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Super Bowl Ending Begins Our Long Wait for Football to Return

A large part of our job is coming up with ideas — for posts, for columns, for features, for recurring rubrics, whatnot. (Amusingly, the New York Magazine publicity department refers to these as “thought scoops,” a term we love because it allows us to pretend our brain is the Seymour Hersh of brains.) We had this crazy idea, before the Jets’ AFC Championship loss to the Steelers, that the NFL — and specifically, the NFL in this city — was about to have its NHL in ‘94 moment. That year, hockey rode a long-awaited championship from a New York team to unprecedented levels of popularity … and then ruined it with catastrophic labor woes. So, our theory was gonna go, the Jets’ ascension to the NFL pinnacle would work similarly, with the NFL shooting itself in the ACL right when it was poised to dominate for decades to come. But then the Jets lost, and there went that Thought Scoop. The labor woes, alas, remain.

The Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31–25 last night, in a game that was generally exciting but not electric like the last three Super Bowls have been. Aaron Rodgers made it okay for Packers fans to move on from Brett Favre — amazingly, Favre wasn’t mentioned once the entire broadcast, which must have had him bashing his head against his television — and the Packers won their fourth Super Bowl, over a franchise that was going for its seventh. All in all, a perfectly pleasant evening, even if it included a commercial with a fake baby being bashed against the wall of a hotel room and the upcoming abomination that is Thor.

But the whole evening felt like a last hurrah for the NFL, the good time before everyone starts saying horrible things about each other. Last week’s Sports Illustrated cover story about commissioner Roger Goodell detailed just how far apart the owners and players are on a deal, and, more worrisome, how many owners are perfectly happy to sit out an entire season to make sure they get the deal they want. These are not idle threats. This is a legitimate possibility. The upcoming labor implosion loomed over every aspect of the game last night. At one point, the NFL ran a ten-second house ad for the NFL Draft in April, and it felt outdated, it felt wrong, it felt like someone ran it by mistake. The NFL Draft is happening, sure, but actual games, with our teams back on the field, seem light years away. This is all that will be talked about, every day, for the next six months, at least. Prepare thyself.

And we hope you enjoyed last night’s game. We’re sorry your last NFL experience for an extended period of time featured the Black Eyed Peas.

Super Bowl Ending Begins Our Long Wait for Football to Return