By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
If you can read and comprehend this writing and you bothered to take in Super Bowl 53 Sunday the odds are you came away from that game displeased to say the least.
Maybe you’re disgusted, maybe you’re disappointed, maybe you don’t feel much at all.
Pretty much one’s only pathway to enjoying the NFL’s latest championship game, won 13-3 by the New England Patriots over the overwhelmed Los Angeles Rams, is to be an “r” syllable-chomping, Tom Brady worshipping, “they hate us cause they aint us” spewing New Englander, and who wants to see any of them happy?
Yes, indeed, the NFL laid a stanky-ass egg to conclude what could be considered one of its most fascinating seasons (at least on-field) in recent memory.
The problems mainly surrounding the NFL indeed exist outside of its control — mostly how the league is perceived by the greater public and the ongoing discussions pointed at it — but we’ll get into that in a little bit.
In continued response to the Super Bowl game itself, which truly was disappointing in every way, it seemed like the negativity that many project onto the League — from Black Twitter, from New Orleans, from sea to shining sea — somehow found itself into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and infected everything within the game and connected to it — it couldn’t be aired out after the retractable dome was shut nor could it be expelled like the dumb-ass Dave Portnoy (good work, stadium security).
So much of the funk was to be expected — why y’all keep investing so much hope into Super Bowl halftime shows, I’ll never know, its as much of a dead end as hoping the Grammys get shit right, or hoping the Rams will truly impress on the game’s biggest stage — but one thing that has come out of the continued reign of the Patriots, outside of them becoming maybe the easiest franchise to root against in modern sport, has been a run of close, compelling games.
The past 20 years of Super Bowls have seen 13 big games played within a 10 point final, that includes all of the Patriots’ nine Super efforts, this from a franchise that a generation earlier helped define an era of Super Bowl blowouts by being fed to the ’85 Bears. By the way, how many Bears fans would trade results in that game to have the last 17 years that the Pats have had? I’ll wait…
It just so happens that this game was the biggest Patriots Super Bowl win. Fine for them, they don’t care, plus their complete dumping of the once-feared Rams offense only holds up more the incredible legacy of their head coach Bill Belichick, really the greatest defensive coach in the history of the NFL — but for the rest of us we were only left with the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever, the only Super Bowl to have a 3-3 score through third quarters, a Super Bowl where the NFL honestly put together a highlight reel for the game’s punters.
The enduring legacies of Belichick and Brady, now the only NFL player with six championships to his name, cannot be overstated, but its clear that we’re getting more and more diminishing returns even from that iconic duo.
To say that NFL fans who don’t have ties to the Patriots are sick of that team’s success is an understatement, it produces a fervor throughout the league that encourages someone, anyone to knock them off before the final confetti shower to end the season, but for most years we have to deal with the same result and choke on it — 31 fanbases, replete with their rarely satisfied expectations, wary of anything MAGA-adjacent and thirsty for new heroes and new standards beyond the blond, star-struck California-bred QB with the model wife and the slovenly, workaholic, socially unreachable genius have to choose once again whether its worth going through another of these football seasons just to run into the same end result.
A good thing for fans at least, is that options do exist. Colin Kaepernick tweeted his blackballed behind off during the game, retweeting constant examples of people who are #withKap. And if boycotting ain’t your thing, you can just shift your attentions to the incredibly compelling NBA, where no stars’ complaints go unheard and every hour, any hour can be awaken by a #wojbomb.
Think about how much you thought of the Super Bowl and the NFL this week in comparison to the NBA…this indeed could be seen as a paradigm-shifting week in how the NBA and the NFL jostle for SportsWorld’s fleeting attention base.
For so long nothing touched the NFL during a Super Bowl week, and this year still no one tried to counter-program against the big game except for the halftime, but this year saw the NFL for the entire lead-up to the game come in second in true fascination and fun produced by its media cycle — nothing in Atlanta was as compelling as talking about where Anthony Davis could end up, nothing came out of left field and smacked the hell out the internet like the news of Kristaps Porzingis being traded.
The Association out-flanked the NFL with news of two players who played a combined 0 minutes and neither one was named LeBron James. We know the NFL is arrogant as hell but they need to face the fact that people won’t always be left wanting more in the wake of a Super Bowl celebration.
People can move on, this writer certainly can. Never have I been a “what do I do now?” fan of the NFL when the season ends, I’m a faithful abider of the natural sports calendar, and I’ve been glad to let the NFL go for a time each year because as the old saying goes “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
This time around…I’m just good on the NFL. Good on the continued discussion surrounding its present and future as a “public trust,” good on the Patriots, good on the continued and desperate reshuffling of NFC powers trying to compete with them (my Bears included), good on the forced jokes and camera-ready camaraderie from every studio and network crew, good on people taking the game too damn seriously, good on everyone being an expert on the game but not really knowing shit about it, good on people asking the League for things it can’t give them and aren’t interested in giving them.
Along with the low-scoring records from tonight, here’s another first I didn’t see coming, but I now, unfortunately, have to deal with — another football season has ended and not only will I not miss it, I’m damn glad its done.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR