On January 1st, Colorado officially legalized the recreational use of marijuana. According to many, dispensaries generated over five million dollars in sales during the first week. Washington will be officially following suit later this year. Why is all of this significant? Well, because of the sheer amount of internet memes that are popping up for the upcoming Super Bowl. Think about that for a second.
There, you got it.
On February 2nd, the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks and the AFC Champion Denver Broncos will be facing off in East Rutherford to determine which of these teams will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the forty-eighth annual NFL championship game. It has been a long and twisted road this season, and while there is a lot to discuss when it comes to the long and twisted road, I want to talk specifically about what transpired two days ago, when the contenders for the upcoming Super Bowl won their respective rights to participate.
New England Patriots, 16 vs. Denver Broncos, 26
When the final gun went off and Peyton Manning, John Fox, and company began celebrating winning the Lamar Hunt Trophy, I couldn’t help but think about Tom Brady. I have been kind of wishy-washy when it’s come to Tom Brady in the past, but seeing him defeated on Sunday broke my heart for one reason alone: I think this was it. This was the last shot Brady had at winning another championship.
Let’s recap. I have previously mentioned about the anomaly that is Tom Brady’s career. In summary, Brady won three Super Bowls in his first five years in the NFL. Over the last nine years, Brady has been to the Super Bowl twice and lost both to Eli Manning and a New York Giants team that should not have even been in the playoffs. Brady is 9-8 (counting Super Bowl losses) in the playoffs since his 2004-05 campaign. He’s been one-and-done in the playoffs twice and lost three AFC Championship games. His playoff failures have been met with regular-season greatness. Until this season, Tom Brady had the best passing season of any quarterback in NFL history. Incidentally, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning now holds that title.
I admit it, I teared up a bit. I’m so sure I watched the end of an era. After fourteen seasons, Brady’s body is breaking down. He’s 36 and will be 37 by the time next season starts. He’s far beyond the average NFL retirement age (30) and is coming dangerously close to the average age an NFL quarterback retires (38). Only 18 quarterbacks in NFL history have played into their forties. Tom Brady doesn’t have a lot of passing options and it looks like his offensive line is consistently getting worse.
When I saw Tom Brady disappointed while standing in the middle of Sports Authority Field, I felt like his time had finally arrived. It’s too late for the New England Patriots to regroup and re-brand themselves with new talent on and off the field. Tom Brady is in his final years. Robert Kraft needs to start looking into how the team will go about replacing him. The 2013-14 NFL Season really seems like it was Tom Brady’s last shot at winning it all, but as has been the trend over the last decade, they fell short. This time, at least, they fell short to another man who may have very well been playing through his last shot at winning it all.
On the flip side of this depressing comparison, Peyton Manning is actually playing in East Rutherford in two weeks. Here’s a guy who has a win and a loss on his Super Bowl resume, but like Brady, Manning’s list of accomplishments in the regular season are impressive. More impressive, in some respects.
Peyton Manning is the NFL’s only 4-time Most Valuable Player Award recipient. This season, Manning destroyed many prestigious team and league records, including most passing yards in a season (5, 477), most touchdown passes thrown in a season (55), and he even tied the NFL record for most touchdown passes thrown in a game (7) on Opening Day against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
All of this comes just two years after having multiple neck surgeries (including a spinal fusion) that nearly derailed the rest of his career.
As I mentioned before, I look at this season as Peyton Manning’s final repose as well. For as good as he’s been, he’s older than Brady (he turns 38 in March) and has had significant injuries that have derailed younger and healthier players. I think a win in two weeks will be the final stamp on Manning’s legacy. He’ll retire a champion and as the greatest passer in NFL history.
It was hard for me to watch two careers that seem to be coming to an end. One (presumably) after a (possible) victory in New Jersey in two weeks and another (presumably) after a decade of failure that has followed four years of unprecedented success.
San Francisco 49ers, 17 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 23
After the emotional swirling of the post-AFC game, my blood began to boil to prolific levels when the 49ers took on the Seahawks for the NFC title. The tale of the tape was exceptional: two young quarterbacks who are revolutionizing the position, run-first power offenses, hard-nosed defenses. The 49ers and the Seahawks are mirror images of each other. Of course, you would think it would make for great football. In actuality, there was another factor that contributed to this game: officiating.
Now, before I get accused of whining about penalties, let me start out by saying that Seattle deserved to win this game. They shut down Frank Gore (which is always a challenge), shut down Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, and took advantage of a couple of key moments that were necessary to pull out the win. I don’t like that Seattle won (I am a 49ers fan), but I will give credit where it’s due. However, shutting down a few players and taking advantage of a couple of key moments does excuse the blunders that took place on the field.
