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A taste of home will help this Super Bowl go down nicely. Photo by Anthony Mariani

 

Let’s go, Chiefs! I loathe them, but I loathe whiny conservatives even more, and based mostly on a bunch of noise outside the locker rooms, apparently a win for Kansas City is a win for empathetic, vaccinated, Bud Light-drinking, billionaire-popstar-loving non-assholes everywhere. Being super-petty is a choice I’ll never pass on.

There’s another, perhaps even more ridiculous reason I’m rooting for this smug, lucky team I despise. They’re not the San Francisco 49ers.

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The Petty Express of which I am Chief Engineer Supreme and King Baby Emeritus winds from the Bay Area through the Heartland to the place of my birth and my aimless, crappy youth and also the location of my favorite sports franchise, the perennially terrible, dreadful, painful-to-watch Pittsburgh Steelers, who are in possession of only one more Lombardi Trophy than San Fran. For me and all my fellow Stillers lovers, a Niner victory on Sunday would be outrageous, egregious, and preposterous because unlike the fallen-off-a-cliff New England Patriots, who have also won the big game six times, this 49ers group is talented, deep, and young enough to win six more championships over the next six seasons, sending my whole pathetic identity that I’ve built up over the decades crashing down.

You have to understand. Some of us Gen-Xers are driven by shame. As kids, we were never good enough for our parents, who were always (unintentionally or not) choosing work over us, or for the teachers and coaches raining down blows on us every day, and now the smallest knock against us or our social avatars, like our favorite sports teams, renders us small. And when you feel small, you feel powerless, and when you feel powerless, you may lash out. I’ve never punched a hole in a wall or smashed a flatscreen after a major sportsball loss, but I am 100% simpatico with all those who have and am choosing which bandwagon to jump on accordingly.

Another excuse for voting against the Niners is that they’re almost — almost — as lucky as the Chiefs. I watch a lot of football, college and pro, and I’m not even talking about all the calls and no-calls that go San Fran’s and KC’s ways, and there’s a ton of them. I mean other teams’ defenses mysteriously breaking down at crucial moments, allowing jerks in red to run all over the field like maniacs busting out of prison — either streaking down sidelines unmolested for yards and yards or catching passes over the middle without any defenders even in the same ZIP code. Ever see the beginning of The Sound of Music? When Julie Andrews frolics in an open field by herself without a single soul for miles around, singing, “The hiiiillllls are aliiiive …!”? That’s basically Travis Kelce and Deebo Samuel at least twice a game every game, standing all by themselves on patches of grass stretching to the horizon as ultimately a delightful football spirals right toward their numbers. How does this keep happening? A comparison: With the exception of the occasional close-your-eyes-and-heave-it bomb, my Steelers can’t complete a pass longer than five yards in the air, and when they do, it’s like all 11 players from the other side, their spouses, their children, and their children’s friends are contesting the ball. Fans of real teams like the 49ers and the Chiefs — and the Cowboys and the Bills and the Ravens and the Dolphins and, basically, the whole rest of the league except maybe the Panthers and Cardinals — have no idea how good they have it. None. Am I full of crap? Even if it’s in the teens, take the over on any Steeler game next season — I dare you. You will be poorer.

It’s a terrific shame because there’s nothing like good football, and as annoying as both Super Bowl LVIII teams are, they’re both decent defensively and creative on O, which should make for a pleasant evening of passive entertainment. Maybe it’s the Steeler diehard in me, but seeing a QB like Patrick Mahomes or Brock Purdy line up in the shotgun on first down and throw a dart to make it second and short like both have done a few times this playoff season is … well, I’d fork over my measly but precious paycheck every two weeks until OTAs to see Pittsburgh do that once next season. Just once. It happens 20 times a game when you watch the Niners or the Chiefs, or even the Cowboys or the Bills. I mean, you see it in DIII ball. If I didn’t want to puke every time I came across some other teams’ colors, especially that soporific silver and blue yinz love so much, I’d switch allegiances right now.

You could say “good football” means “lots of points and big plays,” and I’m not going to pretend that that’s not what I’m interested in. Don’t get me wrong. I love defense — I played edge in high school and college. I love when the Steelers’ defense is suffocating. (Sorry. “Was” suffocating. We rarely get off the field on third down anymore.) As an observer whose interests this Sunday are not civic but borderline spiritual, I do not want to see stuffed sweeps into the boundary or ridiculous lateral passes that never go anywhere. I’ve sat through enough AFC North-ball over the years. For the love of the Rodgers & Hammerstein, please spare me any more of that dumb, slow, grinding, unwatchable bullsh. Please give me diving catches and 30-second scrambles and the occasional explosive run. Other than a rare pick-six or scoop-and-score, I’m tuning in Sunday to witness two quality quarterbacks, maybe the two best on the planet, lead their sides to the end zone repeatedly. Gluttony. I’m in it to gorge on multiple TD Griddys and pigskin.

And grilled corned beef. I’ll be digging into some of that, too, with melted provolone, vinegar slaw, fries, fresh tomato, and a fried egg between two slices of Italian bread. Almost as tasty as the real Primanti’s sandwiches back in the ’Burgh! We make ’em at home every Super Bowl.

And home is where I’ll be watching. As the last mainstream football action for a while, the Super Bowl always makes for great family time, as loosely as the term can be defined with me absent-mindedly knocking back N/A beers and watching ruefully while bitter-texting with my friends and with my wife watching and putzing and my 12-year-old sitting in the same room with us but iPadding. He’s more of a baseball and hoops guy, anyway, probably because of us, his mom and dad. We’ve seen what too many bonks on the head have done to me. We don’t want our baby boy going through that nonsense, too.

For a prediction, just look back at the past couple of games. I see both teams starting slow, like a few winners have done recently, before erupting in the second half. It will be close, but I think the Niners pull away 34-23. They have too many offensive weapons, and as fantastic as Mahomes is, his skillset and improv techniques can be neutralized. Purdy is just getting started, and he’s a stone-cold killer.

To know why I’m all Chiefs Kingdom despite my prediction and the -2.5 line, we need to pile onto the Petty Express and ride that bad boy to its final stop, Fakebookland, where I know three “friends” on either side of the Super Bowl LVIII divide. One is Shane. Shane, you’re a great dude, but you’re also the sorest winner I’ve ever met. Advantage: Chiefs. And Ken, while you’ve been a KC fan long before Paddy Mahomes came along and have suffered through decades of downright pitiful “football” (including steady dosages of the Schottenheimer R2P2: run twice, pass, punt), you’re also not exactly gracious when your a-hole team wins. Advantage: San Fran. Lastly, there’s Kevin. Kevy-Kev, I don’t think I’d really mind your Niners finally claiming that sixth Lombardi because you’re a swell guy and, as far as I know, you don’t gloat when your squad is on top, but I’m still a little miffed that you started your new indie-rock band Hotel Satellite without playing your first show in my backyard at a godly hour on a weekend, so, sorry. Total advantage: Chiefs. (But don’t take that spread.)

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