Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Super Bowl is set and frankly I couldn’t be more excited. It seems like more often than not at least one of the two teams that are playing for it all ends up being an absolute dark horse that you would have never seen coming, but this year we have a matchup that was easily predicted by about Week 2- the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. And honestly, if the thought of the #1 offense facing off against the #1 defense doesn’t just get you jumping up and down, then you hate football, America, bacon, and babies.
When it comes to the big game, many like to create a narrative to go with it. Some find this aggravating and contrived- and frankly, it always is contrived. The game of football is no scripted story that has an actual plot to be followed; it is a weekly contest based on a mixture of skill and luck wherein the team that has the most talent, best scheme, and sees the ball bouncing their way the most often wins. That said, I personally find it a bit more enjoyable to create the narrative- especially when I don’t have a legit rooting interest in the winner. I think back to my personal favorite Super Bowl of all time- Super Bowl XLII, otherwise known as “Patriots vs. Giants, Round 1”. It was the quintessential “good vs. evil” (even if, in fact, “good” and “evil” teams really don’t exist) game. The Patriots had just dominated the league, largely by ridiculous blow outs, and the Giants had snuck into the big game after being a wild card that had to play against top-tier opponents in hostile territory. Not to mention the Patriots had wrapped up their perfect regular season via defeating those same Giants, in a very good and relatively close game, the fact that the Giants announced after that same game that they would come for revenge in the Super Bowl, and that they had shown up in black suits to hearken the funeral of the Patriots dynasty. I mean, COME ON, the Giants had an active hand in creating the narrative! That entire background to the game made it even more intense for me, and even crazier that the Giants actually won. (I was thinking to myself in the 4th quarter, ‘the NFL isn’t Hollywood, it feels like the Giants should win but we all know they won’t’.) And my second favorite Super Bowl, XXXVI, featuring those very same Patriots vs. the Rams, had the fairly epic “we just suffered from September 11th but now the team called ‘the Patriots’ just won the big game WHOOO AMERICA!” narrative (somewhat admittedly, that narrative did come after the fact).
This game has a few potential narratives to play around with here, if you are of such a mind. To me, without a narrative, I have no real rooting interest. Granted, I am thrilled with or without the narrative because I’m fairly confident this is going to be a GREAT game. The truth is, whomever loses this game has an excellent chance to revenge come next Super Bowl (such as you can predict these things before the actual offseason has even kicked off). So, which narrative would you go with?
Narrative the First: Peyton Manning’s Swan Song
OK, chances are extremely dim that this is Manning’s final season in the NFL. Sure, he has to get the neck scan after the season officially concludes and of course, if something along the lines of “one hit and you’re gonna die” comes back, then yes Manning is riding off into the sunset. But I sincerely doubt that that’s going to happen.
That said, despite just saying the Broncos have a very good shot at the next Super Bowl, we all know that repeating even appearances back-to-back in the big game are extraordinarily rare in today’s NFL. Chances are still very decent that if he doesn’t get the win, this could have been his final shot at one more ring.
So could this be it for The Sheriff? We’ll more than likely see him still playing but could this be his final shot to get that one more precious Lombardi? We all know it burns him that he only has one- and to be fair, that just feels wrong. Tom Brady having more seems somewhat OK (even if I truly believe Manning is the greater QB at the end of the day), but the fact that guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning (also known as ‘Manning the Lesser’) have more strikes me as legitimate injustice. (And yes, even winning this will still leave him one behind Brady, but at least it won’t be two.)
If this is your narrative, then you’re likely rooting for the Broncos.
Narrative The Second- Richard Sherman’s A Big Meanie
For the record, I like Richard Sherman and I hate this narrative- but look, it exists, so for the sake of journalistic integrity* I have to include it here.
If you are of the mind that Sherman shouldn’t have called out Michael Crabtree post-game, or if you are of the mind that his bombastic public persona is grating, or even if you are of the mind that any big time defensive player needs to be put in their place, then this is the narrative for you. For reasons I’ll again admit I don’t fully agree with or even at times fully understand, Sherman is quickly growing into the NFL’s number one heel. And we all love to watch the heel get beat up.
Sherman has played against the best in his career, and has time and time again proven he can take top-tier challenges. But now he faces Peyton Manning in his best statistical year of an already insane career, and he and the rest of the Legion of Boom will be facing the best wide receiver corps in the NFL today. (Seriously, these guys are practically the new ‘Three Deep’… OK, maybe not quite that legendary, but man are they just one step down.) If there is one challenge that the self-proclaimed (and quite possibly right) best corner in the league can’t face, this is it.
