So, I guess the Super Bowl is this weekend? That’s neat, I suppose, although I’d be lying if I said I’m all that excited for it. As the hype engine for the big game revs up to the point that it threatens to send this metaphor careening off into a ditch, my own lack of enthusiasm has me thinking back to the Super Bowls of my youth.
For those of you who don’t remember the 90’s, it was accepted as a truism in those days that the Super Bowl, as a game of professional football, was destined to be hot garbage. I came up smack dab in the middle of the NFC’s streak of 13 consecutive Super Bowl victories, and most of those games were all-time humiliations. This was the era of the Chargers getting pantsed at the hands Steve Young and Neil O’Donnell throwing two of the very worst interceptions you’ll ever see in your life, and of course, the Bills losing four times in a row, each loss a duller watch than the last.
By the end of the decade, a curious transformation had occurred. Not only had the AFC’s decade-plus of futility come to an end, it had done so at the hands of John Elway and the Denver Fucking Broncos! The Broncos! There are multiple alternate dimensions swimming around out there in the metaphysical ether in which the Bills did not embark on their Sisyphusian journey of Super Bowl futility, and in almost all of them, it is the Broncos who serve as the enduring symbol of conference disparity in this period.
Not only was it the Broncos, of all teams, who had broken this streak, they had done so in a closely contested game that went all the way down to the wire. At the time, the new worlds of possibility opened up by bot the AFC victory and the game itself being good was fun as all hell. But alas, much like the introductions of reserved movie theater seating and video game pre-ordering, what once seemed like a gateway to greater fun and excitement for everyone soon curdled into drudgery of a different sort.
For over two decades, we’ve been living in an age where the Super Bowl often ends with a close final score, to the acclaim of many, but I’m here to tell you that most of these games were also garbage. Yes, there have been a handful of legitimately awesome games. Last year’s epic Chiefs comeback counts, as does the Eagles/Patriots contest from a few years ago, as does my personal choice for the best Super Bowl I’ve seen, the Seahawks/Patriots heartbreaker. Sometimes the heels win, even in a 5 Star Match.
But most of the rest of these games were some combination of disjointed, sloppy, or just plain weird. There have been games in which an otherwise reliable placekicker sent a kickoff out of bounds at the absolute worst possible time, and in which an MVP quarterback got his ass kicked so badly, he lost the wherewithal to fall on the ball after it got knocked out of his hands, and in which legendary coaches committed career-defining clock management blunders while the take-slingers started a a years-long debate over whether or not Donovan McNabb was actually puking on the sidelines. Worse still are the games in which one team dominates the first half, and the other team dominates the second, leaving me feeling as though I watched one half of two separate blowouts. This is the domain of power outages in the Superdome, and, most infamously, 28-3. All of these games were reasonably close, but none of them were good. And of course, sometimes the Super Bowl is just a straight up blowout, just like in the bad old days.
My point, here, is that we’re living in an age where the Super Bowl is expected to be worth watching not only as a spectacle, but as a game of professional football, despite all evidence drawing me inexorably to the conclusion that the game still sucks more often than not. It makes the week prior to the game all the stranger and exhausting, and leaves everyone, especially the viewing public, feeling silly when the big game hits like a wet fart on the city bus. To say it leaves me resentful would be an overstatement, but it does leave me feeling like a sucker.
That is why I am proud to announce that this Super Bowl matchup sucks on toast. I can no longer abide the thought of Tom Brady maybe possibly winning yet another fucking ring, and neither should you. Remember that fucking 28-3 game? It came right after Trump’s inauguration, and after a playoffs that had been every bit as terrible as this year’s, and left all of us feeling as though football itself were a right-wing conspiracy designed to destroy the concept of hope. Should the Bucs win this one, we’re all going to end up feeling each and every one of those feelings all over again. I don’t know if this is going to happen, mind you, but contemplating the possibility is enough for my soul to shrivel up.
