The Super Bowl would not be the Super Bowl without a major controversy. Yesterday was not exception. With less than two minutes remaining in a tied game, a holding call on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry all but assured a Chiefs win. Rather than focus on the referees, today’s game analysis will highlight two heroes and the villain who most contributed to the game’s outcome.
Hero #1 is Bradberry. He is exactly what we needed, an anti-George Santos. In a post-game interview, Bradberry admitted he pulled JuJu Smith-Schuster’s jersey. Without the necessity of a courtroom scene reminiscent of A Few Good Men.
INTERVIEWER (quietly): Did you hold Smith-Schuster?
BRADBERRY: I did the job I was sent to do.
INTERVIEWER (much louder): Did you hold Smith-Schuster?
BRADBERRY: You’re goddamn right I did!
Instead, Bradberry explained, “I pulled on his jersey. They called it. I was hoping they would let it ride.” Who did he think the referee was? Bill Barr?
Hero #2 is Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. When asked about the holding call, he refused to take the bait. “It’s not my job to make the call…there’s so many plays that contribute to the end result and today they were better than we were.” When faced with a reporter’s gotcha question, he chose civility. Sirianni is a coach for whom anyone should be proud to play.
If not the game officials, the coaches or any of the players, who deserved the Simon Legree award Sunday evening? The National Football League and its commissioner Roger Goodell. Dr. ESP, how can you say that? Goodell was sitting in the stands with Damar Hamlin and the Kelce brothers’ mother. The only possible connection the league had to the outcome was selecting the officiating team.
The link was easy to miss because it took place years before Super Bowl LVII was played. Fox Sports analyst Howie Long made the connection but did not realize it at the time. During the half-time program, Long was asked, “Can the Chiefs get back in this game?” He prefaced his answer with the following.
During a regular season game the teams are in the locker room for 13 minutes. Tonight, half-time is 29 minutes. That gives a good coach more than enough time to make adjustments.
Halftime actually began around 8:00 pm EST and the second half kickoff came 50 minutes later. Long punctuated his observation, invoking Super Bowl LI when the New England Patriots overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-38 in overtime. Per the title of today’s post, I have dubbed this phenomenon “SLOw the MOmentum.”
What do the 2017 Patriots and the 2023 Chiefs have in common? Both had all-pro quarterbacks and two of the best coaches in recent NFL history. But their opponents had the momentum and the lead at halftime. For a great coach with a talented team, 45 minutes to adjust one’s game plan is more than enough time to turn around a football game.
But there may have been an even more important factor resulting from the artificially prolonged intermission. The extra 35 minutes gave whatever painkillers the Chiefs’ medical team used to alleviate the effects of Patrick Mahomes’ reinjured upper ankle time to kick in. As Dow Corporation used to advertise, “Better living (or in this case, maneuverability) through chemistry.” Whether a more hobbled Mahomes or backup Chad Henne could have as efficiently executed the second-half opening touchdown drive is less probable.
Apply SLO-the-MO to something other than sports. Imagine if, after Joe Biden won the South Carolina Democratic primary, the National Committee postponed Super Tuesday. “Let’s take a month off for the Winter Olympics.” Does anyone doubt Biden’s opponents would have used that time to derail the Biden bandwagon?
Or if Steve Jobs, after introducing the iPhone, took the Apple senior leadership to Austin for a two-week vacation at SXSW. The R&D and marketing departments at Nokia and Motorola would have been working 24/7 to overcome their competition’s surprise announcement.
This has nothing to do with Rihanna or her performance. I will leave that to The Other Guy. I suggest Goodell and the NFL owners consider an alternative. If you want a Super Bowl concert, hold it on Saturday night at the stadium. Bundle tickets for the concert and the game on Sunday. More money for the NFL. Broadcast it live around the world. Apple will still sponsor it. As Jesus might have said, “Render unto Saturday Night what belongs on Saturday Night’s and render unto Sunday what is football.”
For what it’s worth.