Super Bowl LI (that’s 51 for you non-Romans) is one day away.
And yet… I feel nothing.
Sure, I’ll watch (unless the game gets out of control in New England’s favor), but this game has all of the excitement of the Hall of Fame preseason game. With replacement officials. On a Thursday night.
I know I’m not alone on this platform either.
The question then becomes ‘why?’
Why is the Super Bowl- the culmination of the 2016/17 season, and the biggest sporting event in the US- failing to draw it’s usual hype?
Same Old Story…
Guess what? The Patriots are in the Super Bowl!
While we can reminisce and discuss the ‘dynasty’ of the Patriots with every passing trip to the Super Bowl, it’s hardly an unexplored story line. We already know all about Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, the team’s history, owner Robert Kraft and his ‘Putin has my SB ring!‘ story, Deflategate, Spygate, the Tuck Rule….
It’s all recycled garbage. Because of that, we’re lacking content about one of the 2 teams in the Super Bowl, and with 2 weeks worth of coverage to fill, there’s really been nothing new and exciting about the Patriots worth discussing.
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, THEY’VE BEEN PLAYING TOM BRADY CRYING ABOUT HIS DAD BEING HIS HERO ON LOOP FOR A WEEK!
I’m not saying the Patriots being in the Super Bowl again is bad for the NFL… no, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
The Houston Texans would’ve been riveting to discuss for a Super Bowl in Houston. Miami or Oakland would’ve been hot topics with backup QB’s had they made it to the promise land. Hell, even Pittsburgh and their ‘Stairway to Seven’ along with the Antonio Brown drama/Le’Veon Bell‘s ‘I’m the Steph Curry of the NFL’ commentary would’ve given us more to sink our teeth into this week.
Instead, we’re left with a ton of regurgitated stories that likely subscribe to the ‘yea, you can copy my homework, just make it look slightly different’ mantra.
…And Everybody Hates That Story
I don’t think it’s a secret that the Patriots are the most hated team in the NFL, nor is it a surprise that Tom Brady is the most hated player in the league as well.
Just a quick recap of logic being the disdain for this team/player:
-Pats SB wins on the back of kickers, but credit given to Brady despite lackluster performances
-Brady constantly whining anytime contact is made before/during/after/2 weeks following a pass attempt
-They win. A LOT.
Then there’s the local animosity that stems mostly around Billy Cundiff/Lee Evans failures in New England during the 2012 playoffs, which could have/should have catapulted the Ravens to the Super Bowl to face the New York Giants (a franchise the Ravens demolished in the Super Bowl back in 2000, and also a franchise that represents a constant nightmare in New England).
And of course there was the substitution trickery from a few years back that really planted the Patriots as the #1 enemy in Baltimore, surpassing the Steelers.
Whether or not you agree with any/all of the above, those are the narratives folks. And when a team with this much baggage hits the big stage, many NFL fans around the country are left sour, and somewhat disinterested. Especially if you think the Pats are going to beat their inexperienced opponent who spent the 2016/17 season in relative anonymity until the playoffs.
Atlanta Falcons Weren’t a ‘Thing’ Until ’17
True story- I follow the NFL pretty closely, be it for blogging, fantasy or general entertainment purposes.
AND I NEVER PAID A LICK OF ATTENTION TO THE FALCONS.
Yea, I knew about their running back tandem of Coleman & Freeman being fairly prolific this season, and obviously Julio Jones is a top-3 wideout in the NFL. Matt Ryan… eh, he’s a product of his playmakers and his much improved offensive line. Just good. Not great. Improved on his decision making this season, so I’ll give him credit there.
But when the Falcons made the playoffs I had zero hopes for them. After all, this is the Falcons. They tend to make a run in the regular season, then fizzle in the post-season. This year, they broke that narrative, and offensively have been an unstoppable juggernaut… but they’re still just coming into the limelight. Fans of the sport aren’t totally familiar with this team, nor does this team have a national following.
Heck, the Falcons are stuck in a city/state/region that is hot and heavy on college football much more than NFL football. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a bigger ‘to do’ around Atlanta for National Signing Day this past week than for the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Of course, we’ll see a ton of celebrities and musicians now claiming ties to the Falcons and being huge fans (Drake, where you at?!). But this happens every time a relatively new to the scene team makes the Super Bowl (see Panthers and Seahawks in recent years).
But overall, I think it’s fair to say the bulk of excitement for the Falcons is more ‘I don’t want the Patriots to win’ than ‘I want the Falcons to win.’
Any Other NFC Playoff Team Would’ve Been More Exciting
Think about this…
Green Bay vs New England would have been a replay of the 1997 Super Bowl with Favre vs Bledsoe. Their two replacements would be facing off in this Super Bowl.
Seattle vs New England would have been a rematch of the infamous ‘RUN THE BALL’ Russell Wilson interception on the goal line that sealed Super Bowl XLIX for the Patriots.
Dallas vs New England would’ve been INSANE hype for the Cowboys to return to the Super Bowl with their national following blowing up ratings.
New York Giants vs New England would’ve carried the excitement of the Patriots against a team that has their number in the Super Bowl.
The Lions don’t fit this narrative, simply because the Lions were a pretender that had no business being in the playoffs to begin with, but you get the point.
Atlanta Falcons are just… there.
Local Sports Thriving, Focus Has Shifted
From a local standpoint, Baltimore fans have plenty to be excited about right now (warning-I’m including DC teams that don’t have a Baltimore presence in the same sport):
-The Orioles haven’t been splashy, but managed to make a few moves this offseason, including shedding Yovani Gallardo, acquiring Seth Smith, bringing back Mark Trumbomb, and watching Matt Weiters walk off into the sunset… or float in limbo at least.
-The #17 Maryland Terps are 20-2 on the season and have really surprised fans with the success behind such a young team.
-The Washington Capitals are cruising in first place and looking primed to make a REAL run at a Cup this year (come at me with the Cup comments, I can debate this all. Day. Long.)
-The Ravens just announced major renovations coming to M&T Bank Stadium which should benefit fans from the upper levels to the lower concourses.
-The Washington Wizards are actually looking legit now with 16 straight home wins and just 1.5 GB the second place Celtics in the East.
With so many positives in the sports world locally, why would Baltimore fans be focused on a Super Bowl featuring a mortal enemy in the New England Patriots, and Joe Flacco‘s oft-compared-thanks-to-draft-position counterpart in Matt Ryan?
I’m sure many of us will inevitably watch the game… somewhat. But is anybody actually excited?