For me, the greatest Super Bowl of all time wasn't this past one. No. The greatest one ever was right after the Towers came down. New Orleans Super Dome. New England Patriots vs. The St. Louis Rams. I was there. Patriots were EIGHTEEN-point underdogs and U2 played at halftime.
They had enormous silk banners hanging from the top of the Super Dome that reached to the floor, and during "Where The Streets Have No Name," they listed the names of the departed who lost their lives on 9/11, alphabetically up on the huge the banner.
When the name got to the top of the screen, it continued through the stadium and the next name followed it, and the next, and the next... Dead people's names were crawling across our bodies and faces and pants...
My father came with me to that Super Bowl and I looked at him mid-song. He, like me and 68,560,000 other fans, was openly weeping. Sobbing, really.
LAWRENCE BRADDOCK, NYFD, lived where my father once did.
WILLIAM BRADFORD and SUSAN BRADFREE.
ANTHONY BRADDUCCI, and then LIONEL BRAGG's name quickly took his place.
They floated on to the rest of the living, and more and more names traveled up the silk screen and out into the ether for us to hold.... for just a second. Which wasn't enough.
When the song was finished, football seemed insulting. Irrelevant and spiteful.
Running, catching, tackling and throwing now had the Herculean task of being celebrated. In the same building these beautiful people were reborn.
My father, not an emotional man, nor one to be particularly effusive with his emotions, turned to me as he wiped his glasses and ran his handkerchief across his face.
He held me.
That was alarming in and of itself -- something I was not familiar with. When we ended our embrace, we were both crying. Loudly, unapologetically and maybe perversely proud...
My father said the words to me that make me cry even today, as I write this just a day after the Super Bowl in 2017. The words that showed me his insides, his heart, his dreams unaccomplished and goals not reached. I saw my father as the kindest man I ever met and would ever want to be.
My dad opened his ribcage and I saw his entire life inside. His joys. His rage. His confusions. Spankings. Sleigh rides. The flu. His brothers. "I Do." United States Army. Rutgers University. His children. Our children. Our everything behind one sentence that will never be topped or bottomed for its depth of sadness and beauty.
"They only got to the L's."
It was true.
So many people... forgive me -- innocents -- were murdered that morning, that all of their names couldn't be heard or seen or felt during a halftime show of a game with a ball with eight laces. A-K made the cut. L-Z did not. None of us did or ever will.
The greatest Super Bowl I ever saw had nothing to do with the game at all. It was the greatest upset of all time between the human condition and compassion, emotion and pure love.
Fathers and sons upset every enemy the nation had ever had. The Patriots beat the Rams by a field goal. One door kicked a football and New England had three points and the Championship.
Because of a ball, end over end, passing between tall yellow poles stretching skywards toward the heavens... obscenely.