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Sports Then and Now




Cosmic Forces Align and Conflict in the Build Up to the Super Bowl

Posted on January 22, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell
Will cosmic forces decide which teams will play in Super Bowl XLIV?

Will cosmic forces decide which teams will play in Super Bowl XLIV?

Something cosmic is about to happen.

The New York Jets, a wild card team, continued to play over their heads, lead by a gangly, tall, brown-eyed, brunette quarterback, a strong running game, and a punishing defense, they surprised everyone winning two playoff games on the road in order to play the Colts.

Does that sound about right? Of course. It is the 2010 New York Jets.

Wrong. And right. It is also the 1969 New York Jets. Same description: wild card, tall dark and young quarterback, strong ground game, strong defense, wild card, playing over their heads as momentum builds.

In 1969 the quarterback was Joe Willie Namath. While lounging on Miami Beach in the week leading up to Super Bowl III, the kid couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He guaranteed a Jets victory.

In the first two super games, the NFL, represented by Vince Lombardi’s Packers, totally dominated their AFL opponents: Kansas City the first year, Oakland the second. Everyone just assumed that the Baltimore Colts would make it three in a row. This, especially because the Jets were a wild card. Most of the pundits had them at either the third or fourth best AFL club. Everyone expected the Jets to be dragged across the field and trampled at the Orange Bowl.

Fast forward to this week. A very similar Jets wild card team with another tall, dark and lanky quarterback, Mark Sanchez, and a coach., Rex Ryan (with a surprising physical resemblance to the Jets’ coach in 1969, Weeb Ewbank) who all but guarantees the Jets will win again. Their opponent, again, the Colts, now in Indianapolis.

Can Sanchez duplicate the miracle of Namath and the 1968 Jets?

Can Sanchez duplicate the miracle of Namath and the 1968 Jets?

The ’68 Colts were led by legendary quarterback John Unitas. The ’09 Colts are led by legendary quarterback Peyton Manning.

If the Jets beat the Colts this year, they will make only their second Super Bowl appearance in team history. And then they’ll go on to face either New Orleans, or Minnesota.

Consider Minnesota. Coached by CFL veteran Bud Grant, the Vikings made their first Super Bowl appearance in 1970. In the year following the Jets’ surprise victory over the Colts, the Vikings, who with their aging, indestructible quarterback “Injun” Joe Kapp, had dominated the NFL all season. Everyone outside of the AFL assumed the Jets win was a fluke and that the Vikings would re-establish NFL superiority in the final Super Bowl game before the junior league would be absorbed into the NFL and forgotten.

But not so fast. Len Dawson and the Kansas City Chiefs, coached by Hank Stram, came in and dominated the Vikings even more than the Jets had overpowered the Colts the previous year. Suddenly it was NFL 2, AFL 2, and the AFL went into the merger as an equal. And the Vikings continued to build a tradition of competitive football. The Joe Kapp era gave way to the Fran Tarkenton era, and time moved on. Since 1970 the Vikings have played in four Super Bowls and lost four.

Fans of the Minnesota Vikings hope that Brett Favre can take the team where Joe Kapp and Fran Tareknton could not.

Fans of the Minnesota Vikings hope that Brett Favre can take the team where Joe Kapp and Fran Tareknton could not.

Enter Brett Favre, a sort of fusion reincarnation of the best of Kapp and Tarkenton. Favre is one test away from taking the Vikings to their fifth attempt to plant the purple flag on the mountain top.

The Vikings could easily lose to the Saints. The Saints will be at home, and will have a lot of intangible forces aligning with their team. The Big Easy is desperate for a win. It isn’t just football for them. Football is the least of it. It is a sort of reversal of the bad karma of Katrina. It is a vanquishing of the dark forces that have seemed to have their way in the Crescent City for most of a decade.

If the Vikings win under those circumstances, then be ready for a cosmic convergence. If the Jets meet the Vikings in, where else but Miami, then be ready for Armageddon.

Both teams seem to be riding a high tide of momentum toward the final conflict. Both teams would come to the big game oozing with irony, historical symmetry, and a healthy dose of destiny. But both teams can’t win.

If either team advances without the other, we should fully expect the survivor to reign supreme. But if both pass through, as my gut says they will—be prepared for cataclysm. Whether it’s New York repeating their original feat forty years hence, or the Vikings finally breaking their Super Curse, the planets will realign. History will end and begin again.

John Wingspread Howell, a Buffalo native, is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur, currently living in Chicago. He is available to speak about sports or a variety of topics for your organization or event. He can be contacted here.


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