With the Falcons leading 21-0 in the second quarter of Sunday night’s Super Bowl LI, I sent a declarative five-word text to a group of friends.
“Patriots ain’t winning this shit.”
At 28-9 midway through the third quarter, I doubled down on my forecast with another text message.
“I repeat: Patriots ain’t winning this shit.”
A few Falcons’ possessions wasted by turnovers and dumb penalties later, plus an impossible, gravity-defying catch by Julian Edelman, my confidence began to waver.
Next thing you knew the game was tied and the Patriots were on the doorstep of a game-ending touchdown to cap an improbable and historic comeback that netted quarterback Tom Brady a record fifth Super Bowl win. Nearly 24 hours later, I still don’t understand what happened.
Of course, it’s easy to exude confidence when a team is up 25 points. But it wasn’t just the score. It was the dominance that Matt Ryan and the Falcons displayed, on both sides of the ball, that made it so obvious that they were going to be champions.
And just like that, everything changed.
An NFL game is long. At 60 minutes, it affords a team plenty of time overcome almost any deficit. And as the world witnessed on Sunday night, they key to winning a football game is how you play with a lead. And in that regard, the Falcons failed miserably.
Twice the Falcons were poised to widen their lead. Once following an unsuccessful Patriots onside kick attempt in the third quarter, and the other late in the fourth when they had the ball on the Patriots’ 22-yard line, well within field goal range. Both times, they screwed it up and came away scoreless.
What the Patriots accomplished cannot be understated or diminished. It was a comeback for the ages and arguably the greatest game in NFL history.
But the Falcons were their own worst enemies. For the final quarter and a half, they did almost nothing right.
And as a long-suffering New York Jets fan, Tom Brady is my arch nemesis. For the better part of two decades, he has made me hate football. My distaste for him and his team is half-envy, half-condemnation for the way they go about their business. Plus their dubious ties to Donald Trump are not reassuring.
So all things considered, you can imagine that I was not very pleased on Sunday night. I also feel bad for Matt Ryan, who deserved to win, and their owner Arthur Blank, whose hopelessly somber facial expression as his team was in full-blown collapse mode was just devastating to witness.
On a bright note, though, the weekend was not entirely lost. Saturday Night Live continued its full-throttle assault on Donald Trump, which, honestly, doesn’t really take much effort anymore. All they have to do is reenact the things that are actually happening — like Trump’s head-scratching phone call with Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull late last month.
But, without a doubt, the show-stealer was Melissa McCarthy, who made a surprise appearance about 30 minutes into the show to mercilessly mock White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, whose abrasive attitude and surly demeanor towards the media has made him an easy target.
It was a hilarious, slapstick sketch that only someone of McCarthy’s comedic abilities could have accomplished. She truly is the female reincarnation of Chris Farley, in the best possible way.
Naturally, Spicer was not pleased.
We can only hope that it becomes a reoccurring sketch.
Finally — Lady Gaga. She delivered an energetic, colorful and highly entertaining halftime performance. Most people praised it because they were relieved to see her focus on performing and not politics.
Well, think again.
Lady Gaga is not stupid. She subtly slipped in Woody Guthrie’s famous protest song, “This Land is My Land,” and she did it for a reason.
Consider a verse from the original song, which was not the part that Lady Gaga sang:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.
Well played, Gaga, well played.
Indeed, this land was made for you and me.