If this is your narrative, again, you’re obviously going full Broncos.
Narrative The Third- It’s Seattle’s Justice For A Stolen Super Bowl
The Seattle Seahawks have been to the big game once already- Super Bowl XL, against the Steelers. While the score of 21-10 alone makes it seem like the Seahawks simply got their butts handed to them by better competition, the truth as we all know was that the referees absolutely blew it. With no less than four major calls that could be charitably described as ‘controversial’, the zebras absolutely (in my mind) affected the game in a major way. Now, can you guarantee that if all the calls were correct that the Seahawks would have won? Of course not. But considered the full gravity of some of those decisions it’s also not a stretch by any means to suggest that yes, it’s a strong possibility.
When a referee himself even admits years down the road that they goofed badly, you know things have happened that shouldn’t have. Personally it’s the only time I’ve ever once heard an NFL ref fully own up to mistakes. So is this a chance for true justice? Again, it seems feasible to believe that, as young and as talent-rich as this team currently is, that there is a good chance they’ll be in the big game again relatively soon. But they do play in a tough division and the NFL is no place for just one king. Perhaps this is the chance for some wrongs to be as righted as is possible in the NFL, and for Seattle to get the Lombardi they should have had years ago.
Of course, if you’re going with this one, you’re pulling for the Seahawks.
Narrative The Fourth- Russel Wilson And Beast Mode Are Just So Damn Cool
While I can’t fully understand the hate for Richard Sherman, I can accept those who aren’t too terribly fond of Marshawn Lynch. While he doesn’t have an absolute horrid off the field record, his misdemeanor weapons charge and recent DUI absolutely raise some cause for alarm. But many chose to ignore this, and focus on the fact that a.) he’s an insanely fun player to watch, and b.) the Skittles thing is pretty awesome. Plus, ‘Beast Mode’ is my personal favorite for any NFL nickname out there right now, and the fact that he himself gave cause to an earthquake is ridiculous.
The other offensive star, Russel Wilson, was too short to play in the NFL and was a third-round pick intended to back up Matt Flynn… until Pete Carrol noticed that Wilson is really good (and the Flynn is really not). Unlike Lynch, Wilson has absolutely no off the field issues and comes across as a genuinely good guy all around. While many dislike Colin Kaepernick for his perceived arrogance, Cam Newton for his perceived aloofness, RGIII for his perceived… honestly I’m not fully sure what the issue is but man that guy has some haters out there… well, Wilson is just a guy you have to like (unless you root for someone else in the NFC West). Alongside Andrew Luck he more than just represents the next generation of NFL quarterbacks, he also is making a case for being a new face of the NFL entirely (like Peyton Manning before him). And unlike Andrew Luck, his face doesn’t actually give you nightmares of bridge trolls eating you for failing their riddle games.
Combine the love that these two players seem to bring out of NFL fans everywhere, and you’ve got a narrative of likeability- that the Seahawks deserve to win simply because you want to see these guys get a ring.
Narrative The Fifth- It’s The Old Guard Vs. The New Blood
This one’s my personal narrative, and your rooting preference based on it will depend. Peyton Manning represents the generation of NFL talent that will soon have faded into memory, becoming the man behind the story you tell your grandchildren as they bounce on your knee. And Russel Wilson conversely represents the new breed, the next wave of greatness that will rise to fill the void left when the Mannings, the Bradys, et al have rode off at last into the sunset.
So which is it you wish to see triumph? Is it time for the old to yield to the new, or does the new need to wait at least one more year to ascend to the throne? And really when looking at these teams, it’s more than just the quarterbacks that represent this. Champ Bailey and Richard Sherman. Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree. The Broncos (while certainly still having youth on the team) almost encapsulate the grizzled veterans, the guys that have been around the block and know what’s up; conversely, those Seahawks (while again yes having a veteran or two) are the new kids looking to make their name known and stamp their presences on said same block.
So what will it be? Will old salt sting this new blood? Again, depending on what you want to see out of this narrative, that would define your rooting preference.
So which narrative are you going for? Or have you created your own? (Or perhaps you hate narratives altogether.) Let’s hear it, Vikings fans!
*I just made every legitimate journalist in existence sob like a baby by referring to ‘journalistic integrity’ as something that could possibly apply to me.