The match-up for the 43rd Super Bowl will star the top seeded teams from each conference, each lead by the quarterback who threw for the most touchdowns in his conference during the regular season. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts fell behind in the first half to the upstart New York Jets, but dominated the second half to win 30-17. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints won a back-and-forth nail-biter against the Minnesota Vikings, intercepting a Brett Favre pass in the last two minutes when the Vikings were driving for the go-ahead score with seconds left, forcing overtime and winning on the opening drive of extra time with a field goal, 31-28.
If this season were all that mattered, that would be the end of the story, two high powered offenses facing off in the big game. But the histories of Manning and Brees could not be more different. Peyton Manning, now in his twelfth season, has four MVPs and has passed for over 50,000 yards, one of only four quarterbacks in NFL history to achieve that milestone. He is also one of those few athletes who successfully endorses non-sports products like Master Card, Sony and Oreo cookies. If there is a knock on Manning, it is that he has only one Super Bowl ring, while in the same era, Tom Brady of the Patriots has three and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers has two. If Manning and the Colts win this game, he adds a major achievement to a career that already deserves discussion when people rate the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Drew Brees, on the other hand, has a career marked by bad luck and setbacks. Manning came to Indianapolis as the one and only golden boy, while Brees started his career in San Diego, taking the job from the beloved Doug Flutie. After a few seasons marked by injuries, the Chargers decided they needed a new quarterback and Brees lost his job to Philip Rivers. Brees became a free agent and was signed by the New Orleans Saints. As a franchise, the Saints have often struggled during their 43 year history, and this will be the team's first trip to the Super Bowl. For much of that tenure, the Saints were the only pro team in New Orleans (there is currently an NBA team in New Orleans that used to be in Charlotte), and though the fans had some famous protests against the team's incompetence from time to time, including attending games en masse wearing paper bags over their heads, the city really does love their Who Dat Saints.
I don't have a strong emotional attachment for either team, but I definitely don't have a team I'm rooting against. I hope it's a good game two weeks from now, and whoever wins, it will be a well-deserved vindication.