You might have heard. They’ll be playing a football game Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
It bears noting that the first one of those ever played — the birth of the sport — took place only 30 miles to the south, Rutgers hosting Princeton in the acknowledged first game of intercollegiate football, predating the NFL by some 50 years. That was in November 1869. A few dozen curious spectators were there. The media consisted of one reporter from the school paper. The president of the United States was Ulysses S. Grant.
What is happening 30 miles away Sunday could not have been imagined then, for better or worse, or both.
The Super Bowl has grown so big its size alone can swallow the game in the middle of it. The Super Bowl stopped being about two teams as much as about the spectacle, the excess, the national holiday.
More than 110 million Americans will watch the Broncos play the Seahawks. Around $100 million will have been bet on the game, and that’s just legally. The price of a 30-second TV ad has topped $4 million. More than 5,300 media were credentialed to cover this. Fox-TV’s pregame show will last longer than the game itself.
A big event
From the ostentatious Roman numerals to the bombast of the halftime shows to the surrounding celebrity parties and corporatization, the Super Bowl has become less a game than it is an event. And you can always count on ancillary noise. This year it’s the weather, the controversy of a first outdoor Super Bowl in a wintry climate.
Sometimes the game itself can almost seem anti-climactic. It’s what is on between the cute commercials while we’re waiting for the halftime show.
This year feels different than most years, at least to me.
Not all Super Bowls matchups seem great or interesting; this one does.
So many Super Bowls have been blowouts; this one won’t be.
This Sunday is a good chance to peel away all the surrounding nonsense and get back to the game in the middle of it all.
Denver vs. Seattle to me looks like a matchup as great as any in the 48-year history of the Super Bowl.
Of course, not everyone agrees.
Ticket prices have been (relatively) low because many remained unsold late in the week, and I read one ticket broker try to explain that by saying, “The teams are not sexy enough.” Likewise a friend of mine said, “I miss the big teams being in it. The classic franchise you associate with a Super Bowl.”
Dear Ticket Broker: I’d venture that the unsold tickets are what happens when you play a Super Bowl OUTDOORS IN FREEZING BLEEPIN’ WEATHER!
Dear Friend: Give me two teams that portend a great game now, not two “name” clubs propped up on what their forebears did. Sorry, but is it our fault that Dallas and Pittsburgh became nostalgia acts?
If you are complaining about Broncos vs. Seahawks, it verifies that there is no perfect Super Bowl matchup except the one that includes YOUR team and an opponent your team can beat.
Otherwise there are no perfect SBs, although for me this one comes close.
It has the classic stark contrast of Denver’s record-setting offense and Seattle’s terrific “Legion of Boom” defense. It’s historic. It’s quantifiable. This is the first SB game ever between an offense No. 1 in both points scored and yards gained, and a defense No. 1 in allowing the fewest points and yards.
It has the requisite legendary superstar in Peyton Manning and all the talk of “legacy.”
It is only the second SB in the past 20 years to feature both the AFC’s and NFC’s No. 1-seeded teams. It is a heavyweight bout. Nobody from the undercard snuck in
It has the Heroes & Villains element, with the immensely popular, beloved elder statesman Manning contrasted with some Seahawks who don’t make Seattle all that easy to like outside of Seattle. Thinking of egotistical cornerback Richard Sherman. Thinking of recalcitrant Marshawn Lynch.
A perfect Super Bowl might also feature the contrast of a recently dominant franchise making its play for a dynasty, versus a classic Cinderella.
This Super Bowl has closer to two Cinderellas — even as the talent and might of both makes each an unlikely underdog.
Denver is making its first Super Bowl appearance since winning back-to-back titles in 1997-98, an NFL eternity ago — back on the biggest, highest stage because of Manning’s late-career, post-injury renaissance.
Seattle played in a Super Bowl as recently as 2005 but seeks its first championship in 38 franchise years.
These are two very loyal fandoms not drunk on recent triumphs, not spoiled or entitled, but rather hungry. Starving. It’s going to be easy to feel good for the celebrating fans Sunday night no matter where they’re from. And that’s nice, too.
I have a feeling I’ll be feeling good for Denver’s fans.
I’d also make a wager that Manning, in his on-field interview right afterward, will offer a small seminar, for those who might need it, on how to be gracious in victory.
Prediction: Broncos, 24-20.