Between the comfy couches, homemade guacamole, mesmerizing halftime shows, and hilarious commercials, the Super Bowl is always one of my favorite events of the year. Apparently, there’s a big football game, too. I think the guy from the Papa John’s commercial might be playing this year. Just kidding—I’m well aware of the biggest storylines for Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Here are my top three narratives to watch out for during this Sunday’s big, or as Donald Trump would say, “huuugggee” game:
“The Sheriff” v. “Superman”—I have never been a fan of judging a team-oriented game based on the performance of two quarterbacks. There are 22 players on the field at all times. Maybe give that offensive tackle that has four pancakes despite playing with a broken wrist some credit for once. But then again, I have to be honest with myself—Super Bowl 50 is all about the quarterbacks. Although we will not be watching the circa-2004 “call an audible at the line of scrimmage and throw a wide-open pass to Marvin Harrison” Peyton Manning, we will be watching arguably the greatest quarterback of our generation take the reins for the Broncos, possibly for the last time. He will lead an offense that has been quite erratic at times, perhaps due to his own injuries, but the team still has a solid core of receivers for Manning to throw to. I am confident that Peyton will not let his career finale be a letdown.
On the other side of the field is one of the most intriguing football players of the last decade. At 6'5 and 250 pounds, Cam Newton is revolutionizing the quarterback position with his skill set in the same way Steph Curry has changed the point guard position in the NBA. He can beat opposing defenses with his speed, power, arm strength, and high football IQ. As it is with Manning, this is a legacy game for Cam Newton, as he has the opportunity to establish himself with certainty as a bona fide superstar and a Super Bowl champion quarterback not with a last name, Manning, Brady, Roethlisberger, or Rodgers. Although the Broncos did a terrific job defending Tom Brady’s high powered offense a few weeks ago, prepare to see Super Cam dabbing in the endzone. Sorry, Peyton, I envision the Panthers playing the same game we’ve seen all season, barely holding on to a massive first half lead to become Super Bowl Champions.
The Music v. The Game—There may not be any dancing sharks or Katy Perry doubling as a shooting star, but this year’s lineup will definitely not disappoint. Lady Gaga takes the big stage first, singing the national anthem. Although she is known for her creative and sometimes outlandish costumes, I predict the biggest surprise of her performance will not be her outfit, but rather a relatively more conservative display of her beautiful, classically trained voice. If you are confused by my prediction, go listen to her performance at the 2015 Oscars or her last album Cheek to Cheek, featuring the legendary Tony Bennett. Following Lady Gaga’s rendition of the national anthem, Coldplay, led by singer Chris Martin, will take the stage for what will likely be the most watched concert in 2016, the Super Bowl Halftime Show. While it isn’t Beyoncé (or is it? We will get to that in a second…), Coldplay will be that band that you initially underestimate until they start playing and you turn to your friend, who is using halftime as a chance to put a dent in the glorious array of Super Bowl snacks, and say “Wow, I didn’t know Coldplay sang that song,” about eight songs in a row.
Perhaps just to ensure that the halftime show runs smoothly, the producers decided to add in the two best halftime show performers of the last decade, Bruno Mars, and wait for it… Beyoncé! That’s right, the Queen is back and hopefully her greatness will not burn out the lights like it did in Super Bowl XLVII. While Coldplay and Beyoncé may seem like an odd combination, they did just release a new single together that I assume they will perform, titled “Hymn for the Weekend.” I predict this star-studded lineup to challenge the notion that they are performing at the Broncos and Panthers’ game. By the end of halftime, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay will have many of us wondering why there’s a football game in between a stunningly great concert.
Concussions v. The NFL—In a dark plot twist, the NFL has received numerous metaphorical blows to the head this season from the exposure of its huge concussion problem. Between the countless head injuries, premature retirements, and the strangely disappointing film Concussion, the 2015-2016 NFL season should be renamed “The Year of the Concussion.” This week’s sad news of legendary Raiders quarterback, Ken Stabler’s CTE diagnosis only adds to this overarching motif. The NFL will look to this year’s Super Bowl as a huge indicator of whether the concussion issue has started its effect on its multibillion dollar business. Will people start to lose interest in a game that is essentially played by modern-day gladiators? So far this season, the answer to that question is no and I don’t think they ever will. The bottom line is that fans love big hits. As grotesque as it sounds, think about the crowd’s roar after seeing a 265-pound linebacker collide in the air with a helpless wide receiver across the middle of the field. These type of tackles are the reasons why the NFL fan base has made multi-millionaires out of players like Ray Lewis, Richard Sherman, and J.J. Watt.
Furthermore, I especially do not see the ratings being affected in this year’s Super Bowl. Between Peyton Manning’s last game, the hard-hitting Broncos defense, and Cam Newton’s bulldozing through opposing defenses, football fans would be mistaken to tune out from this Sunday’s game. With entertaining commercials and musical performances, the Super Bowl is practically more of a show than a game anyway. Although the NFL may be affected in the future by talented athletes playing relatively safer sports such as baseball, basketball, or soccer, the NFL is in control over its battle against concussions in the near term.