We’re upon yet another holiday that will, in one way, allow us to feel very normal while, in another, make things feel anything but.
OK, technically, the Super Bowl is not a holiday. It should be. If your definition of the word is like mine and includes a day set aside when normal activities are suspended that includes celebrating and gathering with friends and family, a picture of the Lombardi Trophy should be next to “holiday” in the dictionary.
And, of course, each of our holidays comes with certain traditions. Egg hunting. Fireworks. Turkey dinner. Decorating a tree.
And, for this particular holiday, there’s Tom Brady. By now, he’s as much a part of the Super Bowl as beer commercials, betting and bad halftime entertainment.
Love him or hate him — the latter being a pretty strong consensus not just around here but in every corner of the country outside of New England and Tampa-St. Pete — we’ve never seen anything like him.
Brady’s bona fides were established long ago. He’s the clear GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). It’s been suggested he is not just the best quarterback of all-time, but that he’s the best and second-best if you break him into the first half of his career and the second.
Hard to argue that. No one has thrown more touchdown passes, he will finish with more passing yards than anyone in history and no one can approach his Super Bowl resume.
This is his 10th Super Bowl — 10! — the same number Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Phillip Rivers have played in combined. He’s going for his seventh ring. His six wins are already two more than any other quarterback in history — as well as the entire Manning family.
His longevity is incredible. At 43, Troy Aikman had been retired for nearly a decade. Brady looks younger for his age than any male celebrity not named Ralph Macchio. And, as he showed in the NFC Championship game, he still has a gun and will use it to go deep, unlike quasi-contemporaries Brees, Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, now dink-and-dunkers.
Longtime sports fans in Carroll County no doubt remember Super Bowl XXXV, when the Baltimore Ravens routed the New York Giants to win their first championship. That was two full decades ago. Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden were just getting into the prime of their careers. Superstar Jamal Lewis was a rookie and future stars Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs were still in college. They’re all long retired. Some who played in that game are deceased. Current Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had just turned 4 at the time.
And Tom Brady was already in the NFL, having completed his first professional pass two months earlier.
It will seem odd watching him play in the Super Bowl not in a New England Patriots uniform, being coached up by Bill Belichick. But it will be somehow reassuring to turn on the biggest game of the year and see TB12 dropping back to pass.
What is not reassuring is the way every holiday seems to contribute to another spike in COVID-19 cases. It was first noticed after Memorial Day. It was obvious after Thanksgiving. Following Christmas and New Year’s Eve? Carroll saw by far its most weekly cases ever during the week of Jan. 3.
Now we have what could become known as the Superspreader Bowl.
It has all the ingredients for transmission. People watch the Super Bowl in groups, so forget about safe bubbles. They eat the whole time, so forget masks. They tend to consume mass quantities of alcohol, so forget good judgment. Plus, this will all be done inside, whether at parties hosted by friends or in bars, and there will almost certainly be screaming at the TV, sending airborne particles flying everywhere.
The Super Bowl is, of course, meant to be a communal experience. Even non-sports fans tend to watch what is annually the highest-rated television show of the year, if only for the overly hyped commercials.
So, two recommendations. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.
First, don’t go to a Super Bowl get-together. We’re getting closer. Case numbers are dropping. Vaccinations — slow going, admittedly — are happening. A four-family bash could infect a dozen people, maybe some being kids heading to school the next week. The Weeknd, the ads, the nachos, the beverages, the play on the field will all be the same if you stay home, with far less risk, even if it doesn’t feel normal. Next year, party on.
As for the second? Don’t bet against the GOAT.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears every Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.