For many years the Super Bowl did not live up to its name. A succession of boring games encouraged fans to pay more attention to the wings and the beer than the field. Recent editions have changed the pattern. The trend culminated with Sunday’s stunner.
The New England Patriots stormed back from a daunting deficit to win the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. The Pats-Falcons game rivaled the 1958 NFL championship between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, previously considered the best game of all times. Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl ring. His dinner at Tiffany’s establishes him as the greatest quarterback not named Johnny Unitas. The Patriots have won more Super Bowls than any other squad from the American Football League. Monday morning’s quarterbacks wondered whether the Falcons suffered the worst collapse or the Patriots produced the greatest comeback. We vote for a little of both, with a Pats charge enjoying a slight edge.
The Super Bowl reminded us that sports, especially games that could be called the best-ever, could be a much needed respite from body-blow politics. We’re on a streak of impressive championships. When they won pro basketball’s crown, the Cavaliers gave Cleveland its first title in a major pro sport since the Browns won the 1964 NFL championship. The drought made the mistake by the lake look like the Mojave. Last year the Chicago Cubs beat the curse. Wrigleyville fans anticipate a dynasty.
For those still feeling beaten down by February’s grim political climate despite Sunday’s excitement, spring training awaits. Baseball remains the best. The Atlanta Braves will open a new stadium not in the city center but in the suburbs. Atlanta’s traffic deters attendance downtown; the team has decamped to where its fans reside. The project is called a live/work/play development; the ballpark will anchor residential housing, commercial real estate and retail stretches. Richmonders have heard this before. Residents of Atlanta have heard it, too.
The minor-league Braves moved to world-class Gwinnett in 2009, after efforts to build new digs in Richmond failed. Boosters in Georgia envisioned comprehensive growth. The projections have not proven correct. The Braves rank last in attendance in the International League. The surroundings do not resemble boom towns such as Houston or Phoenix, either. The Flying Squirrels replaced the Braves in Richmond; central Virginia has taken Nutzy and Co. to its heart. Although they play in a lower league, the Squirrels outdraw the Braves. At a recent Hot Stove celebration, representatives of the San Francisco Giants, the Squirrels’ parent club, praised the local team.
The hunt for a new stadium persists, but the Squirrels seem more popular than the Braves. Opposition to a park in Shockoe Bottom contributed to Jack Berry’s defeat in 2016’s mayoral election. The booster community proved itself out of touch. The Braves’ new home does not inspire confidence, either. Atlanta is not a baseball town; no one would mistake it for St. Louis, home of the Cardinals and the summer game’s capital. Baseball’s approach excites us very much. We root for the pinstripes, thank you. Play ball!