Through the first 33 years of my life, I have never witnessed a Super Bowl in which my favorite team was participating. As such, the build up to the game, for me, has always been more "casual interest" and less "intense anticipation."
Don't get me wrong. I love the Super Bowl. It's hard to beat any day where you can just assume a party and which revolves around a (hopefully) great football game featuring the best two teams of the year. It's been even better when you consider that we're on a four year stretch of fantastic games.
Still, not having had a horse in the race, I've never really bought into the hype machine that precedes the event.
Somehow, though, the fact that there is still football to anticipate is comforting, and every year on the Monday following the Super Bowl, I'm struck with disappointment (and a hangover) as I realize that there are now six barren months before training camp and more football.
This year is no different. While all the sports shows and websites are awash with coverage, my brain cannot find a way to care deeply about whether or not Eli Manning is "elite", what this game might mean for the legacy of either quarterback, or about the future of Peyton Manning (wait...he's not playing?!).
As my buddy said the other day, my mind wanders where it wants, so I thought that I'd share some of those wanderings (most, but not all, of which are football-related) with the BRB faithful.
- For the whole of my adult life (and much of it beforehand), I've always spent Super Bowl Sunday at some sort of social event. Sometimes it's a big party, sometimes just a small gathering of friends, but I've always done something -- with one exception. The last time the Giants and Patriots played the Super Bowl, I had no plans. By some weird combination of friends having kids, being out of town, etc. I had absolutely no plans for the day, so I watched the Super Bowl at home with my girlfriend (now wife). It's important to note that she falls as far down the "I hate football" spectrum as I fall on the "I love football" spectrum, but there we sat quietly watching the game with some beer and barbeque. It oddly worked out very well because if there was ever a Super Bowl to watch in quiet and simply enjoy the beauty of the game itself with no distractions, that was the one, and I have always remembered that game fondly. Of course, I'm still going to a party this year.
- I've admittedly never spent any significant time in Indianapolis other than to drive through it, so I may be completely out of bounds here, but can you think of a less exciting city to host a Super Bowl? I mean, even Jacksonville has the ocean and great weather (plus the TPC at Sawgrass, which is kick ass).
- No professional athlete (other than Jim McMahon) would openly talk about it, but I always wonder what kind of internal battle NFL players might have the week before a Super Bowl. On one hand, this weekend represents the opportunity to reach the ultimate goal in the ultimate league in the country. On the other hand, it's also the ultimate party week in North American professional sports. While taking even the smallest of risks of putting one's self in a bad situation with such a rare opportunity within one's grasp would be incomparably irresponsible, NFL players are in fact famous for being incomparably irresponsible. And look at me making Jim McMahon references 26 years later. Don't get me wrong, if (when) the Texans make the Super Bowl, I'm all for putting each and every one of them under house arrest for a week. I am in no way condoning the notion that one should party down during Super Bowl week if one is in fact playing in the game, but when it's two teams I don't care about, I'm more than a little curious about their internal dialogue.
- One of my most memorable Super Bowl parties was one in which I barely remember a single aspect of the game. And no, it's not because of how wasted I was. When I was in grad school, I spent a month working for a startup company in New Zealand. As we planned our return trip, my buddy and I decided to spend a few days in Fiji. Fiji is pretty much two major islands and then thousands of tiny islands, and we struggled to find a place to stay as everything was marketed towards romantic getaways and honeymooners. The only advice we had gotten was to get off the main islands. Finally, we found this place that was the college getaway spot in Fiji (kind of like the Daytona Beach of the south Pacific). The island was tiny -- you could walk around it in under 10 minutes -- but the party was huge. Being in our late 20s, we were pretty much the oldest guys there and as you try to picture this all in your mind, multiply it by 10 and you're about there. Anyway, we just so happened to be there during Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawks, and about a third of the guests were American, so right after breakfast, the hotel found a feed and fed it to a large projector on the beach. It's summer down there at that time, and the weather was perfect, so that was nice too. Also, at this time and there were also a bunch of models there filming a Coke commercial. The game was completely secondary.
- Outside of fans of either the Patriots or Giants, and perhaps the New England loving media, I can't find a single person excited about this matchup and the prospect either team hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
- I just realized that with the two of the stories above, I pretty much covered the two extremes of Super Bowl watching experiences. I assure you that pretty much every other year has been right about in the middle. I am neither that exciting, nor that boring.
- This past weekend I brewed my first ever 100% original recipe beer -- an IPA of course. All of our previous brews had been either replications of other famous ales (like Guinness and Fat Tire) or modifications of recipes we've found online. So, we'll see how my first venture into recipe creation comes out. In the process of brewing, however, we got into a pretty good discussion on who we would put in the Mount Rushmore of American Craft brewing. We fully agreed on the following three: Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada -- they're the pioneers), Jim Koch (Boston Beer Co. -- though they're not technically a craft brewery anymore, their hop sharing program still keeps them on the list), and Sam Calgione (Dogfish Head -- just insanely creative). The fourth was less clear, but we finally settled on Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. What put him over the top was the incredible work they do with IPAs, since IPAs are pretty much the backbone of the American Craft brewing culture.
- It's interesting to note that the Super Bowl and the Champions League Final have spent the last few years neck and neck for the world's most watched events. While the Champions League Final has had slightly more viewership and more room to grow (hello, Asia), the Super Bowl still wins in terms of advertising revenue and food consumption. The reason I find this interesting is that it really speaks to the international reach of the NFL's advertising arm and the potential purchasing power of those watching the Super Bowl. When you consider that American football is rarely played outside of the USA, while soccer is the undeniable sport of choice in the majority of the world, it really says something about the cultural event that the Super Bowl has become. I mean, far more people in the world grew up on soccer as opposed to football, but the NFL's biggest game still draws as well as soccer's biggest game. I'd be curious to see how this plays out in 10 years, though, because I think the Champions League has a better chance of making stronger inroads in the U.S. than the Super Bowl does in Asia.
- The New England Patriots are favored to win Super Bowl XLVI by 3 points. If I were a betting man, which I'm not, I would take that action. I don't know either of the two teams in any great level of detail, but I just can't seem to get past the struggles of the Patriots' defense. Yeah, they've played better in the post-season, but they haven't exactly gone up against the top quarterbacks in the league. They did a good job of stopping the run against both the Broncos and Ravens forcing Flacco and Teebs (as I like to call him) to beat them -- and Flacco almost did! Whether or not you think Eli Manning is elite, it's fair to say that he's better than either Flacco or Teebs, and I think ultimately that's going to make the difference. So I'm taking the Giants in a fairly high scoring but close game: 30-27.