It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the most hyped sporting event in America. North America, that is. It’s the NFL championship game between the NFC winner and the AFC winner. Millions of people, even non-football fans, will spend this evening watching the game and the commercials. Some will just want to watch the spectacular halftime show. It has become a yearly social event, much like celebrating New Year’s Eve or significant birthdays or St. Patrick’s Day if you are Irish or just love to drink green beer. Someday, SBS may even become a national holiday. Not a bad idea, since many watchers don’t recover enough from the partying to be able to get to work the next day.
This year’s Super Bowl pits the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has never won the Lombardi Trophy, and the New England Patriots, a team that is seeking its sixth title under the direction of head coach Bill Belichick and veteran quarterback Tom Brady. Brady and Belichick may go down as the best ever at their jobs and will surely be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot once they are eligible.
Being that I’m the Old Coach, I’m frequently asked who I think will win the game. In this case, I’m not as qualified as most NFL fans in making an educated guess because I really have given up on viewing a lot of pro football games. As years go by, I find it harder and harder watching some of the world’s most gifted athletes make fundamental mistakes that you wouldn’t expect a high school player to make and behaving in a manner that you wouldn’t want your grandkids to emulate.
As a casual observer, I will give my opinion, however. I like the fact that the Eagles have survived the loss of their star quarterback Carson Wentz to injury and have still been able to be productive offensively with Nick Foles at the helm. A team that can absorb that kind of loss and still succeed, reinforces my belief that a championship team wins because it is balanced offensively, defensively and on specialty teams. It seems to me that the Eagles have character.
But readers are already aware of my admiration for the New England Patriots, both in their emphasis on fundamentals and their preparation for games. Belichick and Brady are the best in the game in evaluating what an opponent’s weaknesses are and how they can best take advantage of them. They find mismatches in personnel and situations. They make adjustments. They don’t beat themselves. That said, I think that Philly will be a real challenge for them.
Not everyone around the world shares the same excitement about the Super Bowl. In South America and most of Europe, it would be the World Cup (futbol/soccer) that warrants such attention. I’ve been in Europe during a World Cup and, believe me, it doesn’t get much bigger. In Scotland, it would be the British Open (golf). In Ireland, it would be the Irish Hurling National Championships. In India, it would be the Cricket World Cup. Each nation, it seems, has a particular sport that draws the most interest and has the most enthusiastic following.
Later this week, many viewers all over the world will tune in to the Winter Olympics, another sporting event that garners a lot of interest, although not as much as the Summer Olympics. This year, the Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, hardly a country that one normally associates with winter sporting events. We think Korea, we think baseball or martial arts. Korea: it’s not the Alps or the Rockies. For those who weren’t paying attention when geography was once taught in school, parts of Korea are mountainous, and winter weather can be brutally cold there. Veterans from the Korean War can certainly attest to that. Like the Super Bowl, viewers will be treated to the peripheral colorful spectacle of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, similar to today’s halftime extravaganza, each of which has great entertainment value while not having anything to do with the actual athletic competition.
I guess I’m just an old stick-in-the-mud, but I think all the hoopla that goes along with these sporting events detracts from the actual competition. I watch the Super Bowl for the sheer enjoyment of seeing the best teams go at it. If I wanted to see Bruno Mars sing (which I don’t), I would watch MTV or check him out on YouTube. I’ll watch the Olympic Games each night because I want to see the best athletes in the world compete against one another. I don’t need all the window dressing. If I want a travel-mercial for a host country, I’ll watch the Travel Channel or Rick Steves on PBS. In my sports world, the Olympics of my youth and early adulthood with sportscaster Curt Gowdy providing the essentials of a particular event or Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshire calling the play by play of the NFL championship was good enough for me.
Enough said. Now, will someone just pass me the crab dip?