originally published February 2, 2014
As you may have noticed by the disturbing lack of available Doritos at your local corner store, today is among the most revered and holy days in western culture. No, not the groundhog thing – around here that’s just a joke anyway. I live in a town where six more weeks of winter after February 2nd is actually a shorter sentence than we’re used to. No, it’s Super Bowl Sunday, the day when western culture grinds to a 3.5-hour halt in front of its TV.
But not everyone is a football fan. I get that. I live in a country where the blood is only as red as the centre line and our footsteps echo with the clatter of pucks against a garage door. American football fans here are more scarce. I grew up with a father who poured a heaping bowl of football into my Sundays every fall and winter, and I’ve found a distinct advantage to being an NFL fan in Canada: I have no geographical obligations, team-wise. I can cheer for the Denver Broncos because Peyton Manning is a blast to watch, but I can also get excited when the Seattle Seahawks show off a cartilage-crumbling defense.
So I’m a fan of 31 out of 32 teams (I still can’t bring myself to like the Patriots – they’re just so damn smarmy). Today’s game will feature the two teams who most deserve to be there, and I’ll be riveted to the screen – Big Rock beer in hand and home-made chili tickling my palate. And since I won’t be slapping a kilograph onto my creative grill every day next year at this time, I will take this last topical opportunity to write a little something about the big game.
On the left is former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, presenting the sacred world championship trophy to Green Bay Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi after his team had won the first Super Bowl in 1967. Four years later, once the upstart American Football League had sewn its hem permanently to the NFL and the Super Bowl had officially acquired its name, the trophy was posthumously named in Lombardi’s honor. Unlike the Stanley Cup, which is perhaps the most sacred single trophy in professional sports, a new Lombardi trophy is minted every year for the winning team.
Tiffany & Co. designed the trophy of course, and they continue to produce them today. There may be 48 of these things out there now, but they are still prized by the teams who have earned them. Except for that one that Baltimore won in Super Bowl V (the first one named Lombardi); in the settlement when the Colts relocated to Indianapolis, the trophy remained with the city.
It takes a lot of work to snag this little 22 inches of sterling silver.
The whole point of the Super Bowl was to pit the top teams of each major league against one another to determine the true champion. I’m of the belief that the NFL wanted to show its dominance over the 7-year-old AFL, which it did in the first two games. But by the time the championship game was dreamt up, the merger of the two leagues was already on the table.
As I pointed out, the game was known as the World Championship for the first few years, though the name ‘Super Bowl’ was first jotted down in a letter to Pete Rozelle by Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt prior to the 1966 season that would end with his team battling the Packers in the big game. So the nickname was there from the start, at least on the tip of a few tongues.
The other big prize (apart from fame, endorsements and that immaculate feeling of absolute accomplishment) is the Super Bowl ring. The rings are made from yellow or white gold, and can feature more than 100 diamonds apiece. The NFL will spring for 70 rings for the winning team today, which will be given to players, coaches, management, and whomever else the team feels deserves the honor. In some cases, former players might even get a ring; Edgerrin James, the halfback for the Indianapolis Colts throughout most of their mighty seasons in the early part of the last decade, was given a ring when the Colts won the big game in 2007, despite the fact that he hadn’t been on the team all year.
The rings aren’t priceless, but they are damn valuable. Lawrence Taylor’s son sold one of his dad’s rings (the 1990 one) for $250,000. Only one player has won five rings on the field – Charles Haley, who smothered opposing quarterbacks during two of San Francisco’s dominant years and three more when the Dallas Cowboys won it all. The record for ring ownership belongs to Neal Dahlen, who won five as part of the San Francisco 49ers staff and two as General Manager for Denver.
The Super Bowl is inevitably among the most watched shows on television in any given year, and it has become customary for the network showing the game to strategically drop an important broadcast on the schedule immediately afterward. Sometimes they’d try launching new series, but that was never a guarantee: The *A* Team, The Wonder Years, Family Guy and American Dad have all become hits, but the crappy college sitcom Brothers And Sisters and the long-forgotten Aaron Spelling police series MacGruder And Loud didn’t benefit from the spot.
Nowadays it’s more common for networks to drop a ‘very special episode’ of one of their hit shows after the game. We had a one-hour The Office after the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals a few years back, and CBS kicked off Survivor’s all-star season after the Patriots-Panthers game in 2004. This year Fox is airing an episode of The New Girl, which I don’t watch and probably won’t start watching tonight.
As much as my heart is hoping Peyton Manning will walk away with his second ring tonight, I’m mostly hoping for a good game, and maybe for a few records to fall. Maybe Marshawn Lynch will score four touchdowns, or Peyton will break Steve Young’s record of six touchdown passes.
No matter what, today is practically a holiday. It is the second-largest day for food consumption in America after Thanksgiving, and while the world as a whole might tune in to the UEFA Champions League Final or this year’s World Cup in greater numbers (that’s soccer stuff to us westerners), our little chunk of the globe will most likely plunk this game at the top of our television ratings for the entirety of 2014. A lot of people will be watching just for the commercials, which are a fantastic show by themselves. Not here of course – Canadian companies have already negotiated deals to have the quality USA commercials blanked out in favor of less-glitzy ads intended for our nation’s people. It stinks, but we have the internet so nothing is ever really ‘blanked out’.
The last genuine blowout in a Super Bowl was the early 2003 contest between the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers; every game since has been close through the fourth quarter. I just want a fantastic sixty minutes of football today, hopefully so full of drama and intensity it’ll get me through the sad void of seven football-free months.
And it’s comforting to know that there’s no way the damn New England Patriots will win it.