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.

Who Will Win SuperBowl XLVIII?

I will make a prediction as to who I think will win the Super Bowl that starts in about 5 hours. I have not studied this matter all that much, but I have listened to hours of commentary on this game.  I also watched Broncos beat the Patriots and the Sea Hawks beat the 49ers.  Much has been said of the Sea Hawks vaunted defense, but there are those who point out that it was earned against the less stellar offenses. The Broncos offense is similarly extolled with Manning, the quarterback,  described as having almost divine skills.  

My observations from the two games I watched are that Manning is very good, but so is Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, in fact, Kaepernick may be more explosive as he is a gifted runner. The Sea Hawks shut him down, not completely, but enough.  The Patriots could have won against Denver, but it was handicapped by not having several of its better players and Brady, its quarterback, was just a little off.  Manning, on the other hand, was “on.”

My conclusion is that the Sea Hawks will win a close game because I don’t think Wilson, its quarterback, will be a bit intimidated against Manning and will score enough to win. The Sea Hawk defense will contain Manning just enough, on the other hand, to win the game. 

Now, let’s talk about the unknowns, like fumbles, interceptions, and official’s whim. 
Fumbles speak for themselves. Ball carriers will lose control of the ball and that may result in a turnover. Each loss of possession in football results in points. The closer to the goal line, the more predictable the points.  No one knows who will fumble or where they will occur, it any, but if they do, the outcome can change, as change of possession has huge impact on games. 

Change of possession occurs on interceptions as well. The quarterbacks in this game are both very skilled, and, especially Manning, is unlikely to make the bone-headed throw to a linebacker that we see in Minnesota. The pure chance here is from the tipped ball. No one can predict the tip, or predict where the ball will land. If an interception occurs, it is by chance, but may change the outcome.

Now for the great unknown, official’s whim.  I once helped judge the great tomato contest with DIck Cullum, a venerable Minneapolis sports writer, who laid out the criteria for judging. The last such critieria was “Judge’s Whim.”  He said that’s the “only one that counts in the real world.”  Today, there will be over 100 plays and a referee and six officials who can call penalties on every play. There is a theory that each one can call a penalty on each play, that’s seven flags per play. That doesn’t happen because only blatant errors are called, but there is the whim element that determines whether the tackle is called for holding or the cornerback for interference.  There will be several such calls and a few will result in changes of possession and that possession is what, ultimately, determines the outcome of such games.

In brief, I think for reasons stated that the Sea Hawks win this one, but the variables will have an impact.