Tonight, the Kansas City Chiefs are playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, in Tampa, Florida, at 6:30 pm Eastern Time (which is 5:30 pm here in central Arkansas).
I plan to watch it, even though I shouldn’t care about the outcome. With the pandemic, I’ve found it difficult to get interested in football this season. I personally thought we should have cancelled the entire season before it began. I understand the impulse to keep some normalcy in our lives. This just seemed like an unnecessary risk to me.
Because of my attitude towards the NFL this season, I didn’t bother to watch a single game, which is unusual behavior for me. I was tempted when my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, were doing so well in the early season, but I resisted the temptation to watch. Even when the Steelers went into the playoffs and lost to a wildcard team. I was aware of what happened, but I didn’t watch it.
Since the Steelers are not in it, I shouldn’t care about the Super Bowl at all. Right?
But, watching the Super Bowl is a tradition in my house. Even when I don’t have a horse in the race. Even when I’ve got no skin in the game. Even when [insert your favorite overwrought sports metaphor here]. Especially when I’m conducting my own emotional boycott of the entire NFL for reasons out of everyone’s control.
I’m watching tonight. The only game I will have watched during the entire COVID-19 season (pre-vaccine). We’ve got brats and sauerkraut, baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad. Plenty of adult beverages. I’m not wearing it yet, but I may break out my Steelers jersey before kickoff. Sharon will watch the game with me. Because it’s tradition: she’s not a football fan at all. It’s a kind of party, although my wife and I will be the only ones in attendance. We’ll watch the commercials and make fun of the halftime show, whether or not we know any of the artists performing. We’ll curse at bad calls and celebrate when it seems appropriate.
But, which team will I be rooting for?
In spite of the words I’m about to write, this is a tougher decision than I’ll make it seem.
My team, the Steelers, are in the AFC, the same conference as the Chiefs. I could claim conference loyalty and root for Kansas City based on conference loyalty. But, I don’t really have conference loyalty. If the conference championship had come down to Kansas City versus Pittsburgh, you know which team I would have cheered on. I have only cared how game scores would affect the Steelers’ standings in the past, and would root for or against AFC teams based upon that.
As is true for many people watching this game, my pick in this game is based upon the head-to-head clash of superstar quarterbacks. On the Tampa side, we have veteran quarterback Tom Brady, who is considered by many fans to be the best quarterback ever. The GOAT, to use the current popular acronym. I can read the stats, and I understand the inherent message in the fact that he left New England behind and is in the Big Game once again, with a new team. I’m sure even Bill Bellicheat deciphered that message.
The thing is, I hate Tom Brady.
No, I don’t hate Tom the man. I don’t know him. I hate Tom the NFL player, the future Hall of Famer, most likely in his first eligible year. I hate him because he just may be the GOAT, in fact, something that pains me to admit. Do you know how many times this man has dashed my own championship dreams? Me neither. It was many times, though. That makes it difficult for me to root for him, no matter which team he plays on.
He may be a perfectly lovely real person. I don’t know that for a fact. I like to think that he has an altar to Satan in a walk-in closet which has more square-footage than my house, where he sacrifices virgins and newborns to maintain his competitive edge. I’m not saying that he has such an altar, you understand. It would be reckless to accuse Tom Brady of being a devout Satanist.
Seems like my feelings on this would make my team decision a slam dunk (another sports metaphor—I can’t help myself). But, not so fast, my friend.
I am also a man of a certain age. I value veteran players, and know that a sure-handed veteran player brings a lot of extra I-don’t-know-what to the competition. Having felt the none-too-subtle effects of workplace ageism in my own life, I tend to favor older players, in the same way my favorite music, books, comic books, movies and television shows seems to cluster around a certain time period.
Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Chiefs, is twenty-five years old. I would write that I have underwear older than he, but that’s simply not true. If I didn’t have a wife, it probably would be true, however gross that may seem. I have t-shirts and jeans that old, probably. He led the Chiefs to victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, just last year, and was Super Bowl MVP. I cheered him on last year. He’s an exciting young talent who has earned all of the accolades heaped upon him early in his NFL career. Another future Hall of Famer, I’m willing to bet, although he probably has many playing seasons ahead of him.
A brief aside: Mahomes is from Tyler, Texas. Someone I worked with long ago, before Mahomes was born in fact, was from Tyler, Texas. This person told me that AstroTurf was invented in Tyler. Which is ironic, because Mahomes is currently suffering from turf toe and is probably going to have surgery on it during the off-season. But, I digress—
Perhaps you understand my quandary. As an older NFL fan, maybe I should focus my support on the 43-year-old Brady, who is playing with an entirely new squad, except for one of his favorite targets, Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to play with Brady a little longer. This game seems to be easily framed as an Old vs. Young bout. I know which category most people would put me in. Maybe I should pull for the Buccaneers later today.
Nah. I still hate Tom Brady.
I’m pulling for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Here’s hoping for a two-peat.
I’m not encouraging any dynasty talk, however.
Steelers in 2022!