Who has the moral high-ground this Super Bowl?
In life, the moments in which morality can be defined in black and white terms are few and far between. If a man steals bread to feed his family, does this constitute a moral failing? Real life is complicated, difficult to parse out. In reality, people have a hard time settling for this. We find it reductive. We want a clear line between right and wrong, often seeking it out to the detriment of fully understanding a situation. This is a fundamental flaw in human psychology. That said, there are rare moments in history in which the line between good and evil is so starkly drawn, that they make everyone capable of moral objectivity. Super Bowl 52 is one of those moments.
On February 4th, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles will step onto the field in U.S. Bank Stadium. Under the carapace, good will battle evil and if you have to ask who's who, you haven't been paying attention. On one side, you've got a plucky, second-year head coach and a backup quarterback whose career has had more ups and downs than a seismogram. On the other, you've got this guy:
Bill Belichick watching tape in his private study
Our young heroes, Coach Pederson and Nick "The Franchise" Foles, are going to battle against an evil both ancient and perennial. Coach Belichick has no morality. He has no fear. Death trembles in his wake. He's not above videotaping other teams or deflating footballs. He's loyal to no man and his desire for victory is matched only by the effort with which he pursues it. On top of this, he has Tom Brady, a man so slavishly devoted to winning that he's earned the moniker "Pyscho Tom."
The Eagles are walking into this game as underdogs, a position they've become well acquainted with since Nick Foles took over as Quarterback. They weren't supposed to beat the Falcons. They did. They weren't supposed to beat the Vikings. They did. They don't have their starting quarterback. Their coach's head has the exact proportions of a pineapple. Still, time and time again, Philadelphia has proven its resilience.
But it's not just adversity that makes the Eagles more likable. They're genuinely just, more likable. The entire season, the Eagles have kept it light and breezy. The touchdown celebrations have been varied and intricate and the smiles have been abundant.
There's nothing light and breezy about the Patriots. Back, in 2014, coming off a four touchdown performance, Jonas Gray overslept and came late to a Patriots practice. Belichick cut him the next day. The evil empire isn't run on compassion or sportsmanship. It's run on good old fashioned fear. No one is irreplaceable. Bill Belichick doesn't have a special place in his heart for any of his players. You know why? Because he doesn't have a fucking heart. The Patriots have no allegiance to the fans either. They don't want to entertain you. They're going to walk into U.S. Bank Stadium and throw 35 dink-and-dunk passes and lull the American people to sleep. We deserve better champions than this. Is there any question who the American public should be rooting for?
Petty grumbling aside, the Patriots are the better team. Bill Belichick is the best NFL coach of all time. Tom Brady is the best NFL quarterback of all time. This is the 8th Super Bowl the pair has played in together. But, the Eagles have something the Patriots don't: something to play for. For Belichick and Brady, victory means a 6th Super Bowl win. They're chasing vainglory. No one in Boston is going to weep if their team wins. They're spoiled, anesthetized to triumph.
The Eagles are playing for a fanbase that exists in a perpetual state of fringe psychosis, a fanbase that's praying with foaming mouths and teary-eyes that Nick Foles can grant them a respite, however brief, from the heartache of Philadelphia sports. If there's any truth to all the 12th-man junk that Seattle's been peddling for the last five years, if sports energy truly is kinetic, then the Eagles possess something that the Patriots will never have. If the Eagles win, after the initial shock wears off, plenty of people will talk about the game. But, I think it'll be the emotion the fans felt in this moment, in the hope and fear and anticipation leading up to the Super Bowl, that'll stick with us. In Nick we trust.
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff
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