Saturday Sports: Super Bowl Time

Feb 3, 2018
Originally published on February 3, 2018 5:39 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Let's go to sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Football's been down this season with national anthem demonstrations and rising medical evidence that the game causes damage. But Super Bowl L, one, one, I guess we call it - oh, 52 - will be played under the dome in Minneapolis tomorrow with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for the umpteenth time versus the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback by their backup Nick Foles. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. Your cynicism with the Patriots disturbs me a little bit.

SIMON: I like the Patriots. I like the Patriots.

BRYANT: I have to say - the umpteenth time. They've kind of earned it, didn't they?

SIMON: I like the Patriots, and I like Tom Brady. And I - that makes me a cast-out, you know, in many places. But these are two 13-3 teams. But they're not really equals, are they?

BRYANT: Well, they're different. They're very, very different. And I think it's great. This is a good matchup. It's a bad matchup for me because - of course, as a Bostonian. But I also went to Temple University in Philadelphia. I've got both sides, all over me, saying, who's going to win? And, of course, can you get some tickets? But I think it's fun here because, on the one hand, the Eagles, they're a great story.

When Carson Wentz, their starting quarterback, went down with a torn ACL, even the most die-hard Philadelphia fan was like, that's us - season's over. And here they are with Nick Foles, a guy who was supposedly the savior a couple of years ago playing for Chip Kelly. Now suddenly he's back, and he's going - you know, he's 60 minutes away from winning a championship. When you're the Philadelphia Eagles, you're a team that doesn't want to go into this space.

You could go into it with a loss. You would be the third team to go to the Super Bowl three times and not win. As we know, the other two - the Buffalo Bills went four years in a row and lost all of them. And the Minnesota Vikings went four times in the '70s, and they didn't win. That's not a class you want to be in. So a lot of stakes on the Philadelphia side.

SIMON: You know, the thing about the Patriots, too, Howard, is that the score can be almost anything until you get to the fourth quarter, and the Patriots come back.

BRYANT: Well, and that's what's incredible about them is, well, you look at what the Patriots have done obviously in the last 20 years - or the last 17 years going to the Super Bowl as many times as they have. You know, they've got a chance to win six of them which would tie them with Pittsburgh for the most ever. You've got their last two Super Bowls where they're down double digits against Seattle and then had to win on the goal line with the Malcolm Butler interception. And then last year, of course, being down 28 to 3...

SIMON: Oh, amazing.

BRYANT: ...Against the Falcons. You turning the the game off, and you're watching "Game of Thrones" or something else. And then all of a sudden, here they come. And what's funny about that game was the minute Atlanta made just one mistake, you could see it on social media, and you can see it in your living rooms. Are the Patriots really going to win this game? And then here it comes. And they win the first Super Bowl that ever goes into overtime. Obviously, Tom Brady - what he's done is just sort of phenomenal. And it's fascinating.

It's not just fascinating that what - the Patriots have a chance to win a sixth Super Bowl, if you know anything about how hapless that franchise used to be. But it's also something else. They've won so much that maybe the real drama will be what happens after the season. There's been some tension that that the Belichick-Brady dynasty may break up. And if the Patriots - if - imagine what would happen with Patriots fans if they pull a Chicago Bulls of the 1990s where you blow it up a year early.

SIMON: Disgraceful.

BRYANT: I think - completely. But at the same time, when you have big egos, and you've won that much, it's very, very hard to say goodbye to that championship, that pedigree that they have. We'll see what they do.

SIMON: I'm going to call it for the Patriots by six. Howard Bryant, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.