When the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl in 2002, I think I was actually pulling for them back then.
They were playing the St. Louis Rams, for one thing, so it was easy for me to draw battle lines. Plus, the Patriots hadn't won a Super Bowl in their two previous attempts, they had great young quarterback in Tom Brady, and this game was just months after the 9/11 attacks. What could be more patriotic than the Patriots? It all seemed to fit.
And the game was a good one, with the Patriots winning 20-17.
I didn't know the victory was going to set off a Cowboys-like dynasty. The Patriots came back in 2004 and defeated Carolina 32-29 in another close game (the one where Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake made boobs out of all of us). Brady was the game's MVP for the second time and I'm starting to scowl.
The following year, the Pats defeated my beloved Philadelphia Eagles 24-21, and I can never pull for New England again. This was lead-in to the Spygate era, which, of course, was the precursor to the current Deflategate era. The Pats were (to me) cheaters, even though they didn't have to be because they were just so... so... darn good. Always looking for an edge...
A decade of winning (but no Super Bowl titles) went by until 2015, when a bonehead call by Seattle coach Pete Carroll resulted in an interception in the end zone as time ran down, giving the Patriots a 28-24 victory.
That one still rankles. Bonehead.
And now, here we are. Brady started the season with a four-game suspension as a result of Deflategate and Patriot fans are livid. I'm not sure why. The team still rolled through the regular season with a 14-2 record. It seems to me that missing the first four games of the season probably kept Brady fresher than most QBs for the playoff run.
In any event, Brady's stats are spectacular. He's thrown for 3,500 yards, 28 touchdowns and has just two interceptions in 12 games. He's 39 years old, has four Super Bowl rings, is married to a super model, and he's a genuinely nice guy who signs autographs and visits kids who are seriously ill. He'll be in the Hall of Fame before his uniform is out of the laundry. What's not to like? Except for all that winning, I mean.
The Atlanta Falcons, by contrast, are in the Super Bowl for only the second time in their history. They're coming into the game with an 11-5 record and not much national recognition. Most people probably know who their quarterback is (Matt Ryan) and wide receiver Julio Jones (1,400 yards in receptions, and who just might be the player player in the NFL). Everybody else is a shadow.
But the Falcons have a high-powered offense. If they aren't awed by their surroundings and play their game, it could be an interesting evening. To me, it's all a toss-up anyway, although I'll have a slight lean toward the Falcons.
Pass the chips and dip, please.