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A Super Bowl that isn’t about the game, for once

Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us. Few events—in sports, in pop culture and in life—resonate with the nation enough to have a day set aside for as many people as Super Bowl Sunday. Hardcore football fans, casual sports fans, Black Eyed Peas fans, fans of commercials and anyone connected to any of those groups all come together for one Sunday of football.

And for once, I honestly don’t care who wins. At all.

As anyone who has read my column or been within 10 feet of me in the past decade knows, I’m a pretty big Indianapolis Colts fan. That also comes with the corollary of hating the New England Patriots (all of them, not just the Justin Bieber look-alike at quarterback or their coach, Oscar “cutoff-hoody” Grouch).

These two allegiances alone have given me a clear rooting interest in six of the past nine Super Bowls. Add in a general preference for the underdog (hello, NFC West) and I’ve had a pretty easy time making my decision the past decade. Only the boredom-inducing blowout of Super Bowl XXXV (I’ll never understand how a team quarterbacked by Trent Dilfer won by 27) stands out in my memory as a game I really didn’t care about.

But here we are: Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Two historic franchises—the first Super Bowl winners and the most prolific Super Bowl winners, respectively. Two good quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger with the rings and the vague terms like “intangibles,” “leadership” and “toughness,” and Aaron Rodgers as “way more than Brett Favre’s replacement”) with something in their pasts that makes you a little skeptical (Roethlisberger’s rape allegations, Rodgers’ alma mater). Two good defenses, neither of which has anything more polarizing than Troy Polamalu’s hair. Two good coaches, neither of which has much of anything polarizing.

However I look at it, there’s just no clear-cut team to root for. Growing up with a Vikings fan for a mom, I could never really like the Packers… but Favre is gone and they’re not nearly as hate-inducing now. The Steelers have always been one of those teams people hate, but they’re much less of the “big, bad Steelers” now, and the main thing to hate about them seems to be Roethlisberger… but I loved watching him in college.

So the moral of the story is this: I don’t care who wins. It’s certainly a weird feeling, but I’m excited for the change. I’m excited to watch a Super Bowl just to watch the game.

And really, unless you’re a hardcore fan (or hater) of one of the teams, Super Bowl Sunday is about so much more than the game.

Super Bowl Sunday is about the prop bets (my money is on heads, deferring, short national anthem and odd-numbered jersey for the first touchdown scorer). It’s about the Super Bowl parties. It’s about eating nachos and wings and hot dogs and burgers and drinking soda and water and tea and juice and milk (no one would think about drinking alcohol on Super Bowl Sunday, of course).

It’s about making those score charts where your grandma and that sketchy guy your friend brought win the biggest prizes after one team has two extra points blocked and the score ends up 26-12. It’s about playing games and throwing darts and getting shushed by your sister when the commercials come on.

And maybe, after all that, it’s about the game. Sure, I love sports as much as anyone, and football most of all. I become more furious with refs than John McEnroe, and I will eat you alive faster than Joey Chestnut if you block the TV during the game. I want to see every play of every game and hear what the analysts have to say about each play, even if it’s just Tony Siragusa talking about being hungry or someone explaining the rules of football to Terry Bradshaw.

But Super Bowl Sunday is about more than just the game, and for just this once, I’m excited to enjoy the whole thing.

Jacob Jaffe has the diet of a preschooler. Set up a date for cookies and juice at [email protected]

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