The Super Bowl: The Horror & the Glory

Jim Davis/Boston Globe/Getty Images
New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (without helmet) leading his team off the field after his game-saving interception against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, February 1, 2015

During the two weeks before the Super Bowl there were more than 10,000 news articles written about the slight deviation in air pressure of the footballs used by the New England Patriots in their American Football Conference Championship victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, in an attempt to defuse conspiracy allegations, joked in a press conference, “Things are fine—this isn’t ISIS.”

He was right: it wasn’t ISIS. During those two weeks, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was the subject of only seventy-nine articles in The New York Times. “Deflate-gate” was the subject of eighty. These included interviews with football players, who explained why a deflated ball was easier to throw and catch; physicists, who suggested that the deflation might have occurred due to climate effects; logisticians, who opined on the time necessary to deflate a football; and a seamstress of Wilson footballs who vowed, “It’s not Wilson’s fault.” Even the leader of the free world felt obliged to make a statement. “Here’s what I know,” said President Obama on Super Bowl Sunday. “The Patriots were going to beat the Colts regardless of what the footballs looked like.”

In that period Andy Studebaker’s name appeared in only nine articles, all published in sports blogs. Studebaker is the twenty-nine-year-old backup linebacker for the Colts who, while defending a punt return, was blindsided with a gruesome hit to the chest by the Patriots’ backup running back Brandon Bolden. Studebaker’s head jerked back and he landed on his neck. On the sideline after the play Studebaker was seen coughing up blood.

Nor was much made of the fine levied on professional monster Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers for illegally smashing into the defenseless head of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the National Football Conference Championship game. Matthews’s fine was $22,050, or approximately what he earns every ninety seconds of game play. There was also little attention given to the fact that, in the second half of that game, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman injured his left arm so badly that he couldn’t straighten it; he played the final quarter with it bent and pressed tightly to his chest like a chicken wing.

Was it broken? Badly sprained? Was he given shockingly powerful illegal or legal drugs in order to endure the pain? The league, and Seattle, were mum on these points. When asked ten days later about the injury, Sherman said, “It’s a little sore, but not too bad.” Then, with a wink: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” Minutes after the Super Bowl ended it was revealed that Sherman had torn ligaments in his elbow and will have to…

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