Apparently this past Super Bowl eclipsed even the final episode of MASH in viewership. What's remarkable is how different the time periods between these two "television events." In 1983, cable TV was available to a limited population, and now it's the mainstream. The Super Bowl became the event uniting us all in...what, exactly? Two things, I believe. First (and this came to light only afterwards) was the crowning of Peyton Manning as a goat, although I could have sworn we were all tuning in to see him anointed as the Greatest Ever. Oh well.
More importantly, we all watched to see New Orleans granted a blessed redemption on a global scale. As one sign at the Super Bowl said, "Katrina is Now Forgotten." How that could possibly be when there's so much evidence of it remaining in New Orleans, I don't know. I suppose I could generalize about Southerners always being patient with their quality of life so long as their pride is upheld, but too many people in NOLA probably disagree with the young man's sign. Nothing can make up for Katrina, except a complete economic renewal, and most of the country is struggling with that.
But didn't it feel good to know that New Orleans felt good for reasons other than their strange, ancestral bacchaes? I guess it did. A beautifully derelict city didn't deserve to be nearly destroyed by the forces of nature and seen as a laughingstock by the likes of Bill O'Reilly. What's incredible is what we all know about our teams. We love them, we identify with them, we crave their victories because we know, despite all evidence to the contrary, that their win is ours, too. I watched normally wretched people in Philadelphia become owl-eyed children when the Phillies won the Series in '08. It just feels good. It's like getting a raise in hard times. It's like winning big at the racetrack. It's like being picked out at a party by a really good-looking woman. It's like cracking a really good line at just the right moment. You remember it and cherish it for a long time.
No, it's better than that. And in a way, that's why I'm glad the Jets didn't make it to the Super Bowl. First, we would not have won. The Jets needed to play the perfect game against the Colts, and for about 27 minutes of playing time, they came close. But they didn't. They would not have been able to do to the Saints what (I feel) the best QB of his time and the Colts were unable to do. Plus, we would have become the unfortunate object of the nation's blurry scorn come Super Bowl time. We would have been the team to stand in the way of New Orleans' redemption, and a "New York" team at that. I wouldn't have felt guilty, but I don't think I would have found much support among the people around me after a loss to the Saints in the Super Bowl. Yeah, but you know. It's New Orleans. They deserved it. What are you, a monster?
And finally, the Saints did play a perfect game - maybe not in the first half, but certainly in the second. And here, over the past two years, we've seen two teams - the Giants and the Saints - rise above the expectations of smug prognosticators and play exactly the kind of Super Bowl game everyone said they wouldn't. As Drew Magary has said, after decades of mediocrity as a game, the Super Bowl is living in its golden age.
Time is healing the wounds, slowly. We should have beaten the Colts. They weren't as good as any of us thought. The Jets may not have entirely backed into the playoffs, but in the AFC Championship they played like a 9-7 team. Still, they are ranked higher than any of us dreamed, and they will compel us to dream bigger while pitchers and catchers show up in Florida, while the spring blooms later than we would have wished and while we find all the crap left behind after the melting. Suddenly we will start wondering what Rex Ryan is thinking about, hoping that he has a few ideas about the draft, hoping that he has a few ambitious thoughts about free agency, hoping he will not keel over and die. He is such an enormous man.