By Melanie Woods, February 2 2016 —
This weekend, over a hundred million people around the world will flock to their TVs, local bars and illegal internet streaming services to watch grown men give each other concussions on live television. Super Bowl 50 has officially arrived.
Fittingly, this year’s matchup is a battle of the old guard and the young guns. The weathered champion and the charismatic upstart. The Carolina Panthers’ defence and Peyton Manning’s fragile, tooth-pick-esque neck.
It’s also a meeting of what are arguably the league’s two best teams. The Panthers and the Denver Broncos both held the number-one seeds in their respective divisions this year. Denver had the highest-ranked defence in the regular season, while Carolina had the highest-ranked offence. And both are quarterbacked by a number one draft pick — albeit two players picked 13 years apart.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was nine years old when Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning entered the NFL in 1998. Newton is known for his superhuman athleticism, frequent “dabbing” and his incredibly colourful, well-cut suits.
This season, Newton also started giving footballs to children in the stands each time he scored a touchdown. This practice spread to the rest of the team and now the Panthers are all philanthropic ball-gifters. Imagine being the one kid in your third-grade class in Charlotte, North Carolina without a Newton game ball. That would be a real bummer.
But if this trend is to continue in the big game, there better be some children with a lot of money to shell out on front row end-zone Super Bowl seats — around $4,000.
Super Bowl 50 will likely be a coming out party for Newton and the Panthers’ dynamic personalities. But it also likely marks the end of an 18-year legacy.
Manning’s NFL career is old enough to legally vote on its own. He holds the NFL record for most passing yards and touchdowns by a quarterback and is undeniably one of the smartest players to ever play the game, dismantling defensive schemes with ease. After multiple neck surgeries, however, his head is likely held onto his body by a few pieces of gum and duct tape.
A lot was said about Manning’s on-field exchange with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick following the Broncos’ defeat of Belichick’s Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The future Hall-of-Fame quarterback reportedly said this could be his “last rodeo,” supposedly confirming suspicions that he would retire this offseason.
In all likelihood, Manning was probably conferring with noted dark magic master Belichick about finding a way to steal Cam Newton’s life force. If you notice Newton starting to grey around the edges while Manning manages to actually stand up straight and throw the ball with more gumption than a newborn giraffe, the dark hoodie sorcerer Belichick was at it again, granting one last gift to his long-time AFC opponent. After all, magic is the only way to explain how 38-year-old Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is frozen in a state of eternal youth, right?
Regardless, the game extends beyond the narratives of the aging veteran and the charismatic up and comer. This is a tale of two 53-player teams duking it out to win the Lombardi Trophy and see who’s the best in a league that excuses domestic violence, causes long-term brain damage and was overtaken by slightly deflated footballs this time last year.
Really, no prize could be higher.
Carolina: 38 (the number of footballs given to adorable children whose parents paid $4,000 to be there)
Denver: 17 (the number of times Peyton Manning will try to psych out the media before finally announcing his retirement this offseason)