Reflections on Super Bowl XLII

On the surface, there are some rather obvious notes to make about Super Bowl XLII.

It was a great game, a truly exciting nail-biting contest. It's so rare to see a Super Bowl result in such a great game that this in itself could be noteworthy.

And of course, there's the fact that the game featured the recurring Boston-New York rivalry that has proven by far the most interesting in modern day sport.

And even more notably, one of the two teams in this rivalry was also fighting against destiny, attempting to join the 1972 Dolphins, the only NFL team to finish a season undefeated, in the history books under perfection.

But if you start thinking about the game a bit more deeply, you see a whole host of subplots and archetypes that we probably all knew we were witnessing even if we didn't sense it at the time. These are the struggles that made this Super Bowl one to remember, debate and learn about for years to come.

1. David vs. Goliath: Not only were the Patriots chasing perfection, but they were doing so against a team who just about everyone except Giants fans and bookies had written off entirely. A team that wasn't even *supposed* to make the playoffs, let alone stand any hope of prying the Conference championship from the grasp of Brett Favre or Tony Romo. A team that ESPN ranked #27 in the league in their week 3 Power Rankings. This game was supposed to be a blow out, only someone forgot to tell the Giants they couldn't win.

2. The Best Offense is a Good Defense: Even stacked against the '72 Dolphins, the Pats may have been considered the best team, or at least the best offensive team, of all time. They weren't only undefeated through 18 games; they crushed their opponents, racking up the league's #1 offense with over 35 points scored per game. Week after week, the Pats showed their offensive prowess leading many, myself included, to say that you couldn't stop the Pats offense, you could only hope to slow them down enough to keep up. Yet again, we forgot to tell the Giants what was impossible. Perhaps knowing that their offense couldn't go blow-for-blow with the Pats, they attacked on defense, holding New England to under 20 points for the first time all season and sacking Brady 5 times, the first time any team had done so since 2003.

3. Karma is an elusive entity: I personally didn't know who to root for during the game. I have lived in both New York and Boston. My Dolfan loyalty may have demanded rooting for the Giants, but shouldn't you also root for the team that beat your own, so you can at least have lost to a champion? Most of all, two blemishes on the NFL's record kept me torn: Spygate and what I'll call Eligate. I certainly can't whole-heartedly root for the Pats after their scandalous early season faux pas. Then again, I don't think Eli will ever sit quite right with me after the way he entered the league, like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum at risk of not getting his way. Apparently, karma has spoken and earn-at-all costs capitalist puppetry is more forgiveable than win-at-all-costs cheatery...or at least its statute of limitations has expired sooner.

4. Great just isn't good enough: In a moment of humility after the game, Randy Moss was asked to comment on what happened. His reply:

"I think their intensity from the beginning snap to the end of the game was really higher than ours. We just couldn't meet that intensity."

Did the patriots just get cocky? Did they buy the hype that they were unbeatable? Or was going 18-0 leading up to the Super Bowl simply sufficient? Whatever the explanation, the Pats just didn't bring it on Sunday, certainly not the way a champion should. If anything great comes out of their loss, it should be that younger players heed their example and hustle a little more next season, sprint off the field a little faster, lift one more rep, because no matter how well they've done, they can always push just a little bit harder. Good is the enemy of Great.

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