I'm looking forward to today's Super Bowl, even though I don't have a rooting interest. As a fan of the Detroit Lions, I've never had a rooting interest, as they are now the only team that has never been to a Super Bowl that has been around since the Super Bowl started (the Houston Texans and new Cleveland Browns also qualify, but they've had much shorter existences). But I look at today's game as a feel-good contest, with a warm and fuzzy response no matter the outcome.
Clearly the New Orleans Saints are the sentimental favorite. The city has been on all of our minds for over four years now, as we keep tabs on their efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Throw in the fact that this team has historically been awful--the fans of the Saints (or 'Aints as they were sometimes known) originated the practice of attending games with a bag over their heads to hide their shame. This is their first Super Bowl after forty-four years of existence, and the city would greet a win with a suitably festive, if hopefully not destructive, glee.
However, the Indianapolis Colts are not well-cast as the villains. Many of the Colts were asked about playing such a role, and they grinned and confirmed that they understood that not many would be rooting for them. That may be true, mathematically, but if they win the game there shouldn't be too many folks crying in their beer outside of Louisiana. Even though they won the game four years ago, this squad, unlike say the Cowboys or Raiders or even Patriots of old, just don't wear the villain's handlebar mustache well.
I think a lot of that has to do with Peyton Manning. We should all be sick of this guy by now. Now that Tiger Woods is in sex rehab, there isn't an athlete that's on our TV screens more than this guy, who seems to have wandered out of a community theater production of Li'l Abner. He seems to shill without shame, as testament to those horrible Oreo commercials with his brother Eli and Donald Trump, or the almost-as-bad commercials with Justin Timberlake for some brand of televisions. But I like the guy, and usually pull for him. I think it's because he seems without guile, and that he seems to have a genuine enthusiasm for his work.
An article on Slate.com posits that he's a kind of genius, and that is certainly true, perhaps even a savant. Watching him behind center for a snap, his arms moving as if he were desperately pulling switches to avert a nuclear meltdown, is a joy to watch. For real football fans, one can't help but admire how he uses smarts, as well as a golden arm, to beat teams. For instance, in the AFC championship game, for the first two series the Jets had him down, and sacked him twice. They didn't touch him the rest of the game, though. The man sees all, and will find a chink in your armor.
The big story leading up to this game, then, has been how Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will design a plan to stop Manning (that, and Dwight Freeney's ankle, the most fussed over ligaments in America this week). Williams, a little uncouthly, has mentioned that his boys will endeavor to hit Manning, and hit him hard. There's the whiff of a bounty in his statements, and the unpleasant connotation of trying to send Manning to the X-ray room, both no-nos in the NFL. But for now it's all talk, and I think the Saints will give it a go, and may even get to Manning early, but in the end the Colts will prevail.
It should be a fun game, and I'm looking forward to it, and to The Who, who will no doubt do a medley of the CSI theme songs. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."