Saturday, April 04, 2015

Why Super Bowl XLIX lingers

From the department of things only interesting to me:

Although it has been two months since the Super Bowl I find any allusion to pro football makes me think back to this most recent "Big Game"—specifically to the end, when the Seahawks were on the verge of victory, and due to what one either considers a phenomenal defensive play by the Patriots or a ridiculously stupid call by Seattle's coaches it was New England who took home the Lombardi Trophy.

I wrote about the specifics more than sufficiently back after the game; we don't need to re-hash those details again. What holds any worth at this point is pondering: Had Seattle scored the winning touchdown (as seemed very likely before gave up an interception) would I still find the game popping to mind in this way?

I must conclude I would not. If the Seahawks simply scored from the one-yard line and, as they clearly intended, did not leave the Patriots time to mount a drive to at least tie with a field goal, it would be something that faded from active thought as the previous year's trouncing of the Broncos did. When Seattle was up by a large margin against Denver there was no drama, no consequence to any drive they had in the entire second half. There was nothing to consider again.

Seattle overall played worse than New England—as overall they had played worse in the NFC Championship against Green Bay. By any objective standard they did not deserve to win either game, and the fact they did win the first and were in a position to win the second is more than they should have had. If in the Super Bowl they'd been down by more than a touchdown going into that final drive (as probably they should have been) and simply lost because they were too far behind to have any chance of a comeback, the game too would not have the same quality to warrant any further consideration in my mind.

What is perhaps most interesting is that I'm not dwelling on any of this out of any strong fandom. Sure, I was slightly rooting for Seattle (because I do have a bit of a hard time rooting for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick—not for specific reasons but they are something of the Evil Empire after all these years; there is no element of the underdog possible with them) but I wasn't broken up when Wilson threw the interception. I was merely surprised.

That is it: surprise. Of all the things I thought might happen when Seattle had it 2nd and Goal from the one with a timeout, I don't know exactly what I thought might happen, but calling a pass that had even the slightest chance of being picked off (short of a weird bounce off the receiver or something) was not in that array of possibilities. The fact it was so unpredictable made it noteworthy.

In sports the specifics tend to be easily anticipated; either it will go this way or it will go that way. Either this team will score and win or that team will stop them from scoring and win. It's not that the one team cannot make a mistake and cost themselves victory but of all the scenario wherein that seemed conceivable in this case would be if Marshawn Lynch had fumbled or Russell Wilson rolled out and tried to force a pass to a well-covered receiver; at no point would it have occurred to me that a quick pass like that would go any way other than the receiver catches it or drops it as an incompletion.

For the Patriots to win it seemed like they'd need to make a conventional goal line stand and stuff Lynch at the line multiple times or defend a pass where Wilson rolls out.

Lynch didn't fumble. Wilson didn't throw at a receiver who was blanketed by a defender. The receiver didn't catch or drop the ball.

The Patriots only had to stop Lynch once, from the five-yard-line, not the one. They didn't have to cover receivers who ran around during a QB rollout.

Of all likely situations resulting in the ultimate outcome the one that actually happened was not one I would have anticipated.

When that happens (not only in sports but especially when it is in sports) that is infinitely fascinating.

I'm sure this will fade as the more seasons come and go, but I don't imagine it will go away completely—at least not until there's another even-more-surprising play to supplant it.

Or until senility sets in. That will also do the trick.


Listening to a Poscast from back after the Super Bowl I was reminded:

In the past 15 years Boston has four Super Bowl victories, three World Series titles, one NBA championship, and a Stanley Cup. It has been a smorgasbord of sports success, with more years having victory parades than not.

Perhaps the particularly brutal winter that area endured is, in a way, Mother Nature balancing the Karmic scales just a bit.

I imagine there are people in Seattle who would put up with mounds of snow if it meant another Lombardi Trophy.

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