The Super Bowl is designed ostensibly to be a massive trade show with a football game stuck on the end of it, with the idea that the teams and their fan bases who don’t have a dog in the Sunday fight can still amuse themselves by making their own news – as long as it’s very low level and doesn’t steal thunder away from the real reason for the season.
The accumulation of money.
So it is that we must find reasons to care about a game between a team 2,473 miles away and a team 3,099 miles away. After all, what else is a Super Bowl party for?
Well, let’s ignore the obvious Bay Area topics like “Any news on the Raiders moving?” or “What will Kyle Shanahan say about the soul-eviscerating task he is about to undertake?” Instead, let’s ask a third.
Is the Bay Area’s football base ready to face the very real possibility that Tom Brady could become the area’s best-ever quarterback? Yes, better than Joe Montana and his four rings, and yes, better than Ken Stabler and his willingness to fight the power, and yes, better than Aaron Rodgers and Jim Plunkett and . . . well, fill in your favorite blank.
This one is hard for many folks to swallow because, other than the Switzerland of San Mateo (starting at Serra High School and radiating out to Highways 82, 101, 280 and Crystal Springs Road), Brady doesn't resonate here the way a normal favorite son would. He would have been a perfect Raider or 49er. He also would have been a perfect Cardinal or Golden Bear. He would have been part of something that was, for lack of a better term, ours.
Instead, he did his work for geographically evil empires far to the east, and did it obnoxiously well. He went where he was wanted (Michigan) and where he was drafted (New England), grafted onto a coach (Bill Belichick) who could find the best outlets for his gifts as Montana and Stabler and Plunkett and Rodgers did, and has helped construct a ring factory to rival Montana’s and Terry Bradshaw's and dwarf everyone else’s.
And if he can guide these Patriots to a victory in 13 days over the Atlanta Falcons, he will have more rings than any other quarterback ever, and will almost surely reduce the best-ever debate to ash.
Argue all you want, you amateur Spicers, but facts sometimes beat sentiment, prejudice or child-based idolatry, and there is no objective argument a person can make to claim that Brady is merely equal, let alone inferior, to any of the others we have mentioned.
That is, if you’re trying to stack his baggage as a fort against the data.
His detractors will link him to the evils of the Patriot empire (commanding technology, skullduggery and the very air we use to breathe to circumvent the natural order of fair play, honor and dignity, or some equivalent nonsense), or dismiss him, Montana-style, as merely the product of the greatest coach of the age (well, name a great quarterback who didn’t have a great coach, or vice versa). You could even hold his choice of wives against him (which seems even pettier than normal fandom) or his choice of candidates against him (so far, it’s hard to see a countervailing argument here, though it’s only been four days out of an expected 1,461).
But the numbers and jewelry and the raw football data argue more convincingly for Brady than for anyone else – if you’re interested in settling rather than prolonging an argument.
That last part is the key, though, because once engaged, arguments are hard to kill. The development of the alternative-facts movement renders data and logic less important than the depressingly more fashionable “Well I say it’s this instead of that, I’m not changing my mind no matter what you say and I’d rather remain ignorant than consider another idea. Ya wanna fight?”
Now all this becomes moot if Atlanta wins, mostly because nobody is going to advance the idea that Matt Ryan is the best quarterback of all time. Then the arguments remain sprightly and energetic and “my facts v. your facts,” and everyone goes home drunk and satisfied that you didn't annoy the hell out of the other patrons.
But if Brady wins, the argument becomes sullen and angry and unpleasant and “Well I say it’s this instead of that, I’m not changing my mind no matter what you say and I’d rather remain ignorant than consider another idea. Ya wanna fight?” Just to name one.
And frankly, we're already getting a gutload of that as it is.