By Jason Keidel
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In case you just started following football and wonder why morons like me picked San Francisco and New England to reach the Super Bowl, no, it’s not because we like teams or towns with two words. There was some logic to it, no matter how flawed.
Besides being swathed in stats — the 49ers were the hottest team in football and Tom Brady was 10-4 against Peyton Manning — the postseason simply doesn’t go this predictably. Rarely are the NFL playoffs so white with chalk.
This was the first time since 1998 that all four teams in the conference championships won at least 12 games, and just the fourth time since 1990 that both top seeds won them.
Ever since the NFL outlawed dynasties and mandated the coin-flip equality we’ve seen lately — where white-hot wild card teams lay waste to the historically winning playbook of the bye week — our traditional sensibilities have become scrambled.
Now that we’re here, with upstart Seattle basically playing Peyton Manning, the QB Kraken who made defensive savant Bill Belichick look like Wayne Fontes, it doesn’t take a psychic to see that the nation’s heart will beat for Manning while he borrows his kid brother’s crib to cement his place as the greatest ever.
This game will be framed as the mouthy Seahawks vs. the modest Manning, the Compton street ball anarchy of Richard Sherman vs the southern charm and royalty of America’s first football family. (I think the Sherman outburst at Erin Andrews was vastly overrated, but we’ll get to that later.)
To those of us who still think the 49ers were the league’s most complete team, they were a Sherman fingertip from winning that game, after all, there is a somewhat comforting notion that playing well during the regular season and hence earning home field advantage in the playoffs still matters.
The Patriots didn’t belong on the same field with the Broncos on Sunday, whereas the 49ers just made one mistake too many against a solid Seahawks club playing in that deafening Pacific Northwest crucible.
As always, it’s essential to make this an instant morality play, for an indignant media to put that black hat on Sherman, and for the rest of us to take sides, divided at the high end of the key demo.
The younger folk will like the verbose, violent Seahawks. Seattle, the land of Hendrix and Nirvana, has been seen as a secret aorta of chic — the cold, gray hipsters who give as much love to their local soccer team as they do the Mariners.
Whatever. It has become cliche to say so, but to those of us whose blood type is pigskin, who have been watching the NFL since the halcyon, dynasty days of the 1970s, we often find the Super Bowl is superfluous. In this case it’s an excuse for the Ryan Seacrest types, the red wine and wind chimes crowd — most of whom think the game is being played in Madison Square Garden — to hijack Manhattan for a few days and pretend they’re New Yorkers.
And for the few of us actually born and raised in Manhattan, it’s our job to cover this more as a football game than an event. Not sure why, maybe out of some bucket-list masochism, I’ll be camped somewhere in Times Square, a vastly more boring and sanitized place than the one we enjoyed for decades, to show the trendy sorts that this isn’t Tampa.
We won’t tell you where Beyonce or Pit Bull is hanging out, but if I can find Terry Bradshaw, show him my 1978 Terrible Towel and ask him questions that have been brewing since I was 10, that will mean infinitely more than shaking hands with Bruno Mars, whom I couldn’t spot in a lineup.
There will be a football game eventually, hopefully a good one, which will either crown a legend or pass a baton to Russell Wilson, who, despite his youth, does have an old, noble soul. Despite the overwhelming volume from his colleagues, Wilson gets it, and the NFL could do far worse than crown him as the new prince of the sport.
Unlike other Super Bowls, this one will be weather-dependent. You can decide if that’s a good thing. As this blizzard begins and maybe another follows in 10 days, we can only try to make it as uncomfortable as possible for tourists, as New Yorkers always do.
And to keep this on point, on football, where it belongs.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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