Sports chatter notwithstanding, it won’t be number 12 or number 15 delivering the greatest influence on Sunday’s Super Bowl LV.
Number 12 belongs to Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, increasingly dubbed the NFL’s GOAT (Greatest of All time), while number 15 is worn by Patrick Mahomes, who in just his third year as QB of the Kansas City Chiefs is already being touted as Brady’s perhaps GOAT successor.
Brady is 43, owns six Super Bowl rings, and remains under centre after more than two decades of stardom in a league where according to the NFL Players Association the average career spans just 3.3 years.
Mahomes is 25, possesses one Super Bowl ring, and were he to lead the Chiefs to victory Sunday, will earn ring number two a year younger than was Brady when the GOAT locked up his second.
It is trivia like this that occupies the SB55 discussion in the lead-up to the game.
That is until number 19 enters the conversation — number 19, as in COVID-19.
Already SB55 is heavily compromised by number 19. No roiling with boisterous fans in downtown Tampa, feeding the city and Florida economies. No daily players and coaches’ media-fests. And no tailgating parties outside Raymond James Stadium.
Raymond James will be populated not by a customary Super Bowl sold-out house of 65,890, but rather by 25,000 fans and 30,000 cutouts. That’s all in deference to the threat posed by number 19.
Fans lucky enough to attend Super Blow LV will be required to maintain six feet of separation while wearing a KN95 mask provided courtesy of the NFL.
As a tribute to their selfless care for others as the pandemic leaves a trail of fear and destruction, 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers have been invited by the National Football League.
It will be COVID-19, though, that ultimately determines who attends SB55 in person. Non-stop testing of players, coaches, game officials, sideline crews, media — in fact, everyone entering the stadium — will continue until and perhaps beyond kickoff.
How about a Super Bowl party? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States is urging anyone planning on attending an SB55 party anywhere to neither cheer nor chant, to limit alcohol consumption and avoid bars and restaurants.
The CDC’s official advice? “Gathering virtually or with the people you live with is the safest way to celebrate the Super Bowl this year.”
Once the Chiefs and Buccaneers get down to the business chasing the Lombardi trophy though, fans should find much to cheer or agonize over.
Beyond Brady and Mahomes, there is the unmatched team speed of the Chiefs, their score from anywhere on the field potential, and plays a fan might be excused believing are simply made up on the fly.
The Buccaneers have one of the NFL’s top pairings of defensive lines and linebackers and enough offensive weapons, particularly, at receiver, to cause the Chiefs an evening’s migraines.
For fans who look forward to invariably high energy, superstar-loaded halftime entertainment, SBLV will showcase triple Grammy Award-winning Canadian star The Weeknd whose real name is Abel Tesfaye.
Commentary: Rick Zamperin on Super Bowl LV
Whom to pick, Chiefs or Buccaneers?
If you may be planning more than a bragging rights bet with a buddy, wagering on the Super Bowl is big business. Legal and not-so-much. The American Gaming Association estimates some US$6 billion was wagered on the 2019 Super Bowl, with only $325 million legally.
I’m wrestling over the choices. My gut is leaning toward the Chiefs, while my head is reminding me that Brady owns more Super Bowl rings than most NFL teams have had SB appearances.
Given the difficult road we’ve travelled over the past 11 months, coupled with the uncertainty of what may lie in wait, I hope that once the game is underway, we at least for a few hours can forget about number 19.
We have earned the break.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.