Because this is America and football and we have two weeks to kill, at some point, somewhere, someone is going to call this the best Super Bowl matchup ever.
The smart people in Las Vegas will take your bet on just about anything, from the MVP of the game to who scores the first touchdown to the color of the Gatorade bath but they won’t touch this one. They know it will happen. You know it will happen. We all know it will happen.
There is just too much here, and America being America, football being football, and the two weeks before the Super Bowl filling a void in sports mostly filled with blind hype and made-up storylines, someone is going to call this the best Super Bowl matchup ever.
It’s a manufactured title, of course, the kind of silly proclamation that begs for a half-hour debate over beer that is perfect for sports. Beats talking about politics or the knocking furnace. And, besides — it’s a pretty great matchup.
The Patriots will play in the 49th Super Bowl after blowing out the Colts 45-7 through a storm of rain and wind and eligible receivers here on Sunday night. They’ve won 12 of their last 14.
They’ll play the Seahawks, winners in one of the great comebacks in NFL playoff history — we don’t need to rank those, right Chiefs fans? — against the Packers. They’ve won eight in a row.
“Get in the shower, Tom!” a teammate yells in the locker room. “We’ve got work to do!”
That’s Tom Brady, of course, the quarterback playing for his fourth championship in his sixth Super Bowl. He’ll be inducted to the Hall of Fame as soon as the rules allow, but for now will be going against a defense loaded with players who might join him in Canton someday.
His mumbling, hoodied, on-to-Cincinnati Hall of Fame coach will be going against a strutting, laughing, hug-first-ask-questions-later guy making his own Hall of Fame case.
This Super Bowl will have everything. Russell Wilson going for his second Super Bowl championship in three seasons. Marshawn Lynch at media day. Richard Sherman at media day. Rob Gronkowski in the party bus afterward, win or lose.
For a country that’s mastered build-up as product, and a sport that’s build an indestructible empire on hype, the next two weeks should come with at least a PG warning.
“They’re the champs for a reason,” says Patriots Vince Wilfork, another potential Hall of Famer. “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.”
Not that the league needed it, but the matchup is also something like a lucky break for the country’s most powerful entertainment entity.
The season that began with an embarrassing mishandling of the Ray Rice scandal will end with the most delicious football matchup the league could have produced.
A season marked in large part by a star running back being suspended for whipping his young son and banners flying over stadiums all over the country calling for the commissioner to be fired will end with the era’s defining quarterback going against the era’s defining defense in what will assuredly be the most-watched television program of the year.
It’s a fitting way for the season to end, really. There is so much about watching this sport that can sometimes feel a little slimy.
The league is in constant litigation about a risk of head injuries that — at the very least — it was shamefully slow in appreciating.
The commissioner was shown to have — again, at the very least — misrepresented some facts about the Rice scandal and eventually forced to admit his league has done a rotten job addressing a domestic violence problem.
The Rams are in the beginning stages of leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars in public money from St. Louis, but a lot of people think they’ll leave anyway for the easier money in Los Angeles.
There are constant subplots around this league, many in varying degrees of ugliness, but the NFL is just so darn compelling it doesn’t seem to matter and it’s possible that’s never been truer than at this moment.
There is a tendency to see the athletes and teams we spend too much time and energy obsessing over as caricatures. The Seahawks are the loud, fun, work-hard-but-play-harder band of buddies. The Patriots are the robotic machine serving time on the Belichick assembly line of 12-win seasons.
Only, it’s not exactly like that. In the fourth quarter, long after the Patriots’ win here was secure and the sellout crowd had shaken this old building with celebration after celebration, the video board caught Brady sitting on the bench.
It was a nothing moment, or at least it would’ve been a nothing moment if Brady hadn’t heard the cheers and looked up at the video board and then turned into something like the senior quarterback celebrating the big homecoming win.
He pumped his fist in the air, yelled LET’S GO!!! to nobody in particular, chest bumping teammates, the made-for-TV scene ending somewhat bizarrely when he embraced Gronkowski, who, for perhaps the first time in his life, was the calm one.
Wins like this ignite any franchise, even the Patriots. This stadium rocked — literally, it rocked, back and forth like an earthquake — from the energy at least three different times. The fans here watched the crazy end of the NFC Championship Game on the videoboards, most of them rooting for the Packers, because they understand what a fight they’re in for against the Seahawks.
Down the hallway and past the security guards in the Patriots’ locker room, the energy was mostly the same. Chandler Jones and Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers and Jamie Collins and others took turns posing with the Lamar Hunt trophy, sometimes kissing it, sometimes holding it like an infant, sometimes sticking it closer to their buddy with the iPhone to make the thing look bigger.
They are used to winning here, of course, but that doesn’t make the experience any less fun.
The players in this locker room copped to various levels of knowledge about what happened in the other game. Some said they saw the ending, some said they only heard the result, others claimed they had no idea.
However they came to hearing about their Super Bowl opponent, the reaction was perhaps best personified by Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who expressed respect for the Seahawks, mentioned some of their great players, and talked about how it was the kind of matchup that makes football so fun.
One of the storylines you’re sure to hear a lot about, if you haven’t already, is Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner playing against his old team and the Legion of Boom secondary he helped popularize.
He answered question after question about the emotions of facing his old friends, sometimes with words — “this was my vision all along, that it would be these two teams,” he said — but just as often with grunts and groans and sticking his tongue out.
“I’m in a good mood,” he said. “I won a championship today.”
Toward the end of his meeting with reporters, someone asked if he ever thought about the enormity of a matchup like this. It is entirely possible that both coaches, both quarterbacks, and at least a player or two on each defense will end up in the Hall of Fame.
The stars on one side are going for their second consecutive Super Bowl win. The biggest star on the other side is going for his fourth championship. That’s a heck of a thing. Browner listened to the question politely.
“I don’t,” he said. “I’m being honest.”
He will soon. If he doesn’t, he’ll be one of the few. And this is exactly how the NFL wants it.