Everyone thought it was over. In Super Bowl LI, the Patriots were down 28-3 with just over 23 minutes to play. Tom Brady dejected, eyes wide, shoulders on his knees, lifeless on the sideline. Even President Donald J. Trump left his Super Bowl party at his Florida golf club.
What happened next, however — we all know what happened next.
A couple marvelous drives later, a favorable overtime coin toss and some of the greatest catches in the game’s history, the confetti dropped on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their fifth Super Bowl title.
This game will not be soon forgotten. I would not be surprised if people still remembered where they were during this historic event, even 20 years down the line. It was the kind of the game that might have saved the popularity of the NFL, which has seen low numbers in viewership this season.
This year’s Super Bowl was much more than just a game.
On one side of the field was the New England Patriots, a team whose name has become so intertwined with winning that it is almost nauseating. This year, the Pats came to represent the All-Americans. New England has the league’s most patriotic name and is the team who played like the typical All-American team they are, with the pure pocket-passing QB and the head coach who always made the old-school, boring, conservative decisions.
New England played the game the way it was originally decisioned. No flash. They always punted, and they always won.
Beyond that, the Pats also came to represent the alt-right. In fact, there has never been a team more closely linked to a political figure than the Pats have been to the newly minted President.
Team owner Robert Kraft has long been a close personal friend of Mr. Trump and attended his inauguration in Washington. Although Head Coach Bill Bellichek has declared himself as apolitical to the press, he has also been linked to Trump.
Stir about Tom Brady’s relationship with Trump began last year, when a red “Make America Great Again” cap was spotted in his locker. Since then, Brady has declined to answer any political questions, going so far to even dodge basic questions about immigrant rights at this year’s Super Bowl media day.
While Bellichek and Brady have been quiet about their support, President Trump has been much more vocal. Following the game, Trump tweeted, “What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!”
It is easy to see the link between Patriots and the Trump, and their Super Bowl win played out very much like his election. Down 28-3, the Falcons were projected by the Wall Street Journal as having a 91.6% chance of winning. In response, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “Where have I seen stats like this before???”
The Patriots’ unforeseen and almost unbelievable comeback is no doubt eerily allusive to that underdog who descended the escalator almost two years ago.
If the Patriots are this year’s “winners,” then the Falcons have come to represent America’s other half. Atlanta is the rags-to-riches, grind-it-out city: the liberals who have fought through violence and poverty. If New England is the old school, Atlanta is the new wave, with their white t-shirts, gold-chains and rap music. New England has Mark Wahlberg; Atlanta has Migos.
From 6:30 p.m. to midnight on Sunday night, America tuned into the game that turned into the country’s year in review.
Cultures clashed, the right battled the left, and yeah, the Patriots beat the Falcons.