LOS ANGELES, February 5, 2013—With one minute and fifty seconds left in Super Bowl XLVII, the San Francisco 49ers had the ball on the Baltimore Ravens five yard line. It was fourth down, the last gasp. 15 feet of grass inside the Louisiana Superdome was all that stood between two teams and a world championship. The 49ers trailed by five points in the “Harbowl,” as either John or Jim would be doused in Gatorade.
One day earlier the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced. The NFL also handed out individual 2012 awards at another ceremony. Yet football is a team game, and the most important moment was taking place on the field. The greatest team of 2012 was moments away from earning it the hard way.
The 49ers looked energized at the end. They had Colin Kaepernick, who had started only nine games in his entire career before leading the 49ers to within reach of their sixth Super Bowl win. The Baltimore Ravens had a gutty, aging, and exhausted defense. Ed Reed was in his twelvth season, searching for his first ring. Ray Lewis was taking the final defensive snap of his seventeen year career. Like John Elway fourteen years earlier, he wanted that last snap to end in a victory.
The game would not expected to be this close after a first half dominated by the Ravens. They led 21-6 at the break. Then came a halftime show with Beyonce, which has nothing to do with football. There were some commercials, none of which involved football. Then came the second half kickoff, which Jacoby Jones returned 108 yards for a touchdown as the Ravens led 28-6. Then came a 34 minute power outage as the nation who put a man on the Moon and invented the Internet could not figure out how to work a lightswitch.
The lengthy delay turned the game, as the 49ers stormed back from a 22 point deficit. A failed two point conversion had them down 31-29, and the Ravens tacked on a field goal but failed to put the game away. Joe Montana once led the 49ers 92 yards for a win in less than three minutes. Colin Kaepernick had 80 yards to go and 4:19 to do it. In barely over one minute, 73 of those yards came easily. Then it came down to 4th and goal from the five.
The Ravens were not getting to Kaepernick with their normal rush. With everything on the line, the Ravens defense that had carried this team since their 1996 existence had to go for broke. It was time to bring the house, and send everybody at Kaepernick. Ray Lewis began every game asking his teammates “Any dogs in the house?” Now it was time to unleash eleven rabid dogs when it mattered most.
Kaepernick never had a chance. With pressure in his face, he threw high and incomplete. After an intentional safety to avoid a punt block, the Ravens were world champions for the second time in their history after winning a 34-31 barefisted slobberknocker.
Ray Lewis ended his career with his second ring. Ed Reed got his first. Jim Harbaugh insisted that a defensive penalty should have given the 49ers another chance. Purple confetti streamed down. Celebrations in Baltimore and New Orleans exploded.
Joe Flacco finished 22 of 33 for 287 yards passing, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He was the MVP of the game, and will most likely receive a shiny new one-hundred million dollar contract from owner Steve Biscotti in addition to his shiny new MVP car and his trip to Disney World.
Jacoby Jones shattered the record books and even did the Ray Lewis squirrel dance. After the game, during the trophy presentation, John Harbaugh dedicated the win to OJ Brigance. Brigance played on the 2000 Ravens championship team and now suffers from ALS. Ray Lewis called Brigance his inspiration. Terrell Suggs praised the late Art Modell. One day after Jonathan Ogden entered the Hall of Fame, Ray Lewis began the five year countdown to join him.
When all was said and done, the biggest game in the greatest league in the greatest sport in the history of world civilization gave Americans a thrill ride from start to finish.
The biggest winner was not Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, or even the entire Ravens team. The biggest winner was the National Football League. The NFL desperately needed this. After a tough year marred by terrible occurrences that can be discussed at another time, all of football need this. From Commissioner Roger Goodell to New Orleans residents still recovering from Hurricane Katrina to lovers of football everywhere, this game was an important reminder of what matters on Super Bowl Sunday and every NFL Sunday leading up to it.
Football is not about cheerleaders, halftime shows, snacks, or commercials. Football is about football. Football is football. It is not for the people who tune in one day per annum and demand silence during intermissions while chattering during actual plays. Football is about character, heart and guts. Blood, sweat and tears are not cliches. They are defining traits. They are football.
Shakespeare said “The play is the thing.” In the NFL, the game is all that matters. Ray Lewis is known to many as a guy with a crazy squirrel dance. What Ray Lewis is, is a two time Super Bowl champion who ended his seventeen year career by willing his defense to make one final stand. Five yards separated victory from defeat. One play changed lives forever. The Ravens are NFL champions, and nobody can ever take that away from them.
Fans of the NFL on almost every continent got to witness it. Football belongs to all of us. The best of the human spirit came down to one thrilling defensive stop. We all got to witness it, and nobody can ever take that away from us.
Now it is time to rest, recuperate and recharge. In only six months, the 2013 NFL preseason begins.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS site.
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