$.01--Anytime the Super Bowl comes down to a deciding moment with less than two minutes to go, it’s a great game. While the final score reads Kansas City 31, San Francisco 20, the game was much closer than the margin of victory. 

The duel between Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo, the charismatic young QBs at the helm of the resurgent franchises, was the prime storyline all week. It proved to be the deciding factor in Super Bowl LIV. 

Mahomes did not look like the 2018 MVP or the guy who has been the catalyst of the dynamic Chiefs offense the last two seasons for most of the game. He was impacted by the pressure from the 49ers front, making poor decisions and missing some throws that he normally delivers expertly. His first INT was one of the worst throws you’ll ever see him make, a misread and terrible decision to try and force the ball late over the middle. 

As great ones do, Mahomes persevered. He rallied the Chiefs for two TD drives with less than 10 minutes remaining to catapult Kansas City into the lead. The Chiefs defense produced an important stop in between, doing their part. The second drive, which put the Chiefs up 24-20 with under three minutes to play, was brilliant: seven plays, 65 yards, three first downs and complete manipulation of the opposing defense. 

The 49ers got one chance to answer. One chance for Garoppolo to prove he’s worth the nearly $140 million contract the Niners gave him after just five games. He had his shot on a 3rd down throw to Emmanuel Sanders, who was wide open behind the defense for a sure go-ahead TD. Garoppolo missed him by a good three steps. 

Garoppolo had been so good earlier, but the pressures from both the Chiefs defense and the enormity of the situation were more than he could handle. Mahomes flipped that script, emerging from an unimpressive start to finish at his best. That’s the difference in the game, why the Chiefs are world champions for the first time in 50 years and why the 49ers are so close, yet so far away.  

$.02--People always get caught up in legacies after Super Bowls. How does it impact the historical perspective on players, coaches, teams? 

I generally eschew that discussion. I don’t like being a prisoner of the moment or being overreactive to what we just witnessed. It’s Mahomes’ 3rd season, after all; his story has many more chapters, though winning an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP by age 24 (in separate seasons, no less) is about as incredible of a start as you can ask for. But in the case of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, I’ll make an exception. 

This Super Bowl LIV win guarantees Reid is a Hall of Fame head coach. No longer is he the coach with the most victories but no Super Bowl wins. For years he’s been the proverbial “best coach to never win one”. Now he’s got his victory, his catharsis, his proof in his life mission, his Inigo Montoya slaying the 6-fingered man. 

Now the focus will be on just how impressively consistent Reid’s teams have been in both Philadelphia and now Kansas City. He’s won 10 or more games in eight of his last 11 seasons as a head coach. Reid has just one losing season as a continuously employed head coach since 2005. The Super Bowl win gives Reid a career 15-14 mark in the postseason, with a 207-128-1 regular-season record in 21 years. That’s a lot of really good years with his trademark offensive flair. 

Congrats to Reid and to long-suffering Chiefs fans who wore the misery of their coach’s postseason failures on their sleeves. 50 years is a long time to wait, but it’s better now than never. 

$.03--The halftime show

Right off the bat: I can’t stand Latin/dance music. And I loathe diva pop even more. So having Jennifer Lopez and Shakira as the headline performers is admittedly not something I was too excited about. 

The performance was lively. Well-choreographed. Upbeat and well-paced. Befitting the Miami setting, it was colorful and elaborately costumed...and required minimal fabric. My 14-year-old son certainly appreciated that. 

JLo on the stripper pole was a bit much. The guest rappers, neither of whom I could begin to identify, did little to drive forward the action. Transitioning from JLo on a stripper pole into a children’s choir made for an odd visual statement. Again, the music is not at all my bag so I won’t judge that other than on the artistic merit that everyone was nicely synced with the tracking.  

It was nowhere close to the Prince halftime show in the rain, the gold standard of Super Bowl shows. I enjoyed the Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars performances more as well. This year’s production was quite a bit more inspired and enjoyable than Coldplay, Shania Twain, the Rolling Stones or (God forbid) The Who, which takes my cake as the worst-ever halftime since Michael Jackson made the show relevant some 25 years ago. 

$.04--The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2020 as part of the NFL Honors presentation on Saturday night. It’s a class chock full of recent retirees near the beginning of their collective eligibility.

The five players who earned spots in Canton:

Steve Atwater

Isaac Bruce

Steve Hutchinson

Edgerrin James

Troy Polamalu

Atwater, the great Broncos safety, is the only enshrinee who didn’t play as late as the 2009 season. He retired in 1999. 

