Well, that was exciting. There were so many story lines running in Super Bowl LI last night that it seemed to me impossible to keep up. This morning I am writing from mental notes that may reflect oversights or errors for which I apologize in advance. I trust readers will note them in the comments.
We had the bid of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the Patriots to a definitive claim of historic preeminence. We had the sidebar of deflategate. We had the public friendships of Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft and Brady and Belichick with President Trump that superimposed a political story line on the event that ran counter to the Patriots’ home base in the Boston area.
In the Atlanta Falcons we had an upstart team whose time seemed to have come. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had just been named 2016 NFL MVP on Saturday night. When the Falcons stretched their lead to 25 points in the third quarter, it was all over but the shouting, or so it seemed.
With Brady at the helm, however, the Patriots mounted an almost unbelievable comeback that culminated in the first ever Super Bowl overtime. Here the game was transformed into a metaphor for the presidential election that served up yet another story line that played out during the game on Twitter.
Here I pause to reflect that some guys have all the luck. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are both gifted and handsome. Discounting deflategate, they both display excellent sportsmanship. Brady has something in common with President Trump; he is married to an immigrant supermodel. Life is not fair. In sports, somebody has to lose. Life ends in death. As the great Montaigne put it, “To philosophize is to learn how to die.” At their best, sports can teach us to philosophize.
We had a few Super Bowl advertisers who paid astronomical sums to make political statements. These were political statements that would alienate actual and potential customers. Why they chose to do so remains a mystery to me. On a personal note, I’ve been an Audi customer for 15 years or so. I’m on my third and now last Audi thanks to the public relations geniuses whose work was served up last night.
We had Lady Gaga making her own claim on behalf of the power of show business spectacle. Who choreographed that routine? What about those drones?
We had the public humiliation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in deafening boos sounded by Patriots fans in the award ceremony after the game. Unless I missed something, we had the radio silence of of the FOX commentators about Goodell’s humiliation. Talkative folks all, the cat had taken possession of their tongues. Accepting the championship trophy, Robert Kraft tactfully alluded to the circumstances. Winning may be the best revenge, but he is not yet ready to forgive or forget or move on.
The fallacious Brian Fallon worked as the spokesman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and put his sagacity on display in real time, I believe, as the Patriots began to mount their comeback.
The Patriots are winning if you exclude California and New York.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) February 6, 2017
And just after the game, this one gave pictorial form to the electoral metaphor.
Friend just texted me this. pic.twitter.com/lOL8JmkIS3
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) February 6, 2017
PAUL ADDS: Kyle Shanahan is the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. A few years ago, he served in the position for the Washington Redskins under his father, Mike Shanahan. Reportedly, he is about to become the head coach at San Francisco.
I’m a huge Kyle Shanahan fan. The offenses he designs are brilliant. His play calling is superb. It’s not an accident that Atlanta had the best offense in the NFL this season.
But I think it’s inexcusable that, with an eight point lead and the ball in easy field goal territory, Shanahan didn’t call for three straight running plays. Rooting for Atlanta (nothing against New England), that’s what I was screaming for — along, surely, with millions of others.
Instead, after one running play, Shanahan (it must have been his call) had Ryan drop back to pass. Ryan took a sack that put the Falcons at the fringe of field goal range. Trying to get the yardage back on another passing play, Atlanta was pushed further back on a holding call.
That led to the punt that led to the drive that sent the Super Bowl into its first ever overtime. But that drive would have been all but meaningless if Atlanta had run the ball three times and kicked a simple field goal.