“On any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team”. These words, spoken by former commissioner Bert Bell, started out as the NFL’s boast during its meteoric rise to popularity and acclaim. Today, however, it seems it has become a promise unfulfilled. Roger Goodell and league brass have tried to implement a system that levels the playing field, to handicap the league, so that all 32 teams have, in theory, an equal chance. Some of these measures include the draft, free agency, balanced scheduling and shared TV revenue. And for 58 minutes on Super Bowl Sunday it appeared as if these efforts had succeeded. The Atlanta Falcons, a historically downtrodden team, seemed poised to win its first title against the win-with-any-means New England Patriots. But as any experienced fan can attest, it’s the last two minutes of the ballgame that really decide the game. The pats scored a couple of times, and wouldn’t you know it, overtime was forced. What followed was a nightmare for the commissioner’s office, but a strong reassurance for those of us who labor in menial jobs, but dream of greater success.
Across the eons of earth’s history, there have been numerous supposedly brilliant men who tried to create a truly egalitarian society. Many are quick to point out that these societies were dystopian nightmares, but I think that misses the point. The point is these societies weren’t really equal. In Soviet Russia, to use just one example, the party elite had power and wealth. The proletariat, the class Marx upheld as the ideal, virtually none. Did not scripture warn us centuries ago that to he who had, more would be given, and to he who had not, even what he had would be taken away? While certainly not as nightmarish, pro football and modern America attempt to do the same thing, in principle, form everyone into identical automatons. America steers children through years of worthless schooling, upon completion of which we are steered into mind-numbing paper-pushing jobs. We have all become clockwork oranges-following society’s edicts outwardly, but screaming inside for something more. Well at the coin toss last weekend, the New England Patriots gave us all a hint, a clue that there is, in fact, a way out of the prison bars of modern Americana life.
In the past few years, there has been some confusion during the coin toss. Jerome Bettis managed to call both heads and tails, costing his team the ball and the game. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t content to lose the coin flip once during the 2016 playoffs-he insisted in doing so again. When the official asked the Pats captain what the call was, there was no equivocation it was “HEADS”! Well, sure enough, the coin showed heads. The decision? “POSSESSION!” The game, effectively, was over. The Pats machine ground out first down after first down against a beleaguered and, really, not very good to begin with-Falcons defense. Goodell, sitting up in a luxury suite had plenty of time to contemplate the terrible thing he would soon have to do. He would have to hand Tom Brady the Lombardi trophy after fighting tooth and claw to suspend him for breaking the league’s rules. As a shower of boos rained down on the chagrined commissioner, Brady exhibited a champion’s smirk the smirk of a man destined for success, and not to be handicapped by an overlord.
All the talk about “best sports year ever” or “best Super Bowl of all time” aside, Super Bowl LI will soon enough become a faded memory for even the sternest of New England Patriots fanboys. But I hope that, at the very least, fans remember how pathetic the league’s attempt was to make an even playing field last weekend. Because for a team, or man, of destiny, the only coin of concern shows heads on both sides.