In the pantheon of cherished American institutions, one of the only things greater than the sports cliché is the Super Bowl spectacle. Fortunately, this year’s match-up between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos offers more space for both to flourish than in recent years.
Consider the quarterback and the narrative of old-versus-young
Denver is led by Peyton Manning, the 39-year-old ailing and aging all-time great. Born during the Gerald Ford administration, Manning remains the aw-shucks embodiment of the humble and serious signal caller: winner of five MVP awards, possessor of the all-time NFL records for passing touchdowns and passing yards, and now a hobbling relic. Manning overcame a terrible regular season to make an unlikely (and likely final) return to the Super Bowl with a tense, two-point win against the defending champion New England Patriots. He is the first quarterback to reach the Super Bowl under four different coaches.
Carolina features Cam Newton, who was born in the era of the elder George Bush and is the favorite to be the NFL’s most valuable player this year. Newton can run and pass; his style is frequently characterized as “flashy” and his end-zone dances inspire mothers to write screeds in major newspapers. Before Carolina manhandled the Arizona Cardinal 49-15 on Sunday to reach February’s big game, Newton was taking pictures with Future and Jeezy.