The good news is that the Super Bowl remains the last, best opportunity for drinking on a Sunday that we’ll have until…well, until football starts back up again. (Unless, of course, you’re super into golf.) You can also eat whatever the hell you want while doing so. The 28-3 game left me, and everyone I had over to my home for a watch party, sad and dejected, so much so that I was compelled to apologize to everyone who showed up. But at least we all got to share in the giant vat of macaroni and cheese I made for it, as well as the accompanying toppings bar, as well as the hot wings my older brother fried up. It was our Paris.
I’m also pleased to report that my Playoff Pool picks don’t look completely terrible. I have double digit points on both conference champs, and even though the Saints let me down, the new playoff format means I was able to get some value out of those 13 points, even if was only a one-time payout. I can add another feather to my cap knowing that I was correct to think that the Bucs’ trouncing of the Packers in the regular season was no accident, and that I was secure in my belief that no one ever went broke picking the Packers to blow it in the playoffs. Hell, the small sample size of Championship Sunday allowed me to do decently against the spread, too. Feels good.
Playoff Stats Through Championship Round
Playoff Pool Points Accrued (Championship Round): 25
Playoff Points Missed (Championship Round): 21
Differential (Championship Round): +4
Playoff Pool Points Accrued (Total): 125
Playoff Pool Points Missed (Total): 80
Differential (Total): +45
Record Against the Spread (Championship Round): 1-1
Record Against the Spread (Total): 4-11
Line pulled from MyBookie at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, February 2nd.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I expect weird things from this game. For starters, the Bucs are playing at home, for the first time in Super Bowl history, in what figures to be a partially filled stadium. Whether this translates into an actual home-field advantage remains to be seen. This is certainly influenced by my upbringing in the Midwest, but I’ve met many a Chiefs fan in my journeys. As a fan base, they do travel to some extent, and I’m certain that extent has only increased now that they’re the defending champs.
On top of that, every one of those Brady-led Patriots Super Bowls, with the exception of that ghastly Rams debacle from a couple years ago, has been close, and with limited exceptions, they’ve been the weird, disjointed, sloppy, and altogether distressing kind of close. I’ve studied enough David Hume to know that this doesn’t mean anything at all, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that when Tom Brady plays in the Super Bowl, strange things happen.
It’s not too hard to envision this game devolving into a slop-fest, either. The Bucs’ defense seems to have everything in needs to fuck the Chiefs up. You may think at first blush that such a blitz-heavy defense is in deep trouble from the get-go against Patrick Mahomes, but time was you blitzed against Aaron Rodgers at your own peril, too, and it sure worked like gangbusters against the Packers in the NFC championship. Granted, the Packers were missing all universe left tackle David Bakhtiari, but the Chiefs’ offensive line doesn’t lack for problems and weak points of its own, and the Bucs have their own very recent experience with not containing Tyreek Hill to hold up an an example of what not to do as they prepare. This is a dangerous combination, indeed.
Of course, the Chiefs are far from hopeless as long as Mahomes can stay on the field, and as I said last year, the Chiefs would have to be down by at least three scores in the 4th before I’d even consider counting them out. Last year’s Super Bowl was all the demonstration one needs of the Chiefs’ absolute lead-destroying capabilities against even an elite defense. But, much to my consternation, Tom Brady still is no slouch; he’s probably better now than Handsome Jimmy G was then, and the Bucs’ offense is a hell of a lot more dangerous than the 49ers offense was last year. The Chiefs defense gets a bad rap, often deservedly so, but their pass defense isn’t as bad as all that. If nothing else, it’s not a total hindrance.
This game is hard to pick and hard to predict. About the only outcome I’m willing to take off the table is a total blowout, and since the Bucs’ defense is straight fucking nasty while the Chiefs’ defense is not, and they may put the whole team at risk if forced to squat on a huge lead. I can easily envision a scenario very similar to their regular season matchup, in which the Chiefs blast out in front early, only to the let the Bucs climb back in late. That may not be enough for the Bucs to win, but I think it’s more than enough for the Bucs to cover.
Enjoy the game! And if that proves impossible, at least enjoy the beer.