I spent the better part of two weeks convincing people (and maybe even myself) that I wasn’t going to watch the Super Bowl this year. I haven’t watched an entire Super Bowl (not even when the Steelers were in it) in over a decade, so why start this year. Then, I was actually invited to a Super Bowl party. It wasn’t one of those, “maybe” invites either. It was from the same friend that I’ve made a tradition of watching the CFP Championship with and might even try to make some time this year to watch some of the March Madness tournament.
We said yes. I say “we” because our wives are friends, too, and Aiden expressed interest in watching the game this year. We were going to make a family event of it. Liam was a bit upset that we weren’t going to do our annual movie marathon, but everyone else seemed to be on board. Then, the big day came, and some of our family wasn’t feeling well, so we didn’t want to spread germs. Cue up “Night at the Museum” trilogy!
I did watch the Gamecast at the end of the first half and then the end of the game. Because, let’s be fair. The NFL (and college to some extent) has become a league where you don’t actually have to watch the whole game. If something exciting is going to happen, it’s going to be in the last few minutes of either half. Sure enough, that’s exactly how this game went down. Well, in conversation with Chris, he said it was a good game, but I’m okay being in the dark except for highlights.
What Exactly Are We Watching?
NFL ratings have been down. I’m sure you’ve heard that at least once during the season. Everyone has a theory as to why. People are disrespecting the flag and the anthem! The product is too diluted by being on so many times during the week! Parents are horrified to let their kids watch what ultimately is the slow suicide of 106 large men who crash into each other at full speed!
I think that what many people are not considering is that ratings everywhere are going down. As more and more realize that everything is much better on demand and often sports are much better consumed as highlights, the old model of television is becoming obsolete. Sure cable companies are holding on for dear life, bolstered primarily by ESPN’s Disney money, but the end is extremely effing nigh as 28 Day Later told us.
I would, for a moment, like to return to the concussion issue. The flag and anthem are non starters for me, so don’t even start. If you want to have an intelligent discussion about it, fine. As I said in a previous article, if you want to shout generalities and memes at me, I’m just going to conclude that you don’t have the intellectual capacity to hold a conversation and I’m going to walk away. However, after listening to Hang Up and Listen this week, I do think there might be something to the concussion theory.
They were talking about how Patriots super tight end (yikes, those words in that order sound really weird) Rob Gronkowski, referred semi-affectionately by me as “Gronkenstein”, sounded almost contemplative during his post game interview. I was intrigued by this because (a) I just assumed that Gronk would Gronk as long as his body allowed him to Gronk and (b) he’s not exactly the most contemplative individual. It was a bit of a shock to hear that Gronk maybe didn’t want to Gronk as hard and maybe not at all anymore.
Sure, there have been other players who have decided that the game wasn’t for them and have retired early. Especially as more evidence is coming out that the NFL kept research from the public and, more importantly, the players, some guy are deciding that going on playing a game that might leave them so brain damaged as to eventually hurt somebody else or themselves might not be the best idea. Gronkenstein is the perfect specimen for playing football. It’s like he was selected by a casting director for a football movie. Hearing that even he was considering his own mortality has me a bit shook.
“I’m Rooting for the Meteor”
In spite of my insistence that I wasn’t watching the game (at this point because I was convinced more than ever that it would just be another typical Patriots victory), I kept getting drawn into conversations about the game. I finally just responded to one conversation with Craig (the guy who I was supposed to be ignoring the game at his Super Bowl party), “I’m rooting for the meteor.” I also said to Chris after the game, “Know that this is one of the few ways that the Patriots would lose the Super Bowl and I wouldn’t be dancing on their graves.” For a Steelers fan, this game was a lose-lose proposition.
If I Had Any Money, I’d Probably Develop a Gambling Problem
During one of my conversations with Craig, he mentioned that he bought one of those squares for the game this year. That got me thinking, so I went and I checked out some betting sites to see what odds you could have gotten on various scenarios. The Eagles won, which was unexpected, and Nick Foles won MVP, which was very unlikely. I figured that if you were going to bet one then you’d probably have taken the other, so I figured out parlay odds for those things happening. It was over 10 to 1. I also figured that if you hedged with Tom Brady as MVP, you’d only have lost only 10 dollars on that hedge. I ended several conversations with the conclusion that I’d have to put some money away so that I could throw it at Vegas next year.
Wither Defense in the NFL?
