Super Bowl LII is the worst.
Congratulations are in order for the New England Patriots for pulling off the impossible.
No, not for making its 10th Super Bowl appearance, the most of any team in NFL history. And no, not for gunning for a sixth ring for a quarterback who is a senior citizen.
The Patriots have made a borderline moral case for rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. You did it, Boston! You went and did that.
When Super Bowl LII kicks off in living rooms and sports bars around the country on Sunday evening, Americans will be asked to pick a side: Pats or Iggles? But there is no choosing between Boston and Philadelphia. The two cities compete every single day in two critical categories: which city is the most founding fatherly, and whose fans are more wholly repugnant.
Super Bowls usually mean the Patriots versus the team that people can actually get behind. But when the other side is the Eagles, the natural order is broken. It’s a contest between quack-diet pseudoscience and whole-hogged ignorance. A matchup between Boston and Philadelphia is a no-win scenario—unstoppable smugness versus immovable jackassery.
The country can hardly afford a bar-lowering exercise that gives one of them bragging rights over the other. The only way a Super Bowl between Boston and Philadelphia could get any worse is if Andrew Cuomo were somehow involved.
It’s not supposed to be this way. Consider the poor souls who don’t usually watch football. Casual fans love championship games because they get to root like a die-hard, but they have nothing to lose. Pick a team for any reason—best mascot, cutest players, my-college-roommate-was-from-there, the narrative—it doesn’t matter.
But with Boston and Philadelphia, there is no way in. Rooting for Boston means cheering the most punchable face in America, Tom Brady, who has been wearing that same smarmy look on his damned handsome mug since his childhood days in the Colonies. Brady is privileged and competent and a total cheater, everything America should hate about itself but doesn’t, and rewarding him is wrong.
And yet it is a moral imperative that Philadelphia not win the Super Bowl, because Eagles fans will first burn poor Minneapolis to the ground before returning home and then, in a blaze of Lager and whiz and to a war cry of the only word that Philadelphia fans can reliably spell, reduce their own city to an asphalt rubble. Philly could win the game by a safety, and all of Eastern Pennsylvania would still be consumed in the name of Nick Foles. Nick Foles!
The situation is even worse for real football fans, who swear allegiances based on ancient ethnic hatreds (namely AFC vs. NFC) when their teams aren’t in the championship. Those blood oaths don’t apply when the teams are Boston, a city so tauntable that people from other places instinctively preface it with an expletive, and Philadelphia, a city whose own government has to grease its utility poles to prevent fans from climbing them.
The lone upshot of a Patriots victory is that it drives another stake into the heart of the NFL, a boorish organization representing a sport that has long since shed any pretense of respectability. Predictable, boring, inevitable, a sixth Patriots victory will be one more mile-marker in the inevitable presidential biography of the Gronk administration, but at least fans at home in the here-and-now can shut off the TV in the fourth and pledge to restrict their football activity next season to updating their fantasy football lineups, and maybe mean it.
City workers in Philadelphia greased many of the city’s light poles to prevent Eagles fans from climbing them after the NFC Championship game. It looks like these happy fans were up for the challenge. https://t.co/Jqou2RxP08 pic.twitter.com/r0E1vzQ0CY— ABC News (@ABC) January 22, 2018
But to side with the Patriots is to cheer for Boston, the city that gave us an Affleck who went from unwatchable actor to unavoidable director and then gave us another Affleck. Boston, a city that will suffer 109 inches of snow—an honest-to-goodness effort by God Himself to destroy the town—but just go on arguing about whether a lawn chair means savesies. Take a hint!
Consider any other outcome. A win for the long-suffering Bills would mean that their fans could finally stop aerially prostrating themselves on folding tables. Bills fans are like Eagles fans, but polite and literate: They deserve a win. Or imagine the Jacksonville Jaguars stealing the show. NBC would love the tie-in possibilities with its zany ensemble comedy “The Good Place,” which features a character whose whole schtick is that he’s a Blake Bortles fan. You aren’t watching “The Good Place”? Can I recommend a Sunday night binge-watch?
Instead, we are in the Bad Place. This country is so racist that legitimate teams in real contention passed on the opportunity to sign Super Bowl–tested quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knock these dummies out, and give us a game to watch. Boston and Philadelphia are ruining the best shot we have at a decent distraction from the nightmare happening all around us. It would be more fulfilling to watch a replay of last week’s Democratic memo versus Republican memo.
Embrace the nation’s most troglodytic fanbase? A city whose main cultural attraction proudly advertised itself as problematic as recently as 2016?
Or cheer for a people who proclaim the virtues of running up the scoreboard? A city that pronounces “manners” like “mayonnaise” and maybe because they think that’s what it means? Boston, a city that thinks they invented coffee because they add it to their sugar?
Football is fundamentally indecent; our children will judge us for supporting it. That much is a given. Yet not watching the Super Bowl is also an awful option. This year’s only winners may be the types who shout “sportsball!” to loudly perform how they don’t even watch football. But c’mon—those jerks are worse than Eagles fans.