A football fan friend at work asked me today who I pick in the Super Bowl. I told him the truth, I don't. I haven't picked the Super Bowl in well over 20 years. Of course I will prognosticate and opine about who the likely winner will be. I will most certainly argue why I see it the way I do, reasons, stats and analysis.. But I won't pick a winner or loser. There's two reasons.
1) We've all heard the phrase "on any given Sunday". That seems most especially true if that Sunday marks the last game of the season, AFC's best against NFC's champion. Frankly, there's just too much weird stuff that can happen when the winner of the Hunt trophy meets the winner of the Halas. In SB 15, the Oakland Raiders became the first Wildcard team to ever win the game, behind the brilliance of a backup quarterback who still, stunningly, is not in the Hall of Fame. Jim Plunkett threw for 3 touchdowns that day against the heavily favored Eagles. Three years later, Plunkett won again against the favored Washington taterskins, and Marcus Allen's legend was secured. In Super Bowl 25, the lightning fast Buffalo Bills were slowed to a crawl by the running of Otis Anderson. They lost the game on the infamous "wide right" kick by Scott Norwood. In SB 32, the Packers were 13+ point favorites, and were beaten by a suspect defense, a running back with a (literally) blinding migraine and a 'washed-up' QB. Denver avoided becoming the first team in history to be 0-5 in the 'Big Game'. SB 34, the greatest show on turf was pushed right to edge by a Tennessee Titan's team, which fell one yard short of tying a game they were never supposed to be competitive in. For the 40th paling of the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers did what no one thought could be done. They went from the 6th playoff seed, through the 3rd, 1st, and 2nd seeds, to win the Lombardi trophy. Probably the most special and surprising moment of all, the undefeated Patriots, 18-0, played the sad New York Giants. On what I believe to be the best play in SB history, Eli Manning escaped the pass rush, with defenders grabbing and tearing his jersey to roll out and hit a receiver no one had really heard of named David Tyree. In triple coverage, Tyree pinned the ball against his helmet for the catch, and the Giants went on to send the Hatriots to 18-1. Finally, last year. Malcolm Butler intercepts an inexplicably called pass by Wilson on the Patriot's goal line to give New England their 4th Super Bowl victory in the Darth Belichick era. Anything can and will happen on SB Sunday.
2) I just want to enjoy the game. Picking all the games during the season and playoffs leaves me strangely pulled to root for the teams I pick, with notable exceptions. The Super Bowl is the moment for fans to just pull and cheer for whomever they want to win. No one who doesn't get paid to do so should have to pick a winner based on reason or logic. Pick who you want to win and go with that. Enjoy the moment, because it won't come again for 8 long months until the regular season begins. I will always root for whomever I see fit, usually the AFC. But I do have my favorites. I will root for anyone who plays against the Patriots. Anyone. And, of course, I will always root for the Broncos. This year, Denver joins the Cowboys, the Steelers and the Hatriots as 8 time attendees to the Show. Fans of all these teams are blessed. Imagine being a Browns or Lions fan. Win or lose, our teams have made the biggest stage the most number of times, and we get to just enjoy the moment. I will never ruin that with picking a team I 'think' will win.
After this conversation with my friend wound around for a bit, he asked me, "Aren't you scared that the Broncos will lose like they did 2 years ago?" No. No I'm not. I'm a Bronco fan. I've seen the worst already. The most points given up in a quarter? 35 points Denver gave up to Washington in the second quarter of SB 22. The fastest points scored in the Sooper Bowl was 2, earned by Seattle and given up by the Broncos by a bad snap in SB 48. The greatest offense in NFL history was crushed by 35 points. The worst defeat in Super Bowl History was SB 24, 55 to 10, 49ers over Denver. In SB 21, the Broncos let a fair to middlin' QB throw for a record 22 of 25 completions. The Broncos have lost 5 Sooper Dooper Bowls, one more than Minnesota, one more than Buffalo and one more than New England. I've seen the worst, and it doesn't scare me.
The Broncos have won 8 Lamar Hunt trophies. In my life, I get to see the Broncos play on the biggest stage 8 times. I'm well aware that Carolina holds all the cards with their young super hero QB. I know they have an aggressive defense which scores points off of opponent mistakes. The Panthers are favored and likely should be. I don't care. Peyton Manning told Darth Belichick this might be his last rodeo. I don't care. Peyton Manning is still the smartest QB to have ever played the game, and this team has overcome incredible obstacles just to get to Santa Clara. Denver has the best defense in football. They stymied Angry Tommy, put him on the mat, threw him around like a rag doll. Peyton makes the throws he has to make, and Denver grinds to victory. They work for it. They play the game. That's enough for me. Do I think the Broncos can win? Of course I do. Do I think they will? Go to Vegas and play your odds. I just want this game, this moment to begin. I'm not scared. I'm excited.