SuperBowl XLIX Shows the Essence Of Sport

Sports is distinguished from theater or entertainment by the fact that the outcome is in doubt. I have taught this fact for years and the example I use is that if theater was sport, King Lear would, on occasion, rally to reclaim his throne. That would make a great show.  This year’s SuperBowl shows that the outcome is in doubt until it’s over. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s not over until it’s over.” Even after Kearse’s miraculous catch brought the Sea Hawks to within a few yards of the victory and a run brought them to a yard of it, a equally miraculous interception did not end it. It took a misplay by Seattle to move the ball far enough from the goal line to allow Patriot’s quarterback Brady to take a knee safely to allow the last 18 seconds to run off the clock. Prior to that, he had the dilemma of not having enough room to take the knee behind the center as he actually would have had to attempt to advance the ball to near the line of scrimmage to allow that to happen. All of that with the risk of a fumble along the way.
The last play was set up by an interception at the goal line of a forward pass at a critical moment. The entire audience, including me, was wondering where the superb running back, Marshawn Lynch, who lead the league in running touchdowns this season, would carry the ball into the end zone. The pass was a surprise to me and hundreds of millions of viewers, but apparently not the Patriots who were expecting this sort of play. They had scouted the Sea Hawks and had seen them use this sort of play before. In practice, the play worked, but Coach Belichick told safety Malcolm Butler, “Now you know how to defend that play.” Indeed he did. But that did not end the game, it was still in doubt until a penalty allowed the Patriots the extra five yards and the ability to end the game on a knee.
This game illustrated the difference between theater and sport as well as any I’ve seen. No writer could get away by writing a script that allowed for the events of this game. The successful touchdown pass six seconds before the half, Brady’s 8 for 8 completions that put the Patriots ahead with 2:02 remaining, Kearse’s miraculous reception that seemingly set the stage for a Sea Hawks victory and then the interception. This game shows the superiority of sport over theater as popularity indicates. The outcome of a game is in doubt, obviously at the beginning, but sometimes at the end as well.

10 thoughts on “SuperBowl XLIX Shows the Essence Of Sport

  1. I’m not sure sport — with its uncertain outcome — exceeds the theatre, or that Belichick surpasses Shakespeare. After all, it was the Bard of Avon, not Foxborough, who wrote, “To air is human.”

    • 70,000 people in the stands, 400,000,000 viewing world wide!! That is the measure of sports popularity. If it was known that the Patriots would win 28-24, no matter how dramatic the finish, the audience would be 1% of that, if that large. The Shakespeare quote is nice; he also said to heir is human.

  2. Yeah you are probably right too. Except…I think the real essence of sport was shown in the “flashback” scene of the Super Bowl I coin toss. Four players, one official, and a coin. With the comment by Al Michaels that it now “takes a village” to now get that done (for ceremony only which makes it worse) he unknowingly (or maybe knowingly) highlighted everything that is wrong with professional (and major college) sports today. Back then it was all about the game. Today it is all about the bass. (Thank you Meghan Trainor). It is hard to argue that the essence hasn’t been lost.

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