Was this Sunday’s Super Bowl the biggest comeback in American football history? Or was it the biggest choke job?
Answers may differ — depending on if you were rooting for the New England Patriots (who emerged victorious in spectacular fashion after being down 28-3 with two minutes left in the third quarter) or the Atlanta Falcons (who gave up 31 straight points to lose the first Super Bowl to go into overtime).
Either way, each of the 100 million-plus viewers in the U.S. and the 50 million-plus viewers worldwide would have to agree that the NFL’s 51st Super Bowl was dramatic and historic. We would go one step further, and say it was inspirational.
On Sunday, the Patriots’ Tom Brady cemented his place as the consensus greatest quarterback of all time, by virtue of his heroic efforts in his team’s improbable comeback, which in itself was a parallel to his own season-long comeback from the reputational damage inflicted by the “Deflategate” scandal.
(In a nutshell, “Deflategate” concerned the allegation that the Patriots deliberately underinflated footballs used in a playoff game in January 2015. After wrangling in the NFL head office and the U.S. court system, Brady eventually accepted a four-game suspension to start off this past season.)
Just to put his performance in context, according to Fox Sports, Brady broke the following records on Sunday: Most Super Bowl championships by a quarterback (five), most Super Bowl MVP awards (four), most passing yards in a Super Bowl (466), most pass attempts in a Super Bowl (62), most pass completions in a Super Bowl (43), most fourth-quarter comebacks in Super Bowls (three) and most game-winning drives in the NFL postseason (10).
As with everything, it seems, in the U.S. nowadays, the Super Bowl was not untinged with political rumblings, including in some of the advertisements, which tend to draw attention to the TV event as much as the game itself. (Indeed, some pundits have even tried to make a political controversy out of the fact that Super Bowl halftime performer Lady Gaga deliberately abstained from making an overt political statement, apart from an unadulterated show of patriotism.)
In regard to Brady specifically, he had attracted criticism before the game for saying he had the right to stay out of discussions of politics in public … or, put another way, for being suspected by adversaries of being supportive of President Trump.
For the record, Brady was spotted in 2015 with one of then-candidate Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” caps hanging in his locker. (The cap had been given to him by Patriots’ team owner Bob Kraft.) At the time, Brady quipped that he was hoping for a President Trump because he’d be sure to install a putting green on the White House lawn. (Actually, a putting green was first installed on the White House lawn by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1954 … but anyway …)
President Trump, who first met Brady in 2002 when the quarterback was judging one of his beauty pageants, defended Brady publicly during the Deflategate episode and has called him a “great friend.”
There are a number of metaphysical connections to be made, as well.
For instance, both Brady and President Trump are married to non-American-born supermodels who go by a single name (Gisele, Melania).
Both achieved victory following periods where they had been roasted by the media for so-called scandals (For Brady, Deflategate … For Trump, take your pick.) And both did so while overcoming the odds set by “experts” (At one point in the fourth quarter, ESPN had pegged the probability of the Patriots winning at an infinitesimal 0.4 percent.)
As one national commenter, tongue planted firmly in cheek, said on social media: “I can’t believe the guy with the foreign model wife and a sketchy history with the rules just won after being written off.”