To save you a whole lot of time between now and Sunday night’s football game in New Jersey with a Roman numeral title that decides the championship of the National Football League, here is the lazy, tired narrative that will get repeated millions of times before they kick it off.
Peyton Manning – he’s good, virtuous, unimpeachable, he’s what every kid should ever aspire to be and deserves all the glory thrown his way. Richard Sherman – bad, vulgar, reprehensible, talks too much, he must be put in his place.
There, it’s done. No mention of the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos. No consideration of the tremendous effort both teams and coaching staffs and front offices have made to get to the Super Bowl. No insight, no nuance, no need for silly concepts like context and depth.
If you’re looking for that simplistic tale, look elsewhere.
What makes XLVIII so exciting is seeing the best go up against the best, something that’s rarely happened in the last two decades, as NFL parity led to a lot of recent champions (Giants twice, Packers, Ravens) that just got hot at the end.
Both Seattle and Denver are 15-3. Both went 7-1 at home in the regular season, 6-2 on the road. Both of them beat the Giants at that Stadium Named For An Insurance Company that will house the final act. Each of them parlayed deep disappointment in the second round of last year’s playoffs into hunger this season and impressive runs to their respective conference titles.
The Broncos did so with a record-setting offense with nearly 38 points and 457 yards per game, with Manning throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both of them records, with four different receivers recording double-digit TD catches.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks leaned on the league’s top defense. They’ve only allowed 14.4 points a game and 273.6 yards, surrendering more than 30 points just once in 18 games (to Indianapolis), and oh yes, leading the NFL in takeaways.