After a long wait, we’ve made it to America’s biggest weekend of the year — the television event that annually draws more viewers than presidential debates, inaugurations and State of the Union addresses. The New England Patriots face off against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick seeking their sixth championship since the turn of the century (and their third ring in four years).
But as we approach Sunday, I feel close to zero hype — and it’s not just because this is my nightmare Super Bowl matchup as a New York Giants fan. I’m simply getting sick of all these damn dynasties.
Let’s recap what has happened in the sporting world since the Pats’ trip to the Big Game last season: The Golden State Warriors lifted their second NBA title in their third consecutive trip to the Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins successfully defended the Stanley Cup for the first time ever in the salary cap era and Alabama topped college football once again to win its fourth national championship of the decade.
Sportswriters love to preach, “appreciate greatness,” during runs of extended dominance. But let’s be honest — in the moment, greatness sucks. Who outside of Alabama, New England or the Bay Area has enjoyed the recent year-to-year repetition? We cherish sports for their unpredictability. Watching the same teams win it all every season eliminates one of the most central reasons why we tune in in the first place. It’s completely irrational, but excellence feels cheap when witnessed so regularly.
So of course, having said all of that, I’m here to tell you: Let’s appreciate the Patriots’ greatness when they (probably) bulldoze the Eagles in Minneapolis.
Because even when compared to their modern counterparts in Tuscaloosa, Pittsburgh or Oakland, the Pats’ preeminence is unprecedented. They will have appeared in eight of the last 17 Super Bowls, and New England last missed the AFC Championship game in 2011. I normally hate when people do this, but here goes: The last time Brady and company didn’t play for a Super Bowl berth, Michael Vick was quarterbacking the Eagles (and Carson Wentz was still a senior in high school). Brandon Moore’s ass hadn’t yet brought an end to Mark Sanchez and “the Sanchize” in New York. Marshawn Lynch had just upset New Orleans with his famous “Beast Quake” run — in Pete Carroll’s debut season with the Seahawks.
With a sixth championship on Sunday, the Patriots will move into a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins ever, having won every single title under owner Robert Kraft and the Belichick-Brady brain trust. It’s almost impossible to overstate how remarkable this feat would be in the context of professional football history. Only the San Francisco 49ers rival New England’s string of Lombardi Trophies in the early 21st century (the Niners won four Super Bowls between 1981 and 1990).
But San Francisco achieved its dynasty thanks to many hands: Jerry Rice — the greatest wide receiver of all time — two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game in Joe Montana and Steve Young and a pair of legendary coaches in Bill Walsh and George Seifert. No single regime has dominated professional football like Kraft, Belichick and Brady; never have 29 teams gotten such a thorough look at the same beast without exposing their weaknesses.
When examined closely, this run of success blows the likes of Golden State, Alabama or Pittsburgh out of the water, thanks to one reason: history. Nick Saban was hailed as the greatest college football coach of all time after guiding his Crimson Tide to its fifth national championship in January, but Bear Bryant won six national titles in Tuscaloosa. The Warriors’ two rings and three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals pale in comparison to the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls or the Los Angeles Lakers’ run under Phil Jackson. Back-to-back Stanley Cups are nice, but remember when Wayne Gretzky led the Edmonton Oilers to five championships in six years?
In other words, when it comes to other “dynasties” in modern sports, they are nothing we haven’t seen before. College football, the NBA and NHL have all had powerhouses under a single transcendent coach or player that won championships by the fistful. Meanwhile, the NFL hasn’t had one since the Green Bay Packers played in a 12-team league in the 1950s. With a win on Sunday, the 21st-Century Patriots will earn a title held by arguably no other franchise in any sport: the greatest team in history.
Obviously, this is no lock. After losing a perfect season to a 9-7 Giants team in Super Bowl XLII, Brady and company know better than anyone that everything could go wrong this weekend despite the odds. But if Philadelphia somehow manages to win its first Super Bowl in franchise history, toppling the New England dynasty while riding its backup quarterback, that would be the most exceptional achievement of all.
Ollie Jung is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Jung Money,” runs Fridays.