Firstly, I want to address Richard Sherman. While his tip at the end of the game saved the win, his reaction to it at the end of the game was ridiculous. Judging by the comments he made to Erin Andrews after the win, he has no respect for the man who lined up against him for 60 minutes. Sherman claimed in what I assume was a blog post that Michael Crabtree was a “sorry receiver” and that being lined up against “the best corner in the league” is an “insult.” Sherman went to Crabtree after the game and gave him a pat. Some words were exchanged and Crabtree shoved him in the face, getting Sherman even more riled up and upset. I’m pretty sure Richard Sherman said something to him that made an already disappointed NFL player an angry one, but even putting that incident aside, Richard Sherman has made a career out of pissing people off. No amount of explaining away reasons and personality traits will change that. Richard Sherman is an overly intense guy who wins and gloats, and when he loses, he bitches and blames others.
I have no respect, at all, for Richard Sherman.
Secondly, I want to talk about the NaVarro Bowman incident. During a play that in itself was questionable (more on that in a moment), NaVarro Bowman of the San Francisco 49ers got his leg pinned and twisted underneath other players, resulting in tears of the ACL and MCL. While he was being carried off the field to the locker room, the “12th Man” began to cheer and throw trash at him. I can honestly say that I cannot consciously recall anything that disgusting happening in a professional sporting event since the Pacers-Pistons Brawl. I haven’t seen a tragedy like that in the NFL, period.
This is the culture Pete Carroll has brought to Seattle. He’s turned professional sports fans into a collective of collegiate freshman. They’re loud, arrogant, self-entitled, elitist, and angry, and their antics, I feel, have crossed a line. In college, it’s okay to be like that. You’re in college. However, the NFL is a business and the players on the field are associates of that business and when you, as a fan, buy a ticket and watch a game, you are also part of that business. Because the NFL is professional, there is a certain amount of decorum that needs to be respected when spectating a game. Throwing trash at a player who just had his leg severely injured while cheering the fact he’s leaving the game is not decorum. It’s a fervor that is commonly seen in organizations that have decided they’re the best and everyone else is second-rate. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks aren’t even a team that can historically make that claim. They’ve spent most of their history as one of the NFL’s doormats.
I’m sorry. I know football is barbaric and hostile by nature and fans get into it, but there’s a difference between screaming at a player on the opposing team and watching a professional athlete (who is doing his job, by the way) being carted off the field in agony while you throw trash at him and cheer for his injury. That’s just uncalled for.
With that, my transition into the third point from the San Francisco-Seattle game: what the hell was up with the officiating. I understand that being a referee is hard, but shit, in games like this, as an official, you have to be solid in your assessment of what’s going on, especially when Fox Sports makes it a point to tell it’s viewers that the officials in said game are in the Top-3 of their respective positions.
As I mentioned before, the injury to NaVarro Bowman came with another horrifying outcome. See, the play involved a fumble, which Bowman ended up with when the play was dead. He wasn’t under a pile of players. His leg was, and it was pretty fucking obvious he had the football in his hands. Every replay angle showed Bowman strip the ball and recover it, all before he, himself, and others, could even be considered down. It was a textbook strip that he recovered.
So, would anyone like to enlighten me as to how nearly a dozen NFL officials (who are ranked in the Top-3 of their respective positions) all miss that fumble recovery?! Does anyone want to tell me why in the hell plays that involve changes of possession aren’t allowed to be reviewed, when every other goddamn thing in the NFL is?!
Look, I watched the game. I know that on the very next play, Seattle fumbled, but that’s not the point. The point is how the fumble recovery was missed by every official on the field. The point is why plays like this are not up for review. The point is that this was the biggest officiating blunder I’ve seen in the league since Russell Wilson threw a game-winning interception last season against the Packers while the replacements were officiating. The point is that this missed call is another in a long line of missed calls and blown calls and poor officiating that is making the referees of the National Football League looks like Joey Crawford and Tim Donaghey. The officiating in this league is disgusting and while I’m not going to harp on the “if that call had been made correctly, the 49ers would have won” (because there is no proof of that whatsoever), I have wondered over the past few seasons how many contests, if any, could have ended differently if these games had not been marred by bad calls.
So, on February 2, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will be playing for the right to win it all. Two teams, each representative of a state that has decriminalized, or is in the process of decriminalizing, marijuana will be seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and while this game should prove to be interesting (Broncos by 5), what I think may be even more interesting will be the amount of commercials by Frito-Lay, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, and Ashley Madison.