Super Bowl LII presented an interesting conundrum for me.
On one side was the hated New England Patriots, a team I never rooted for despite being born, raised, and currently residing in Connecticut. On the other side was the hated Philadelphia Eagles, a team I never rooted for because my NFL allegiance is to the New York Football Giants.
Super Bowl Sunday is a celebration, a time for NFL fans to have one last game before professional football goes on its six-month hiatus. It’s also a time for people who have no vested interest in the NFL whatsoever to take in the spectacle that comes with the league crowning its champion.
I spent Super Bowl Sunday with one of my best friends from college and his family. My oldest son, who became a Giants fan on the night of Super Bowl XLII, and another friend from college also joined in the festivities. We ate, laughed, reminisced about old times, critiqued the commercials, and watched the game.
The Giants haven’t played on the first Sunday in February since winning Super Bowl XLVI. I still faithfully watch the Super Bowl because of the aforementioned celebration that culminates with a champion. This year, however, my allegiance wouldn’t allow me to choose a side.
After the conference championships, I received a text message from my son. He wanted to know who we were going to root for in Super Bowl LII. My response was one word: Nobody.
I was never a Patriots fan, disliking them since I was a kid. Although their name is a regional one, I never felt as if they were my team. It could be those awful AFL uniforms with Pat Patriot on the helmet, their losing ways throughout most of my childhood, or how they tempted the City of Hartford (Connecticut’s capital) with the promise of relocation without really meaning it.
When Bill Belichick and a quarterback named Brady lifted the Patriots from chumps to champs, I didn’t like it one bit…and I readily admit that. At the same time, I still refer their 2007 season as Eighteen & One…and that makes me very, very happy.
On the other side are the Eagles. The Giants and Eagles have played against each other since 1933, a span of 172 regular season and postseason games. Although the Giants hold an 86-84-2 advantage in the lifetime series, the Eagles have laid the smack down throughout the history of the rivalry.
I know all about how Chuck Bednarik knocked Frank Gifford out of the NFL for 18 months. I love Herm Edwards and his witticisms as a coach and analyst but I cannot watch footage of The Fumble (a.k.a. The Miracle at the Meadowlands) without cringing and uttering the words “What the f***”. I can still see Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson tearing the Giants a new one with long, game clinching touchdown runs…and it makes me want to vomit.
I didn’t want to root for anyone in Super Bowl LII. If I did, I felt like I’d either be betraying my favorite team or supporting the Evil Empire.
I took a sides of sorts in the second half when I decided I wanted the Patriots to lose more than I wanted the Eagles to lose. There are many Patriots fans I know in the state of Connecticut, including my sister, niece, and nephew. I wanted them all silenced. The Patriots are like the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke men’s basketball. Their fan bases are accustomed to winning and nothing is better than watching these teams fall flat on their faces on the biggest stage. I wanted the Pats to go down…even if it meant a division rival winning their first league championship since 1960.
I got my wish. The Eagles were the last team standing, winning their first Lombardi Trophy and cementing the current configuration of the NFC East as the only division in which each team has at least one Super Bowl title. Patriots Nation was left with a collective stunned silence that made me smile, especially since it occurred exactly 10 years and one day after Eighteen & One.
Then it hit me. The Eagles won the Super Bowl! I will never again be able to silence Eagles fans I know with ribbing reminding them they never won a Lombardi Trophy. They will return to the City of Brotherly Love as NFL Champions and have a victory parade down Broad Street just like the 76ers, Flyers, and Phillies before them. It’s annoying but not nearly as intolerable as it would have been if Brady and Belichick won Lombardi No. 6.
I still own one piece of ribbing for Eagles fans. The Hall of Famer Michael Strahan had an overtime game-winning 44-yard pick-six on a tipped pass from quarterback Doug Pederson at the Vet in 1999. It doesn’t remove the sting of a division rival winning the Super Bowl…but it provides some small level of comfort.