I didn’t think the NFL would make it to the finish line this season. I thought COVID-19 would gang-tackle the league, leaving the nation without the religious experience known as the Super Bowl for the first time in history.
But here we are, a few days out from the big event, and barring a super-spreader team meeting by the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, Super Bowl LV will take place Sunday. I think we all can say amen to that.
We need this. We deserve it.
Oh, believe me, I get it. It’s just a game, played by violent, slobbering men who add nothing to public discourse, unless the discourse is about whether a 350-pound lineman fast enough to run you down and sit on you until you’ve stopped breathing is capable of being body-shamed. Answer: Not if you know what’s good for you.
But in our isolation, as we wait out the storm of a pandemic and hope new virus variants don’t win the day, we need something good in our lives, even if it’s something as trivial as a football game. Maybe triviality is exactly what we need.
Patrick Mahomes, the phenom, wants what Tom Brady, the old man, has. He wants Brady’s legacy of being the winningest quarterback of all time. But before he can get to the six Super Bowl rings Brady has, he needs to get to two first. Can Mahomes do that? Can he lead the Chiefs to their second straight victory in the big game?
I’d advise you to get completely caught up in this discussion, to blow it out of proportion so that it resembles the emotions normally reserved for climate-change debates. That way, at least for a day, you’ll forget the sobering fact that only 1.8% of the country is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
How in the world is Tampa Bay supposed to stop Kansas City’s offense? Mahomes is great all by himself, but he also has one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Travis Kelce and one of the best wide receivers in Tyreek Hill. Common sense tells opponents to double-team both men, but how are they supposed to cover Mahomes’ other pass catchers? That’s another way of saying, “Good luck with that.’’
Brady is 43. He shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. He should be straining a muscle playing with his kids in the backyard. He should be bemoaning his need to use the bathroom twice a night. And yet he just beat the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, one of the two most talented quarterbacks in the world, in the NFC Championship Game. So it would be very, very silly to count him out simply because of his age and because he’ll be facing Mahomes, the other most talented quarterback, in the Super Bowl.
On the other hand, please be very, very silly. Be silly to your heart’s content. It’s a lot better than staring at the wall for the 345th straight day.
This Super Bowl Sunday will be different from all the other Super Bowl Sundays. There is no getting around that. Heed the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, who is urging Americans not to gather in numbers for the game. That means no big parties, no pregame spreads and no touchdown hugs. It means household members only inside your home — you, your significant other, your children, your roommates, etc. It means you shouldn’t invite your old fraternity buddies or your Uncle Fred, whom your wife detests because of his ability to belch the NFL theme song of each of the TV networks.
It means staying safe. The alternative is the possibility of a virus spike around the country.
I wish that topic would stop intruding on the point I’m trying to make here, which is that we need the Super Bowl for no other reason than to forget this stupid pandemic for a day.
I’m just happy we made it this far. Remember the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak early in the season? Players in quarantine. Games postponed. Remember when the Broncos played the Saints without a bone fide quarterback because of the league’s health protocols? That’s where it looked like the season was going for everyone. But the NFL put its shoulder down and kept moving. It sometimes looked ignorant, unfeeling and avaricious. And guess what? We enjoyed the diversion each Sunday.
Now we have the ultimate diversion, the Super Bowl. Yes, it will be fleeting. No, I don’t care that it will be here and gone. I’m just happy I’ll have one day to forget everything else, especially after thinking for so long that this day wouldn’t come. Enjoy. And forget.