The National Football League (NFL) season this year has been one of the strangest ones I’ve ever seen. You have the storied Green Bay Packers, only the second team in history to nearly have a perfect season. The other team to reach for this golden ring was the 2007 New England Patriots.
Only one team has been able to complete an undefeated season climaxing with a Super Bowl win. That team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The number of games played then was a fourteen game season. Then tack on the playoff games and you come up with seventeen games. The schedule was changed from 14 to 16 regular season games in 1978. When you add the playoff games and the Super Bowl, you have nineteen games. So as you can see, going undefeated for nineteen games is quite the challenge. The Patriots won 18 straight in 2007 finally losing in the last minute of the Super Bowl against the New York Giants. This year’s Green Bay Packers won 13 straight before stumbling against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team the Packers should have easily handled. But as they say, “That’s why they play the game!”
Then there is the performance of quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints who managed to break the single-season passing record, a record that had stood for 27 years. Miami Dolphins great, Dan Marino, set the record of 5,084 yards in 1984. Brees broke the record in the 15th game of the season this year, concluding the season with 5,476 yards. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was the third quarterback in history to throw for more than 5000 yards. Unfortunately for him he did it in the same season as Drew Brees, coming up 241 yards short of Brees’ newly established record.
And of course we had the theatrics of Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos. This young man absolutely mesmerized the football world with his ungainly skills as an NFL quarterback. He captivated fans with his “Tebow Time,” a point in the game, usually at the end of regulation play, where he leads his team to victory, eking out a last minute win. They managed to get into the playoffs, and against all odds, beat a very solid Pittsburgh Steelers team. Tebow has been a lightning rod of criticism ostensibly for his lack of football skills, but the truth is he has been vilified for his open and unashamed faith in Jesus as his Savior.
Not to be outdone, the San Francisco 49ers had the surprise season in the NFL this year. They have languished for ten years or so as a poor team, changing coaches routinely, until they hired Jim Harbaugh last spring away from his position as head coach of the Stanford University “Cardinal” football team. No one could foresee what the 49ers would do, finishing the season at 13 wins and 3 losses. After all, they had this rookie coach from the college ranks, plus a quarterback in Alex Smith who was considered to be second rate, if that.
So here’s my dilemma. I was born and raised in New England. My step father hailed from just outside of Boston so we would always cheer for all-things Boston: The Boston Patriots (Later changed to the New England Patriots); the Boston Celtics (Basketball); and the Boston Red Sox (Baseball). So my default team in sports has always been these Boston-based teams. However, in 1965, our family moved to California where I have pretty much resided ever since. Living close to the Bay Area, I adopted the San Francisco 49ers as my team. This posed no real problem for me as the Patriots and the 49ers are in different leagues and rarely play each other, especially since the 49ers have had such horrid teams of late. That has now changed. It is entirely possible that these two favorite teams of mine will face each other in the Super Bowl. That is a prospect I both welcome and dread.
I have also enjoyed watching the New Orleans Saints emerge as a classy team, finally winning the Super Bowl in 2010. They have shed the dreaded label of the “Ain’ts,” meaning they could never win. Fans would go to the games wearing brown paper bags over their heads because they did not want to be seen cheering for such a lack-luster team. I spent nearly twenty years traveling to New Orleans serving in various Marine and Navy reserve commands. I sympathized with the Saints and their fans. But all that has changed. The Saints are no longer the “Ain’ts,” and Brees holds the passing record.
Plus I’ve become a Denver Broncos fan because of Tim Tebow. I would love to see them continue to win in the playoffs simply to vindicate Tebow’s efforts as an NFL quarterback and his public expression of his Christian faith. Tebow is the best thing to happen to the NFL in a long time. His demeanor and godly character are a breath of fresh air. And I like the way Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, has lead his team to last year’s Super Bowl win, and to a near-perfect season this year.
This year’s Super Bowl will be played Sunday, February 5. You can be sure I’ll be watching. So, whether the Patriots win, or the 49ers win, or the Packers win, or the Saints win, or the Broncos win, I’ll be a happy camper!