Monday, February 06, 2012

"Super" Bowl?

In terms of epic-ness, it should have hit its mark. Two storied teams fighting for the top position both managed to outlast other upstarts throughout the season in order to make it to the final game. If that wasn’t enough, the same two teams met four years previously, the added value of a rematch potentially permeated the air. Plus you had the New York Giants squaring off against the New England Patriots, two teams with fan bases so devoted they could form de facto religious sects. So with all that promise, why was this year’s Super Bowl so, well, boring?

It could...go...all...the... oh, who are we kidding - no, it couldn't.

From the ridiculously lopsided first quarter (the Giants kept possession of the ball for almost the entire time, giving it to the Patriots for only one play before a technical error ended up costing New England a two-point safety in the end zone), this game looked hard fought, but frankly no more astonishing than a typical Sunday game. The fans in the stadium didn’t even really seem all that into it. New York gave a solid, and ultimately winning, performance but it wasn’t one that seemed especially inspired. And the Patriots, with the exception of a record-breaking 98-yard long drive from their own two-yard line into the opposing end zone, pretty much only got by with short, 10-yard passes and the occasional run up the middle.

Unfortunately for Boston, much of the fault for the low-excitement game likely lies with the Patriots. That failed Hail Mary drive in the final moments of the game aside, none of the team’s playing was exactly dramatic. That’s not to say that the Patriot’s short play style wasn’t strong. As my father used to say, if every play you run gets you three yards, that’s always going to be enough for a first down and that’s how you move down the field. Given that the only thing that counts at the end of the game is the final score, that style is the basis for solid, winning football. It’s just that when compared with the Giants’ muscular, relatively angrier playing style, the Pats just came out looking a little worn.

I’m typically the last person to fault a team for a solid playing style that doesn’t look that flashy. I come from the world of Big Ten college football, where the knock on the entire conference for years has been that the low-scoring games and lack of relative flash makes for bad ball. Of course, that’s because the Big Ten’s stock in trade is defensive playing, which by definition exists to shut down football plays. Compared with other conferences, such as perennial chart-toppers in the SEC, the Big Ten often looks slower, putting a larger emphasis on the size of players and their ability to break apart offensive lines. Meanwhile, those whiz-bang Heisman trophy winners in the SEC can put the football wherever they like it, rack up a combined total of over 100 points per game from both teams and have heard about defensive players and secretly have made plans for what they might say to a D-line if they ever meet one.

Right. Now, which one of us runs and which one of us blocks again?

The difference between my crabby defense of reliable, if not glittering, football and my boredom at this year’s game is actually the game itself. This was the Super Bowl. For all that I’d prefer to watch an actual game where the low score means higher stakes per touchdown, the reason we watch the Super Bowl is for the big plays, the explosions and the twirls and twists. The Super Bowl is all about spectacle and special effects and as such it is far more akin to entertainment than sports; it’s the Glee to the rest of the regular season’s CBS Nightly News. This year the league ended up with a game that lacked the pizzazz that it needed for such a night of event television. It didn’t feel fake or overcooked like some other Super Bowls in recent memory, but it didn’t exactly live up as the sheer entertainment machine that it’s designed to be either.

But as they say in the game, there’s always next year. Detroit Lions for XLVII, baby!


Monkey Sri said...

I started to read, I really did... then I gave up, scrolled down - and saw that EPIC tag. Well done, sir, well done.

Maggie Cats said...

The funny part is, my only coverage of Super Bowl Sunday will be when I write about the Puppy Bowl tomorrow. Thank goodness we now have a boy to write about the actual football!