Super Bowl XLIV is now set for February 7 in Miami, and the next two weeks will be spent micro-analyzing every minute detail right down to the punctuation.
The New Orleans Saints advance to the "Big Game" for the 1st time, defeating Minnesota in overtime, denying Viking QB Brett Favre another chance for a championship. There will be those that will say that Favre choked when it counted the most again, just as he did 2 years ago vs. the Giants when playing for Green Bay. New Orleans citizens will see this Super Bowl as a sort of epiphany, more than 4 years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. For them, Mardi Gras will start very early if the Saints can take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Indianapolis Colts last played in the Super Bowl just three years ago, beating Chicago. The Colts had to rally from a 17-6 halftime deficit to eliminate the upstart NY Jets, 30-17. I suppose, then, that the Giants would have to follow the pattern and return to the big dance next year, seeing as how Pittsburgh won two of the last 4 Super Bowls, and a Colt win would duplicate that feat.
In the days leading up to the conference championships, I and so many others had assumed that the Vikings were, well, pre-destined to advance to their first Super Bowl in seemingly forever (0-4 in the big game). Madison Avenue advertisers would've profited the most, considering the commercial endorsements of Manning & Favre combined (i.e. Sony, Wrangler, Sears). Instead, another, more personal storyline begins to take shape as the hype for the Super Bowl goes into overdrive.
Archie Manning has seen his two sons, Peyton & Eli, win championships, something he never was able to do when playing for New Orleans. Now, he may play a prominent role in a pre-game storyline. Are his loyalties divided this time, between the Saints, for whom he played his entire NFL career, and Peyton's Colts? You know someone will bring this up at least a dozen or so times.
As icing on the cake, the Manning brothers made Donald Trump look like a total tool. Donald Trump, Sr. & Jr. were the latest team to challenge the Mannings in a convoluted match involving Oreo cookies & milk. Trump the elder wasted too much time cutting a promo, to use wrestling parlance, on Peyton, such that he didn't realize the contest had started, and the Mannings had finished off their milk & cookies before the Trumps could even lift their milk glasses. Somewhere, Vince McMahon is having a few laughs, seeing Trump get totally owned out of his element, something that McMahon couldn't do to Trump three years ago at Wrestlemania. However, if I'm Vince, I'm learning something from Trump's folly.
Of course, one of the great mysteries of life is how Peyton, the most charismatically challenged superstar athlete since Larry Bird, could make Justin Timberlake look like an Olympic gold medalist at ping pong in one ad, yet turn around and turn Trump into chump change.
Back to the Super Bowl. The two best teams in the league are playing for the title. That's the way it's meant to be. For New Orleans, it's a chance to prove that, once and for all, they are an elite team in the NFC. For Indianapolis, a 2nd title in 4 years likely punches Peyton Manning's ticket to Canton and the Hall of Fame. Either way, it's going to be a great game. We hope.