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Naylor: 46th Super Bowl Week among the best ever

Dave Naylor
2/7/2012 10:26:51 AM
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Sometimes the National Football League can't help but get it right.

North America's most profitable professional sports league shuts down for a few months last spring and returns with a dream Super Bowl matchup that becomes the most watched television program in U.S. history.

It brings the February event to small, Midwestern Indianapolis and gets temperatures in the 60's and an outpouring from locals that lifts the 46th Super Bowl Week to among the best ever.

While the future of one Manning - Peyton, who just happens to be the game's best player - hangs in doubt, the next Manning - Eli, raises his game to vie for that very same distinction.

And after a season in which the game was occasionally criticized for paying too little attention to old-style running the football and defence, the playoffs proved that black-and-blue football is very much still alive and well.
 
This NFL season had a little bit of everything, just like the recent Super Bowl Week that featured huge star power, a little drama and an unmatched degree of local enthusiasm.

It can sometimes feel as though the locals don't really have a place at Super Bowls Week. But that wasn't the case in Indy, where unbridled enthusiasm for Super Bowl XLVI started more than a week before kickoff and gained steam on the run up to kickoff.
 
By Friday night, the buzz in the streets in and around the city was so palpable you'd have thought that somehow the Colts had found a way to get into Sunday's game.
 
There was the typical Super Bowl gouging (many bars and restaurants jacked up prices to meet the demand in the spirit of pure capitalism at work), but it's safe to say the considerable skepticism about this city's ability to pull off such an event proved to be misguided.
 
Not that the Patriots and Giants needed any help fixated Indianapolis' attention on football last week but, just in case, the city's own football hero found enough time to make his considerable presence felt as well.
 
It's hard to know what to make of Peyton Manning's presence in Indy, his Tuesday interview with ESPN, subsequent media availability and the fact that - coincidentally, surely - news broke on Thursday that two doctors had told him he could safely return to football.
 
Manning has always seemed like the ultimate team guy, the guy incapable of taking anything but the high road. But with his football future hanging in the balance, not to mention a $28 million bonus due to him from the Colts in early March, there's the sense that Manning's divorce from the Colts could move in the direction of that one that involved another future Hall of Fame quarterback.
 
Did the Manning drama draw attention from the Super Bowl XLVI? Sure it did. But it's not like there was any loss here for the NFL, distraction or not.
 
The storyline of Giants versus Patriots was delicious from any angle, even though few people saw this matchup coming for most of the season.

On its own, the 46th Super Bowl game was a more-than decent football contest. But when put into the current series of matchups between the Patriots and Giants, it was far more than that (and that was before Giselle added her spice to the way this game will be remembered).

Not surprisingly, the NFL commissioner's address on Friday of Super Bowl Week made Roger Goodell seem like a man who doesn't have a true care in the world.
 
Armed with a new 10-year labour agreement and new television contracts that are the envy of the industry, Goodell painted a picture of a league that has the luxury of sitting back and tweaking itself from one year to the next, just to make sure it continues to leave the rest of the pro sports world in its dust.
 
The NFL will continue to emphasize health and safety for its players but the big steps in that direction have already been taken. It might go back to Los Angeles, but won't unless all the pieces fall into place. It isn't considering expansion at this time or planning to make Northern Super Bowls regular events but, who knows, it might.
 
With the Vince Lombardi Trophy handed out to the Giants, and another chapter added to the legacy of the Eli Manning, the NFL will quickly turn its attention back to Peyton's drama, the upcoming scouting combine and draft, and the annual shuffle of places and faces leading up to mini-camp season in May.
 
The NFL can look forward to a return to Super Bowl Week in New Orleans next February and another redemptive date - New York City - the year after that, each of which will bring a unique flavour to the biggest event on the American sporting calendar.
 
But both will have trouble delivering an overall experience more satisfying than Indianapolis.



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