There’s a reasonably large sports contest that is going to be played soon, a de facto holiday in many parts of the country. Usually in two parts of the country more so than others. This year, the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears will fight a grand simulated battle to the death, otherwise known as How Many Points Will The AFC Win By This Year.
In some ways, the two Super Bowl contenders have many striking similarities. They both come from two different yet easily confused states, at least in the context of putting together those awful wooden jigsaw puzzles third grade teachers are convinced are challenging because the state names have been removed but whose only impact on the American education system is that every male at the age of 12 thinks they were the genius that thought up that joke about what the shape of Florida resembles. They’re both teams who have overcome tremendous tests of faith and skill; the Colts have had a decades-long frustration of choking in the playoffs, whether it be Peyton Manning’s occasionally faltering laser-rocket arm or some idiot kicker. The Bears have to deal with the legacy of the Super Bowl Shuffle.
Granted, there are some differences as well. Chicago is the home of Oprah, the O’Leary cow, and that musical starring Richard Gere pretending to sing and Catherine Zeta Jones pretending to not be sleeping with him. Indianapolis is the home of David Letterman, car racing, and Hoosiers. One of Chicago’s nicknames is the “Second City,” a testament to how great cities with low self-esteem can become with a little bit of love, devotion, and a strategic economic location along Lake Michigan. Indianapolis’s nickname is the “Circle City,” with “Flat Land Stolen From the Indians City” and “Culturally More Significant Than, Uh, Let’s Just Say Botany Bay” already taken in the Least Imaginative City Nickname Ever sweepstakes.
The two quarterbacks are also stealing a fair amount of the spotlight, and with good reason. Peyton Manning has been the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts since approximately the Age of Reason, and has achieved important football statistics that make Dan Marino look like Brett Favre’s vagina, but has yet to win a Super Bowl ring due to (please choose all that apply) 1) A defense that couldn’t hold off an invasion of Italian photojournalists; 2) the insistence that playoff games actually be played as opposed to being determined by an automatic statistical resolution; or 3) the inability to convince the NFL to hold every single game at the RCA Stadium. So many feel that this is a grave injustice, despite the fact that Manning has thrown over 37,000 yards, 275 touchdowns, saved 415 babies from burning buildings, and personally bayoneted 1,735 Germans at El Alamein.
Rex Grossman, however, is a slightly different case. Unlike Manning, Grossman is a relative newcomer, having only started a few seasons ago. His performance has been both lauded and criticized for his uneven yet skillful playing. His career started auspiciously when he threw his first touchdown and immediately broke every finger in his right hand. In his second season, he led the team all the way to the preseason before severing several parts of his spinal cord and breaking both of his legs. And this season, he helped defeat the Seattle Seahawks after disjointing his elbow, snapping his neck, losing eight toes to frostbite, and simultaneously developing diabetes, chronic meningitis, and aplastic anemia. And he led the Bears to win over the Saints despite suffering from eight heart attacks and losing all muscular function in the right half of his body.
Despite the Super Bowl’s ominous presence, it’s not the only event this year for football fans. The feel-good story of the season, of course, concerns the New Orleans Saints. Last year, their home—the Superdome—was converted into a shelter for those who needed to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and, deprived of their usual stomping ground, ended the season with a painful yet forgivable given-the-circumstances 3-13 record. This year, though, they made it all the way to the playoffs, eventually falling gallantly to the Chicago Bears with an upset, allowing Reggie Bush only one elaborately conceited taunting the entire game. Since this is the first time the Saints have made it to the playoffs without being a wild card team in the history of all mankind, it had led many analysts to wonder when a hurricane can be engineered to hit Detroit.
Truly, the winner of the Super Bowl is, really, the fans. And by the fans, I specifically mean Peyton Manning. Regardless of who wins, Manning’s folksy manner and irrepressible charm just may—just may!—be able to be converted into a shot at an endorsement deal. I’m not a betting man, but I strongly believe we might be seeing him in a few commercials when this football nonsense is all said and done. Just a thought.