Super Bowl becomes Stupor Bowl

Who do you root for, asks's Steve Lawrence: The New England Patriots, confirmed cheaters with an unlikable coach, or the New York Giants, who stole the Packers' Super Bowl berth?

For much of the nation, Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday. In Green Bay this year, it's a holiday on par with, say, IRS Appreciation Day and National Spam E-mailers Week.

In fact, I'd hardly be surprised if the local Fox affiliate elected to run a "Little House on the Prairie" or "Joy of Painting" with Bob Ross marathon instead of Super Bowl XLII, a game that, I think, pits the Cheating Patriots against the Rotten Giants.

Unless you have money wagered on the game, it helps to have a rooting interest if you're going to veg out on the couch for three-and-a-half hours. So, who in the heck do you root for on Sunday?

On one sideline, you've got the unlikeable Bill Belichick, who is America's worst spy since Maxwell Smart. At least Smart was funny, witty and well-dressed. While I appreciate the Patriots' pursuit of a perfect season — just like I appreciated Michael Jordan's greatness even while he dunked over my Milwaukee Bucks — the Boston area's continued success is enough to make me get sick in my chowder. What's next, Michael Dukakis winning the presidency?

On the other sideline, you've got the New York Giants, who squashed the dreams of every football fan who bleeds green and gold. Rooting for the Giants is like rooting for the Grinch to take away your birthday after already taking away Christmas.

Look, there's something to be said for losing to the eventual world champions, though that slogan probably wouldn't sell many bumper stickers or T-shirts at the Packers Pro Shop. Still, wouldn't the Giants winning the Super Bowl make losing the NFC championship game feel even worse?

As I peck away at this, it's 28 degrees with barely any wind. Replay the NFC championship game under these tranquil conditions, and the Packers win nine times out of 10.

I've watched the game four times and Brett Favre's season-killing interception maybe 30 times. Every time, I expect the result to be different. As poorly as the Packers played, they had every chance to win.

Such missed opportunities are what make that loss so difficult to grasp, even two weeks after the fact. A young and likeable team, captained by a beloved quarterback in perhaps his swan song, going to the Super Bowl? The feel-good story seemed too good to be true, and in the end, it was.

So, if the Giants upset the Patriots, won't that only enhance the bitter taste of disappointment? Those Giants are holding "our" Super Bowl trophy! Favre, not Eli Manning, should be going to Disney World.

And if the Patriots do what many expect — blow out the Giants — we'll be saying, "The Patriots wouldn't have had it so easy with our Packers."

A Packers-Patriots Super Bowl could have been a classic. Obviously, the Packers' defense would have had its hands full against Tom Brady, Randy Moss and especially Kevin Faulk, but the Patriots' defense would have had just as many problems against Favre and Co.

Donald Lee would have exploited the Patriots' aging linebackers. The Patriots' smallish cornerbacks would have been run ragged by the Packers' receivers. Favre wouldn't have been seeking warmth like a lost desert explorer seeks water. Mike McCarthy, who's been brilliant when given extra time to prepare, would have kept Belichick on his toes.

Instead, the Giants are representing the NFC. Maybe I should buy a paintbrush and spend Sunday painting "happy little trees" with Bob Ross.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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