Friday, December 24, 2010

SUPER BOWL XLII: What Could Have Been “The Perfect Season”

The New England Patriots as a football team are about as loveable as the New York Yankees are as a baseball team.  Almost everyone in America outside of the New England area hoped to see them beat at least once during the regular season (most people preferring the Indianapolis Colts to the Patriots as a team that they would have liked to see go undefeated).  The Patriots scored an NFL record 584 points during the regular season.  They went into the Super Bowl with a record of eighteen and zero.  They’re coached by Bill Belichick, fined early in the season $500,000 for allegedly videotaping defensive signals of the New York Jets during the September 9th Jets-Patriots game.  (Pennsylvania Senator Arlan Specter was so offended that he now feels a Senate investigation is in order.)  Belichick’s response to the allegations was to then run the score up on a number of opponents throughout the first half of the 2007 season.
 In addition, during the off-season, the Patriots acquired receiver, Randy Moss.  Moss has made a number of public relations gaffs throughout his career, but none as significant in the fans’ minds as when, while as a Minnesota Viking, he did a mock “mooning” to Packer fans in Lambeau field.  That so many in the football establishment were outraged at Moss’ behavior (in particular, Joe Buck in the announcer’s booth) says they are more worried about image than actual behavior, and that they haven’t been paying enough attention to some other off-field events of football players (including the time that Moss almost ran down a city worker with his car in downtown Minneapolis).  Fortunately for Moss, he will be forgiven almost anything for catching 23 touchdowns and gaining more than fourteen-hundred yards during the season.
Much of the pre-game hype involved Patriot’s Quarterback, Tom Brady.  Brady was the AFC’s Most Valuable Player.  More importantly to those who support the paparazzi, Brady formerly dated Bridget Moynahan, who gave birth to a child back in August (and who may or may not be Brady’s son), and Brady is now currently dating “Supermodel” Gisele Bundchen.  After winning the AFC Championship game, Brady was seen leaving Bundchen’s apartment during the morning hours and wearing a walking cast for his injured right ankle.  It’s remarkable what the tabloids made out of all of this.
Now Tom Brady only made sixteen million dollars in salary during the 2007, though this does not count residuals from personal promotions.  It must seem heartbreaking to his agent that he didn’t make more considering that Richard Seymour, a defensive tackle for the Patriots, made $24,691,160.  (In fact, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, and Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson of the Minnesota Vikings all have higher salaries than Brady.)  But let’s stick with Tom Brady for a moment.   Brady’s salary compared to other professional athletes is really not out of line.   A baseball player that bats .330, hits more than forty homeruns or wins close to twenty games during a season has a chance to make a couple hundred million dollars during his career.  So what’s a quarterback who threw a record fifty touchdowns during the season and who won eighteen straight games going to be worth? 
Three days before the Super Bowl was played, I heard a radio state his reasons for hoping that the Patriots win the game.  His logic was irrefutable.  To paraphrase what was said: a Patriot victory would be good for the economy.  Now there’s no question that the Super Bowl is a huge economic event to begin with.  It is broadcasted to more than 200 nations and seen by more than a billion viewers; Las Vegas had more than one hundred million dollars change hands in their city (and this is only a small portion of the monies that will be wagered on this game); advertisers paid more than three million dollars for thirty seconds of airtime, and it’s estimated that the value of stocks for those who do advertise rises on average 1.3 percent.  But only a Patriots victory would satisfy the greediest, as millions of dollars of memorabilia was to be sold commemorating the first ever nineteen and zero season.  To the powers that be, a Giants’ victory meant  a great upset, but not an upset that would bring in the profits they desired.*  The Giants only won ten games during the regular season and did not even win their own division.  They won football games mostly through defense, which doesn’t excite the most dilettante of fans.  No player would emerge as a celebrity on the behalf of the Giants.  In particular, their Quarterback Eli Manning (not to be mistaken for his older brother, Peyton) was not “Broadway Joe” Namath and did not make good headlines (like Tom Brady).   Thus, a Giants victory would not generate any real or lasting interest.
Alas, the economy will have to suffer because the perfect season was not to be.  The Giants as it turned out had a defense.  This should have been no surprise to those having viewed the NFC playoff games, but on a playing field where weather was not a factor, most of the commentators seemed to feel that the Patriots would have an easy time.  Tom Brady, as pretty as he was, could not keep James Butler and Michael Strahan away from him, and Randy Moss could seldom distance himself from Corey Webster.  And then there was the pass from Eli Manning to David Tyree.  The game was not a fluke.  The Giants outplayed the Patriots, and without question this was one of the best Super Bowls ever played.**
Like many other areas of entertainment, professional sports bring in a disproportionate amount of revenues.  Unlike most other high-paid professions, the performance of the athletes who are paid the salaries can be statistically measured to a remarkable degree.  If the same standards of measurements were applied to politicians or CEOs as is applied to the starting lineup of any number of championship teams, we’d eliminate the national debt.  Steroid use, drug use and other off-the-field antics of many professional athletes has brought professional sports into disrepute.  It must be said, however, that their actions are generally transparent because of exposure all over the tabloids, and the consequences of their behavior has often been mild compared to the behind the door decisions of those in power.  With this in mind, a nineteen and zero record certainly would have been an accomplishment of note.  For now we will still have to put up with the 1972 Dolphins team that remain the only unbeaten Super Bowl winner and who are alleged to celebrate anytime a team with a perfect record is beaten – thus making their own perfect record seem all the more impressive.  Maybe next year.
*Vegas apparently lost $2.7 million in revenue because of the Giant’s straight-up win, which does not seem like a particularly significant amount.  The figure becomes even less significant when one figures most people probably lost the money they won before even leaving Nevada on liquor, prostitution and other wagers.
** Any commentary about the overall spectacle of the Super Bowl requires some dull trivia about viewer enjoyment unrelated to the actual playing of the game.  It’s estimated that more than half of the viewers that tuned into to the Super Bowl did so for reasons other than those related to watching the players play football.  There is for these other viewers the commercials, the halftime show and the National Anthem.  Many of the commercials concerned advertisement of beer, and the most popular ads contained adorable depictions of animals.  The halftime show, which was scheduled to last close to thirty minutes, featured Tom Petty, the fifty-seven year old rock star whose most popular songs were written between the late 1970s and early 1980s.  All four songs that he sang could be heard about any fifteen minutes on a “Classic” Rock station anywhere in America.  There’s nothing like featuring a “contemporary” artist that sounds like a cross between John Mellencamp and a Bob Dylan wannabe.  And the national anthem was sung by a winner of the American Idol contest whose name I can’t remember (with that patriotic touch of having the passing of a formation of F16s over head while the anthem is being concluded).  I’m glad I enjoyed the game.
February 9, 2008
© Robert S. Miller 2008

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