Chris insists that this was an exciting game. I have heard that assessment from others as well. I was riveted by the last 5 minutes or so as I watched the GameCast on NFL.com. I asked him if the defenses were as bad as they seemed or if it was just an illusion of the high scoring game. He replied, “Oh, no. It wasn’t an illusion. The defenses were that bad.” So, I checked out the highlights and all I can say is, “Wow.” It wasn’t a surprise that the Patriots defense was terrible, they’ve been suspect all year. The Eagles, on the other hand, were supposed to live on defense this year. This is not my father’s NFL.
Some people complain about college football and the fact that many teams don’t bother with defense much other than maybe Alabama. On the other hand, I enjoy the college game and the quick strike offenses that rule the day there. It seems as if some of the more progressive coaches in the NFL (maybe spearheaded by Chip Kelly’s somewhat failed experiment) have noticed that if they want to win, they might have to go the college route. Then again, perhaps this game is an aberration and we’ll be back to ugly 3 and out football next season.
“Inch by Inch”
Perhaps influenced by the Madden video game series and their hero worship of players, I didn’t give much thought to coaching in the NFL. Sure, people make the argument that a good coach makes a difference, but really, how much of a difference? These are grown men who have fought tooth and nail all of their lives to rise to the epitome of their profession. And, they need a guy to motivate them to do well at that profession? It’s an absurd proposition.
Well, I’m here to say that I was wrong about all of that. One of the main reasons that Philadelphia made it to the Super Bowl is that they have a good coach who is willing to do what it takes to win the game. Most of the time, when faced with the Patriots “unbeatable aura”, coaches and teams shrink. Not so with the Eagles in this game. They stood toe to toe with the Pats and barely blinked.
I’m Impressed By Philadelphia’s Marbles
Speaking of coaching, not only did Philly not blink, but they took it right to the Patriots. They went for it on fourth down more than once. One time, they went for it on 4th and goal from the Patriots 1 and showed them how a trick play throw to your quarterback is supposed to work. I was impressed and jealous all at once. Both Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher have withered in the face of the great Belichick and Brady in the playoffs. I want a coach that will throw the hammer down on the accelerator and never let up.
Granted, they played a little too safe at the end of the game and I was convinced that it would come back to bite them eventually. They gave Brady way too many chances. If we’ve learned one thing it is that you do not give Tom Brady any chance at the end of the game. I guess I can understand them becoming a bit more conservative at the end of the game because you don’t want to happen to you what happened to Brady. I didn’t like it, though.
That Old Patriots Magic
Right up until the end of the game, I was convinced that the Patriots will win. Heck, even about a week later, I’m convinced that the NFL will somehow review the tape of the failed Hail Mary and determine that the pass was actually complete and then the Patriots used some obscure rule to complete a three point conversion so that they actually won the game. The Patriots winning close Super Bowls, sometimes in unexpected fashion has become a part of the NFL mythos. Years later, we are going to tell our grandkids about 28-3 and the Tuck Rule just the same as our parents and grandparents told us about the Heidi game and the Immaculate Reception.
Nearly everyone I have spoken to agrees with me. They are astounded that the Patriots did not win the game. Not only did they not win the game, but they were scrambling at the end in much the same way that other teams do against them. On the first potential game winning drive, Brady was stripped of the ball while being sacked. Then, when Philly went a bit conservative as I mentioned above, he still had a chance to potentially tie it with the Hail Mary that harmlessly fell to the ground. In any other normal Super Bowl, the first drive would have ended in a touchdown and then the following drive, the Patriots would have stripped Foles of the ball and won the game. That didn’t happen this time. Is that old Patriots magic dead at last? Did it just take an evil of equal magnitude to end their reign? Only time will tell.
The Last Word
It all hit me yesterday afternoon as I listened to the final Simmons and Sal podcast of the NFL season. It’s all over. I’m not as big a fan of football as I once was, but I’ve grown fond of my little rituals during the season. I paid attention to and cared a little bit about the Super Bowl for the first time in years. I don’t know how long this will last or if it will grow into a new fandom in my later years, but it is possible.
At the very least, writing for the web page will keep me interested. A couple of years ago, I did a preview with plans of doing picks every week and keeping track like the talking heads do. This was a weird season, though, as evidenced by my 5-6 record in the playoffs and the Patriots losing the Super Bowl in a way that they normally win them, so who knows. If it goes back to being the No Fun League again next year, I could quickly lose interest.