Some years, I don’t have a strong feeling on whom to root for in the Super Bowl.
That hasn’t been a problem in the Tom Brady era of the National Football League. One quick and easy rule for me has been this: Whoever Tom Brady is playing against in the Big Game, that’s who I’m cheering on.
I didn’t think I’d still have to be using that rule in 2021, for goodness sakes, considering Brady’s first Super Bowl appearance was after the 2001 NFL season. But here he still is, like a bad penny or a terrible childhood memory, haunting us still two decades later.
The greatest quarterback of all time got his new team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, to the Super Bowl Sunday, going on the road to Green Bay and upsetting the Packers, 31-26.
The Bucs have a good defense, sure, and outstanding offensive weapons in players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette.
But they don’t get anywhere near the big game without the 43-year-old Brady, who has now reached 10 Super Bowls.
TEN! Do you realize that of all the incredible stats I read tonight about Brady’s longevity, this one blew me away the most: Brady has reached the Super Bowl more times (10) in his career than in seasons he has not (9).
That is a mind-blowing, crazy statistic.
He is an ageless wonder, and yeah he threw a couple of second-half interceptions that helped make the game close, but he’s still just an athletic freak, someone doing things at an age no NFL QB has ever done.
I still hate him, though. Him and his damn success.
In the Super Bowl this year Brady will face his heir apparent, the amazing, incredible, worldly-talented Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs, one week after Mahomes was concussed and knocked out of the game against Cleveland, toyed with Buffalo for a while before grabbing a 38-24 win.
I was really pulling for the Bills and their fantastic fans, but Kansas City was just on another level.
And now the storylines are all set, and as juicy as a rare steak: Old guy QB vs. young one. Defending champs (K.C.) versus a team that hasn’t been there in 18 years. And of course, the game will be played in Tampa, the first time in the Super Bowl era that a team will get to host a Super Bowl in its own stadium. But of course, this is 2021, so there will be hardly any homefield advantage because the stadium will be mostly empty.
It should be a heck of a game. Go Chiefs.
Couple other thoughts from the NFL’s championship Sunday:
— It was a terrible day for both losing head coaches, who both at times played “not to lose by too much” instead of to win. Buffalo’s Sean McDermott especially was timid, opting to kick field goals twice inside the 20 when he KNEW the Bills would have to score a bunch of touchdowns to keep up with the high-flying Chiefs.
It’s like McDermott forgot he was playing the best team in football with one of the best offenses ever. I’m not saying it would’ve changed the outcome, but Sean, come on man, you have to be aggressive there.
— Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was up 28-10 on Green Bay early in the second half and was cruising to the Super Bowl, when suddenly Tom Brady started throwing interception after interception, and the Packers got right back into the game.
But once they got within 28-23, the Green Bay offense stalled, and then head coach Matt LaFleur, in this pressure situation for the first time, made as boneheaded a move as you can make. The Packers had the ball inside the Bucs’ 10, down 31-23, with 2:20 left in the game. After three straight incompletions, Green Bay inexplicably decided to kick a field goal, making it 31-26, and then kicked off to Tampa.
Did the Packers somehow forget who they were playing? Did they really think their defense wasn’t going to allow Tom FREAKING Brady to get a first down, when they’d already scored 31 points? It was absolutely stupid not to try to tie the game there, especially considering an all-time great himself, Aaron Rodgers, plays for the Pack.
**Next up, we lost two 20th century legends over the weekend, men who had nothing in common except they were famous for a very long time, and did some of their best work for Atlanta-based organizations.
Larry King was a fixture on my house’s televisions growing up. My Dad used to always watch his CNN “Larry King Live” at 9 p.m. weeknights because King had big-name guests, asked pretty good questions, and always seemed to be the kind of guy you’d want sitting next to you at a bar or restaurant, spinning tales.
With his suspenders, glasses, and knowing New York wiseguy smile, King was someone who entertained and informed. Yeah, he was an easy target to make fun of, for his multiple marriages and divorces (King was married eight times) and for his unintentionally-hilarious, rambling musings in his USA Today columns, saying stuff like “Tommy Lasorda’s pasta sauce is very, very good,” and “When it comes to nuts, you can’t beat cashews!”
But King was a broadcasting legend, and someone who I think did his best to inform and entertain. The above clip I chose isn’t really representative of his CNN show, but it cracks me up every time, because of how angry Jerry Seinfeld gets when King doesn’t know how “Seinfeld” went off the air.
Larry King was one of a kind, and someone who’s work I greatly enjoyed over the years.
**And finally today, a few words about the greatest clean home run hitter major league baseball has ever seen. Henry Aaron died at age 86 on Friday, and what a life and baseball career he lived.
He broke into pro baseball in the Negro Leagues in 1952, and went on to have one of the greatest careers of any baseball player, ever. He is of course most famous for the chase to break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714, and the incredible racism, death threats and harassment he faced as he approached the mark in 1972-73, finally breaking it on April 8, 1974 while with the Atlanta Braves.
The clip above of Vin Scully calling the historic home run is perfect; I especially loved this line: “What a marvelous moment … a black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol.”
Aaron was an incredible baseball player who overcome so much resistance and did it with class and grace. And I don’t care what any record book says about steroid cheat Barry Bonds; to me and millions of others, Aaron will always be the true home run king of baseball.
Howard Bryant, who wrote the definitive biography of Aaron and probably knew him as well as any writer, has penned this terrific piece on Aaron. I highly recommend it.