All are deserving of being in the Hall of Fame. Would they have been my top five choices among the group of finalists? Probably not. I don’t get how Isaac Bruce got in before longtime Rams teammate Torry Holt, though that’s not a diss on Bruce. I’d probably have chosen Alan Faneca over Hutchinson among interior linemen from that era, too. Bruce was phenomenal. Hutchinson dominated for years. They belong in Canton. 

My view tends to rely less on numbers and with more emphasis on the “fame”. Can the story of the NFL of the player’s era be accurately told without including that player? For me, that supersedes statistical accomplishments. It shouldn’t be the only reason they get in; see Tim Tebow or Aaron Hernandez. But I’m more in favor of a guy like Polamalu, who was wildly popular and nationally recognizable, getting in than someone who might have played longer and racked up more statistical accomplishments like Darren Sharper (who won’t get in for wretched off-field reasons) or Leroy Butler.

A quick perusal of the NFL media landscape was really disappointing. I found 50-plus pieces on the Hall of Fame snubs. Other than the teams’ own websites and NFL.com, it was hard to find anything about the guys actually selected for induction. That’s a sad indictment on the overriding emphasis on negativity that permeates our media and our nation. 

Congrats to the Hall of Fame Class of 2020. You all deserved it. 

$.05--The Ads

The pregame ad “Take it to the house, kid” leading into the game with the kids running onto the field was the best production the NFL has done all year. Honoring the late Pat Tillman, my personal hero, was a great touch. Kudos to the young lead actor, he was really impressive. Bravo!

Ads I liked:

The Jason Momoa ad from Rocket Mortgage. Well-conceived and Momoa played it very well. 

Wal-Mart pickup service featuring all the alien incarnations. I’ll still never shop at Wal-Mart but their ads are great. 

MC Hammer Cheetos. Hard to believe Hammer Time was 30 years ago…

Post Malone and Bud Light Seltzer. He was really good. I’m still a beer guy though. 

The Alexa ad starring Ellen and Portia De Rossi traveling through time without digital assistance. Smartly written. 

Michelob Ultra with John Cena training Jimmy Fallon. A little close to home but entertaining.

Jeep Gladiator Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. Nice of at least one company to recognize the game taking place on Groundhog Day.

Ads that missed for me:

The Tide Pods ad featuring the whiny guy from Horrible Bosses. Just didn’t reach me. My daughter and wife liked it, however. 

Turbo Tax with the dancing. Sadly I expect to see that about 378 times between now and the Combine…

The Pringles ad featuring the cartoon. I don’t need any more disturbing animation in my life, thank you very much.

Baby Mr. Peanut. Only because it feels like a prolonged setup to bring Mr. Peanut back in a later incarnation that probably won’t be very good. 

Bonus cent: A celebration of life

On Monday, January 20th, my brother-in-law passed away from ALS. James Bortak, my wife’s brother, had just turned 50. He is survived by his wife, Becky, his adult son Kyle and an awesome 5-year-old son, Augie, as well as my wife, their brother Bob and their mother. 

This isn’t a sad story, however. We all knew the end was coming. ALS works that way, insidiously and often quickly. And we’re blessed that our last memory with him was a joyous occasion, thanks in part to our family love of football.

We celebrated Jim’s 50th birthday at his home in Detroit by watching the Houston Texans/Buffalo Bills playoff game in the Wild Card round. My wife and especially our kids are huge Texans fans from living in Houston from 2010-2013. It was a thrilling comeback win and everyone got into it. We got loud when Deshaun Watson broke out of the double-team sack and hit Taiwan Jones for the impossible play to set up the game-winning field goal. Even Jim, who could still talk but was difficult to understand, was in on the excitement. 

It was the last time anyone other than his wife and son saw Jim alive. None of us will ever forget that cold January day at his house. The entire family together, happy, enjoying life. Sports are a huge part of the family dynamic, and they made what could have been a sad situation one of joy instead. 

Jim was a huge Detroit sports fan. At his funeral, a display of his fandom was prominent at the altar: Tigers, Red Wings, Lions and Michigan Wolverines hats. I’ve known him for almost 30 years and can count the number of times I saw him without one of those hats on without getting to my toes. Loving the Lions--no easy task--helped us understand one another. I’m going to miss the commiserating. RIP, my brother.