It is time. Today it will all be decided. In a few hours it should be determined beyond any remaining doubt whether or not the New England Patriots, under the Belichick/Brady regime, are the greatest team in league history. In any endeavor when one individual or organization dominates the field for as long as the Patriots have there will always be people gunning for you. Like the legendary gunslingers of the Old West, after so many years on top it leaves no place to just quietly fade away. The only way to exit is with guns blazing. It would be a perfect symmetry for the legend to end where it began, against a Rams franchise which appeared previously during their exile in St. Louis. I could not imagine any way possible to top the dramatic conclusion of Super Bowl LI. That would have been the perfect exit point right there. For the ride to end with anything less than another Super Bowl victory is completely anticlimactic.
In a little over a year we will reach the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Super Bowl trophy's namesake, Vince Lombardi. It is entirely believable to posit the idea that fifty years hence the very same trophy would bear the name of Bill Belichick. I am left to wonder, though: will there be an NFL in 50 years? And, if so, will it resemble anything like the NFL of today? Today's league looks nothing at all like the league of 50 years ago, 1969, the last year before the AFL-NFL merger. In the past decade the NFL has drifted, not navigated, into the murky waters of popular sociological trends. This is because the league's leadership has fallen away from the very capable hands of men like Pete Rozelle, a man who understood and revered the game, into the hands of technocratic types Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell.
The most pointed of controversies that the NFL has navigated in recent years is the whole stand/sit for the anthem fiasco. Goodell's helmsmanship has been akin to that of the ill fated Titanic and worse. After failing to miss that iceberg the first time around he actually reversed course to strike it once again! Even with the media's determination to make this the dominating story a league under the direction of a Pete Rozelle would never have allowed it to become a vehicle for an agenda. All of this began with the pink armbands and socks during the month of October for breast cancer awareness. The minute the NFL signaled that they were willing to be used as a platform for one cause they opened the floodgates to became fair game for any and all. The Washington Redskins. How racist. Where is the outrage for the Kansas City Chiefs? Then there was the domestic violence awareness program because of the ill considered actions of a few of the league's players. I do not for a second mean to condone any of those acts and it is proper for the league to have well established and uniformly enforced code regarding these behaviors. That does not entail making the league a vehicle for virtue signaling their advocacy on behalf of the victims. Oh, and the concussion protocol. Again, yes it is good to evaluate and monitor, but can we get real here for a minute? It's FOOTBALL, okay? It's a fucking game played by grown men for lots of cash because there are lot of people out there willing to watch. And with breast cancer awareness or no, at least 35-40% of that audience is female. Yes, there are actually women who like these rabidly toxic displays of masculinity on the gridiron every Sunday.
The way things are headed it is only a matter of time before the LGBTQ community is up in arms because of the homophobic use of the terms "tight end" and "wide receiver" used to designate certain player positions. I don't care to dwell on these questions in their broader social context, that's not my thing, but where it comes to football? The only toxicity I see is of a decidedly effeminate variety. Some might say that is a part of the pussification of society. I might be inclined to agree with some. These social trends will go the way they will, with or without their cheerleaders, but they are no matter for the NFL to concern themselves with. They should stick to football. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have done this for the past 19 years with pretty impressive results. Perhaps with a sixth ring at the end of the day we might someday look forward to a Commissioner Belichick?
Okay, that's my rant for this week. Regardless your partisanship let's hope this Super Bowl proves to be a great contest and that the most toxically masculine team prevails.