Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010 will be the best Super Bowl of all time.
This is not as bold of a claim as it might initially sound. Let’s start with the obvious.
For the first time since 1993, the best team in the NFC is playing the best team in the AFC. Beyond that, we can certifiably say that these are the two best teams in the NFL, the Colts going undefeated through the first 14 weeks, the Saints through 13. Both teams had realistic chances of finishing their seasons undefeated, and the losses that blemish their records seem more like mistakes. The Saints’ losses to the Cowboys and the Panthers might be justified, but the Central Penn Piranhas would give them more trouble than this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneerss.
Secondly, we will see a matchup of the league’s two best quarterbacks — Sorry Brady fans. Sportscaster Chris Berman likes to call them CEOs, and while the metaphor is a little silly, it’s still appropriate. No one controls his team’s offense like the Colts’ Peyton Manning, except for maybe the Saints’ Drew Brees. While Manning claimed the league MVP award for his dominant regular season performance, Brees led the NFL in passing touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating, asserting his own value in the Saints’ best season ever. Watching Brees go toe-to-toe last week with the legendary geriatric Brett Favre was entertaining — but only an appetizer for the shootout that will undoubtedly be Superbowl XLIV. Keep in mind that while the two Super Bowl quarterbacks share almost identical stats, Manning is five inches taller than Brees, although I think most of that is forehead.
The coaching matchup for the Super Bowl is also an interesting one. Since assuming duties as head coach at the Colts, Tony Dungy —I mean Jim Caldwell — has done little to change the face of his organization or the way the Colts play football, which is probably the best thing he could have done as a rookie head coach inheriting one of the most successful NFL franchises of the last decade. While much is being made of Caldwell taking the Colts to the Superbowl in his rookie head coaching season, it’s quite obvious the Colts are the same team they have always been.
Sean Payton of the Saints, meanwhile, has built a reputation for being unpredictable, adapting his offensive sets and strategies each week to address his opponent’s defensive weaknesses. He’s proven that he can win by running the ball, letting Brees do his thing, and coming up with big defensive plays. The two epitomize two polar approaches to professional coaching; look for Caldwell to be calm and passive on the sidelines, while Payton paces vigorously, stylishly toting a slick visor.
The best players, the best teams, the best coaches — one cannot forget the fans. The Colts’ fan base has grown considerably throughout Manning’s successful stint in Indianapolis, especially following their 2007 Super Bowl title. Likewise, the Saints have inspired fans all over the country to take part in the pure fun of the “Who-dat?” nation — Who doesn’t love saying “Who-dat?” For goodness sake, even my mother can name five members of the Saints’ offense! Overall, both are well-supported franchises with passionate national fan bases sure to attract massive coverage.
Which brings us to the game itself — who doesn’t watch the Super Bowl? For football junkies, the waning number of games as the playoffs progress is only justified by the massive production behind the league’s title game, a satisfying fix after this year’s disgrace of a Pro Bowl.
But even non-fans tune in for the Super Bowl — it’s a cultural staple, a secular holiday.
The Winter Olympics are days away, and the World Cup looms imminently only months after. We are emerging from a recession, and believe it or not, Ford, America’s automaker, posted huge gains amid industry-wide declines. The Super Bowl is a celebration of America, and there is no better time to celebrate that American spirit than now.
That said, let’s get some wings and some Budweiser, and sit back and enjoy some great F-150 commercials during the game. Personally, I’m more excited for the patriotic commercials of another American staple, Wrangler Jeans — now that they have their spokesman full-time — at least until the coverage of Favre Indecision 2010 undoubtedly begins.