with the press and only did the minimum obligatory press appearance because he didn’t want to be fined.
All this to lead into a game that’s becoming more and more known for its commercials and halftime show. When you consider that the sum total of all Super Bowls played is the equivalent of three typical NFL weeks of 16 games apiece, you would expect to have a few good games and some blowouts – unfortunately along the way we’ve been “treated” to a lot of one-sided affairs like last year’s snoozer. Among the most popular sports, pro football is one of the few which annually features a winner-take-all championship game as opposed to a series of games. It heightens the preceding drama but if a game is 28-3 at halftime it makes for an early breakup to the party.
I have always been more of a baseball fan that a football one, since I consider the NFL as the bridge to get me from the end of the World Series most of the way to the start of spring training. But over the last couple years as off-the-field stories like the Ray Rice incident or last year’s Jonathan Martin saga take the air out of the action on the field – see what I did there? – the NFL has become just another news item rather than a Sunday afternoon escape. In some respects, it’s become a more highbrow version of WWE, with fan favorites and heels at every game. And don’t get me started on how the referees seem to keep their flags in their pocket for some teams and players – we already have one Supreme Court deciding outcomes.
Don’t think for a minute I’ll pass on the game, though – I’ll watch the Super Bowl anyway, in this case with friends from our church. We may laugh at the commercials and hope for a close game.
But it’s more likely that the NFL news off the field won’t be of the Hot Stove League type that keeps baseball interesting through the winter. We’ll hear about more scandal and mayhem until training camp begins too soon in July. When the Super Bowl ends and a champion is crowned, the one thing I’ll be thinking about is that there’s a long, long 18 days until pitchers and catchers report for my Tigers, who have a few scores to settle this season.