For National Football League fans, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
And if you're wondering what the dickens that means, consider: Super Bowl Sunday is indeed the best of times. At the culmination of a superb season of football, after a riveting regular season and a playoff run that only ramped up the excitement, the big game finally arrives.
Super Bowl XLVII. All pretenders have been exposed, all but two contenders have fallen, and we're left with The Clash Of The Titans. Or, at very least, The Clash Of The Two Teams That Remain Alive At The End Of The League's Annual War Of Attrition.
And finally, the answer to the mystery that has been unfolding before our eyes since September: what team is tops in the National Football League? The San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens? And, please, for the sake of those who are all Jim-and-John-ed out, don't say the one that's coached by a Harbaugh...
Ah, but it is also the worst of times. Forget the seven-layer bean dip (bean there, done that), the crazy-gooey guacamole and incendiary chili, there are parts of the Super Bowl that are impossible to stomach. Things like the interminable layoff between Championship Sunday and Super Bowl Sunday. The heinous hype leading up to the big game. And the coverage overkill.
Honestly, it's like being waterboarded, but by sports-speak and platitudes in place of water. Is it even possible for anyone to watch the entire thousand hours of pre-game coverage (without mercifully slipping into a coma), replete with interviews and insights that tend to be about as hard-hitting as the tackles at the Pro Bowl, repeated viewings of Ray Lewis' caricature dance (is the guy a Raven or a Rockette?), and talk, talk, talk about the Super Bowl commercials? After Lewis and the Harbaugh boys, the most talked-about person in the universe on Super Bowl Sunday is... model Kate Upton. Who was also the most talked-about person at the last World Series.
I'm sensing a trend.
And speaking of the worst of times: for casual fans of the game -- and for those who have less-than-zero interest in the contest, but have nonetheless taken it upon themselves to invade your personal space just to partake in the party (that's right, weird Uncle Willard, I'm talking about you) -- the Super Bowl is all about the booze and the blarney, the social and the spread (the average American will consume a full day's calories -- 2,000 -- in under three hours; ah the Super Bloat). But to football fanatics, this is all blasphemy. Forget the All-American orgy that is the Super Bowl. To the fanatic, it's about the Bowl, not the blowout.
To boot, that poor unsuspecting fanatic is about to be blindsided. A long period of darkness is about to descend. Indeed, when the Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the winning team's owner, and then duly handed off to The Last Harbaugh Standing, then, and only then, does the fanatic realize. It's over. For another year. So long football, see you in September.
Like the hangover after a big game ain't bad enough, there are seven solid months of withering withdrawal. Friends will invariably try to console. There's always hockey and basketball, they will say, and baseball's spring training opens soon.
Alas, it ain't the same. Not for the fanatic who lives for Sundays and his/her football fix.