The NFL season started with Dak Prescott, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, America’s team, talking about his mental health struggles. He suffered anxiety and depression from life’s confines during the pandemic. He couldn’t bring himself to work out. He saw a sports psychologist.
And it would have been such a perfect ending to the season if Prescott could have gotten to the Super Bowl, rather than gotten injured.
But football did reach the Super Bowl. And what was a rocky start to the season ends with a positive sense of togetherness and victory surrounding America’s biggest sports moment.
America will celebrate itself Sunday, while cheering for Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes, Tampa Bay or Kansas City in what is probably the best Super Bowl matchup ever. That will happen whether people actually take the advice of Dr. Fauci, America’s doctor, and avoid Super Bowl parties or not.
You think this was always a foregone conclusion? It was almost derailed just five days ago, as 20 Chiefs, including Mahomes, stood in line for a haircut with a barber who had COVID-19.
“I don’t know when normal will occur again, or if normal will occur again,’’ NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at his Super Bowl news conference.
Goodell said the season had its rough moments but that the NFL’s measures worked. The NFL positivity rate since Aug. 1 was .08 percent
So now we get to just argue Brady or Mahomes, Mahomes or Brady. And when they take the field, we win. It’s not that football beats COVID, but only that a pandemic didn’t stop America’s Game.
Brady has taken most of the headlines this week. At 43, he says he sees no reason he won’t play to 45. So this isn’t a goodbye after all.
The talk is whether he is the GOAT of GOATS. If he wins this Super Bowl, he’ll have seven championships vs. Michael Jordan’s six.
Would that make Brady the greatest among the greatest of all time?
Uh, no. Sorry, but MJ is going to reign for a while longer. That’s not to put down Brady.
“Tom Brady has shown that he’s probably the greatest player to ever play this game,’’ Goodell said. “His leadership, his ability to rise to the big occasion and make everybody rise around him. That’s what’s absolutely incredible to me . . .
“And so he’s an exceptional talent, but more importantly he’s one of the great guys. I’ve known him for probably 15 years. He’s an extraordinary guy, and he cares about this game deeply.’’
That’s another pelt for Brady. Goodell is the one who suspended Brady in 2016 for his role in Deflategate, when the New England Patriots were supposedly taking the air out of some of the footballs so that they would be smaller and fit better in Brady’s hands.
Meanwhile, Brady goes about trying to collect another pelt from Bill Belichick, as he proves he can win without Patriots’ Coach Grump.
Sports Illustrated did a poll of ex-Patriots on the relationship between Brady and Belichick. Are they keeping score of which one does better than the other?
According to the poll, yes.
“Yeah, absolutely,’’ former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson told SI. “I think (Brady’s) scratching an itch he’s had for a while. I really do. And so it’s very important for both these guys.
“Neither of them will say it directly. I think they are obsessed with trying to prove the other wrong right now.’’
I’ve never really understood why all-time greats need motivation from doubters. Michael Jordan was the same way. I’d prefer it if Brady were proving something to himself at his age. I think he’d be a more important figure if he pushed the any-age-is-a-good age theme instead of the theme of giving Belichick the middle finger.
But whatever. The narrative is that Mahomes needs this win more than Brady does. That years down the line, if Mahomes loses this one, then his legacy will never surpass Brady’s.
Probably true. Meanwhile, Mahomes has to play behind a depleted offensive line. But the Chiefs aren’t suffering the defending-champ hangover, and overall they’re just better than Tampa Bay.
Chiefs/Mahomes win 30-27.
Everyone seems to want the fairy tale ending with a Brady victory. Barring some sort of unforeseen disaster, no matter what the ending, it’ll be fairy tale enough.