Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The National Fairytale League

Around twelve months ago everything that children's sports movies had taught me was shattered, I went cold, the blood drained from my face and i felt the grim claws of reality wrap around my shoulder as a foreboding voice somewhere in the distance excitedly exclaimed "The Steelers have won the Super Bowl". My perception of the world was shattered, if something like this could happen then it was clear that world was not a sandbox of limitless potential, where being plucky and fighting to the end could see you to any victory. If Disney had directed the Super Bowl then it would have been a different story (obviously not Walt Disney himself, that would have been an extremely different story... with a lot less -stiens and -bergs) the Arizona Cardinals would have made a play in the dying seconds to win the game, everyone would have been hugging and crying and the evil land owner would have given up his plans to bulldoze the little league field.

The Cardinals had the perfect back story, at the time of the super bowl their quarter back Kurt Warner was the 3rd oldest quarterback in the league, his Super Bowl victory with the Rams almost a decade before seemed like a distant memory. The Cardinals had only been to the Super Bowl once before in the past 50 years, only to be defeated, whereas in that space of time the Steelers had won the Super Bowl 5 times. The bookies clearly shared the skepticism, with the odds of a Cardinals win almost hitting 50-1. The stage was set for a shocking turn of events, the only thing that stood between the Cardinals and their Disney movie rights were sixty minutes of football.... didn't quite work out.

This year neither the Cardinals nor the Steelers made it even close to the Super Bowl, allowing another two teams to meet for the chance to get their names etched not only onto the Lombardi trophy, but also onto the minds of sports fans everywhere. Once again the storyline was poised for drama. The Saints hail from New Orleans, a city still recovering from the carnage of hurricane Katrina, which claimed over 1500 lives in August 2005. The Saints were effected greatly by the hurricane, having to play their home games in the 2005 season in different stadiums, and then were plagued by rumours that the team may have been permanently relocating to San Antonio. Obviously the natural disaster effected everyone in far more important and profound ways than the trivialities of sport, but is also important to remember that the Saints were also prominent figures in the recovery and rebuilding process that followed. As well as having to contend with the disaster the Saints were also plagued by the fact the franchise had never been to the Super Bowl, and had only made seven play-off appearances in their 40 years in the league, facts that earned the team the nickname "the New Orleans 'Aints". The reputation hit such a low point that a trend swept the stands of the Superdome where fans would wear paper bags over their heads. Despite playing a fantastic season that resulted in a place in the Super Bowl things still looked far from certain for the Saints, as their opponent was the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts were playing the role of the slick juggernaut team in the story. Since their move to Indianapolis from Baltimore in 1985 they had featured in fifteen play-offs, they had also been to the Super Bowl once before and won. Despite only having a single Super Bowl victory (two if you count their time in Baltimore) the Colts are still considered to be one of the super powers in the NFL, due in no small part to future hall of fame-er Peyton Manning. Manning has been a pro bowl selection ten times in his twelve year career and lead the Colts to their Super Bowl victory in 2006.

The David versus Goliath story was ready for a second round, and the plucky Saints underdogs had an arguably greater mountain to climb than the Cardinals had the previous year. Sure everyone wanted the saints to win, but deep down everyone knew the Colts would be the ones lifting the trophy at the end of the day. By the end of the first half it was apparent that the Saints were outmatched, only managing to hit two field goals, and being denied of a touchdown on each visit to the redzone. In the world of cinema we would have seen inside the locker room of the Saints, seen the coach pacing backwards and forwards giving a spirited speech and heard the music dramatically swell. Something similar must have happened, because the Saints came out swinging in the second half, and entered into a dramatic slugging match with the Colts. Like any good sports movie the score swung back and forth dramatically, the Saints first touchdown of the game was followed by another Colts touchdown. The Saints answered the touchdown with a field goal, bring them within one point of equalising, and bringing the dramatic third quarter to a close. In the forth quarter the Saints were able to muster the strength to stop the Colts from being able to give a scoring response of their own, gaining possession of the ball and giving themselves a chance to once again go into the lead, which they did by way of a touchdown with a two point conversion tacked on. This was the moment in a Rocky film where the titular fighter lands the big punch that rocks his opponent, the crowd goes silent, the sound all fades out. The final uppercut came by way of an interception by the Saints, an interception that had a 74 yard return and climaxed with a touchdown.

The saints had done it, in what will be regarded as the feel-good football game of the year, despite the odds being against them the Saints were the Super Bowl champions. I've got to be honest, I actually felt choked up, and shed a tear of joy for the Saints, after all the state Louisiana and the city of New Orleans had been through this win was the final statement that they were back, that they had seen the very worst of it and survived and were now back stronger than ever. Sports films may be cheesy, they may be at times unrealistic, but they serve an interesting purpose, to try and convey the feeling of a victory against the odds and to try and bring a message of hope to people. No matter how good the film, nothing compares to the real life drama that is around us every day, of course it can feel at times that the impossible only happens on the other side of the camera, but every now and then we see a reminder that we should never give up hope. It doesn't matter what country you're from, what sports you like or what team you support, everyone can celebrate this years Super Bowl victory.

As for the next Super Bowl?
I'm calling it!

No comments:

Post a Comment