As a pretty hardcore NFL fan, the Super Bowl has always been anti-climatic for me. Because my beloved Chargers haven’t been in the big game since 1995, (even though they have consistently made the playoffs since 2004) I am perpetually in a state of mourning the Chargers’ season when the Super Bowl shows up and consequently can’t muster any Super Bowl enthusiasm. In fact, I have held contempt for every Super Bowl champion I can remember except the 2001-02 Pats (everyone loved that team and that story, but hindsight makes them a little more hateable) and have only had a rooting interest in that team and two others since 1995: the 1999-2000 Titans and the 2005-2006 Seahawks, and they both lost. I have felt every other team who has made the big game in that time period was either too good and had annoying fans (the jealousy factor. Examples: the 2000-01 Ravens, the 2004-05 Pats and Eagles, the 2008-09 Steelers) or been a team that snuck in to the playoffs and didn’t deserve to be there (the merit factor. Examples: the 2008-09 Cardinals, last year’s Packers, the 2000-01, 2007-08 and 2011-12 Giants teams). Bottom line is the game doesn’t interest me from a competitive stand point as much as raise my own issues of sour grapes. So while I should be happy on “Football Christmas,” I tend to be bitter.
Since I typically have no rooting interest in the game, I get caught up in the extracurricular experience like everyone else: I’ll enjoy the food (my favorite was the random 2009 spread which included olive crostinis and assorted fondues), the commercials, the fanfare, the celebrity and so on. This should be fine, and satisfying, but in some sense the fact that me, as a hardcore NFL fan, gets dragged down into the hoopla bothers me even more. At the inevitable Super Bowl Party, I hate making small-talk with the women who don’t know what a DB is, or having to tolerate the guy who picked the front runner five minutes before kickoff because “he doesn’t really have a team” and beams and cheers when they do something well. I have a tendency to be an elitist in most things, and seeing my beloved NFL get watered down to entertain people who aren’t even pseudo-NFL fans irks me. Multiply this by ten when Aikman and Buck call the game. Last year was awful, and if it hadn’t been for Christina Aguliera effing up the National Anthem so bad that it spawned this awesome chain of image macros, I would dare say it was my least favorite Super Bowl since 2006.
The first Super Bowl I remember was the 1989 tilt with the Niners and Bengals. I was in El Paso visiting my Mom’s family at the time, and that game had everything: Elvis Presto, 3D glasses, Bud Bowl I, Spuds McKenzie, and an actual compelling on the field product. I became a football fan after that, and expected every Super Bowl to be so awesome. They never were, but I was hooked nonetheless. It really is a shame that no other game has lived up to that one for me. It’s like losing your virginity to a super model.
Another thing about the Super Bowl that bothers the diehards like me is that the game is so hard to forecast (because of all the distractions) and everybody expects you to have an opinion. Who would have thought Raiders center Barrett Robbins wouldn’t show up the day of the game in 2003? Who could foresee Jake Delhomme throwing for 323 yards and 3 TDs in 2004 (and Deion Branch getting MVP)? Who could have foreseen the officiating debacle that was Super Bowl XL (ANGER)? Who could have foreseen that this play (where five flags should have been thrown) would make my friend Nick pound two beers because of the defensive player scoring a touchdown rule in our Super Bowl XLIII drinking game? Okay, that was great.
This year I’m not expecting a whole lot. It’s a classic jealousy-vs-merit match-up, with Tom Brady going for his 5th ring and Eli Manning trying to pass his otherwise superior brother in championships. Both of these fan bases are annoying (but really, who isn’t besides Bills, Lions and Vikings fans? I freaking hate my fellow Chargers backers.) While I suppose I’d rather see the Pats win, it hurts to say that. Quite honestly, the only outcome in this game that would shock me would be a Giants blowout. It could be a barn-burner, a defensive struggle, a lot of throwing, a lot of running…I have no idea what to expect. I think every gambling spread, total and prop is a stay away except for Aaron Hernandez for MVP at 12/1. I think Eli Manning will do something stupid that turns out terrific. I think Rob Ninkovich will do something stupid that turns out terrific. I think there will be a lot of touchbacks.
My prediction: PUSH (NE -3) NE 23, NYG 20.