Let’s start with the obvious.
There are those who stake their undying fanhood to each and every one of the 32 teams in the NFL. Somehow, there are even masochists that back futile franchises like the Jaguars and Browns, the kind that make squandering hopes as much the spectacle as anything that takes place on the field each week. But that’s what makes competition work on a national scale: the fist pumping, the floor pacing (ahem, Redskins fans, ahem), the blind faith and broken hearts. The foolhardiness and bandwagon-jumping and bitter rivalry which inevitably result when you align your ambitions with the success of young, athletically-gifted celebrities who showcase their talents on behalf of an assigned city.
And that’s not intended to be cynical, not in the least, because the exercise of being a fan is a largely positive one. If I couldn’t witness the Bears annual .500 finish or cheer maniacally for a garbage time touchdown that helped my fantasy team, my quality of life would be noticeably diminished, and that’s not hyperbole.
But let’s set allegiances aside and talk frankly for a minute.
The Seahawks and the Broncos. There’s nothing else left in the ’13/’14 narrative. In many ways, that’s a disparaging thought. They say all great things must end, but pithy sentiment can hardly cushion the blow. For the vast majority of teams, the book is already closed, and has been for some time. But, if this season has to end, at least this is the ideal final battle to send the season off in style.
Yes, this is absolutely the ideal Super Bowl. Feel free to talk about how you’d rather have your hometown squad battling for the Lombardi, but you wouldn’t, unless you recognize it as means for your squad to get utterly pulverized one last time or happen to be a 49ers fan (the only other team that could have challenged either of these two on a consistent basis). There aren’t many teams in NFL history who could outgun Peyton Manning’s offense or pick apart the Legion of Boom, so don’t act indignant and talk about how a relative afterthought like the Panthers or Chiefs are fit for the task.
Year after year, America is subjected to the team of destiny, the consistently inconsistent group that rides a wave of momentum and fortuitous breaks all the way to the championship. More often than not, that team becomes the one whose star player makes the lucrative announcement of an impending trip to Disney World as his teammates bathe in confetti. The feel good stories are fine, but only in moderation. The last four Super Bowl champions have been teams that didn’t earn a playoff bye, and the record was beginning to sound repetitive. Sooner or later, the underdog needs to step out of the spotlight, or else the moniker loses all meaning.
The “best vs. the best” iteration of the big game doesn’t roll around nearly as often as common sense would dictate. There hasn’t been a meeting of the top offense and top defense in the Super Bowl since 1990. Two number one seeds have only squared off once in the last decade. The two most deserving teams are rarely the last two standing; such is the nature of the one-and-done beast.
Maybe there isn’t a clear rooting interest for every football fan in Super Bowl XLVII, and I get that. I’m a detractor of Russell Wilson, but I’m head-over-heels for the Seattle ‘D’. Peyton Manning served me well as a fantasy quarterback in 2012, but something about the Broncos seems a bit too evil empire-ish at times for me to offer any kind of lasting support. Maybe you think Richard Sherman is a douche, or Wes Welker is a traitor. Maybe you think the Broncos mascot got a bad rap last week and deserves a title to lift his spirits. That’s not what matters.
What does matter is the two best teams in the league, facing off in the biggest city in America, freezing their asses off and clawing tooth and nail for immortality. The best is yet to come.