MINNEAPOLIS — Celebrating our 17th anniversary, here is this year’s Gay Guide to the Super Bowl. It is designed for new fans and regular fans and anyone who wants to know all the key elements in the game, with a bit of an LGBT twist.
WHAT: Super Bowl LII will be played Sunday Feb. 4 between the New England Patriots (15-3) of the American Football Conference and the Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) of the National Football Conference. The Patriots are favored to win the game by the Vegas odds-makers by 5.5 points; this means that Patriots bettors need their team to win by six or more points, while Eagles bettors need them to either win the game or lose it by fewer than than six points.
The Patriots have played in seven Super Bowls since the 2001 season and are 5-2. The Eagles have only appeared in the Super Bowl twice, losing in the games played in the 1980 (vs. Oakland) and 2004 (vs. New England) seasons.
WHERE: The game will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Fortunately, the game will be played indoors, considering the game time temperature outside in Minneapolis is expected to be 5 degrees with a windchill below zero. It was minus-11 when I woke up here on Friday. Saturday night I decided to walk out on a frozen lake to look at ice sculptures when it was 6; I lasted 15 minutes.
KICKOFF/TV: The game will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time after a zillion-hour, over-padded, mostly inane pregame show. True football connoisseurs will tune into Hallmark’s “Kitten Bowl” instead.
The game will be shown on NBC, with Al Michaels as the play-by-play announcer and Cris Collinsworth as the analyst. NBC consistently does the best job in its NFL coverage and I can’t think of anything snarky to say about them.
WATCHING THE GAME: If you live in a city with a gay-oriented sports bar, there are many viewing options. Check out our list here.
MAN VS. BEAST: This is the 24th Super Bowl matchup pitting NFL teams with human nicknames against those named after animals. The humans lead 16-7, and the Patriots are 5-0 (beating the Rams, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks and Falcons). Based on this metric and the one below about uniform color, the Eagles are toast.
FASHION NOTE: The Patriots are the designated home team and have decided to wear their away white jerseys. This is clearly a psychological ploy since teams wearing white have won 12 of the last 13 Super Bowls (the 2010 Green Bay Packers be the exception) and the Patriots are 3-0 in that color.
The Eagles will wear their green uniforms, which shouldn’t be a problem since this will be the third consecutive game in the playoffs where they wore green and were an underdog.
From 1961-92, the Patriots helmet featured “Pat Patriot,” what I once called one of the gayest logos in NFL history:
He was called Pat Patriot by his creator Phil Bissell and adorned the helmet of the Boston/New England Patriots for more than 30 years. As Bissell said: “He’s got to be tough. He’s got to get in the trenches and dig. That’s why, if you notice, his hands are all grimy-because he’s dug. He doesn’t have nice little white gloves on like Elvis.”
QUARTERBACKS: Tom Brady is the Patriots quarterback and has won five Super Bowls. He is married to supermodel Gisele Bündchen. Some guys have it rough.
Brady is also good friends with Donald Trump, but he has kept his distance since Trump’s election and that apparently bothers the president, the New York Times reported.
Mr. Trump still takes shots at Mark Cuban, a fellow rich-guy reality star, and expresses disappointment that Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback, has distanced himself.
Brady’s counterpart, Nick Foles, did not even start a game this season for the Eagles until there were only three weeks left in the regular season. Foles was the backup quarterback to Carson Wentz, who was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered Dec. 10.
The Eagles were not given much chance to reach the Super Bowl with Foles, becoming the first NFL No. 1 seed (team with the best record in each conference) to be underdogs at home in consecutive playoff games.
The only historical NFL analogy to Foles’ unlikely Super Bowl appearance is Jeff Hostetler, who took over as New York Giants quarterback late in the 1990 season for the injured Phil Simms. In an omen that should gladden the hearts of Eagles fan, Hostetler and the Giants upset the favored Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl.
THE COACHES: Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach, is the best coach of his era and will come up with some wrinkle to keep the Eagles off guard. He’s also the NFL’s worst-dressed coach, usually sporting a hoodie or gray sweatshirt that looks like he picked up from a dumpster; I think it’s done for effect. We’ll see if he classes it up for an indoor Super Bowl. He did wear a suit for Super Bowl media night, so there is hope.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson is in only his second year and, while a terrifc coach, is pretty anonymous, looking more like a high school science teacher than an NFL coach.
THE FANS: Outside of New England, fans are sick of the Patriots and the rest of the country will be rooting for the Eagles. But be careful what you root for — the Eagles and Patriots have the most annoying fan bases in the NFL. I was born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania and know of what I speak.
Eagles fans once booed Santa and threw snowballs at him. They regularly hurl abuse at fans of opposing teams and go nuts when their team wins. Despite the Eagles beating the Vikings by 31 points in the NFC Championship game, they still pelted the Vikings’ bus as it left the stadium. Sore winners and sore losers.
Prior to the NFC Championship game, police warned business in a downtown district to prepare for vandalism and greased light poles to prevent drunken Eagles fans (redundant, I know) from climbing on them.
On the plus side, the video of an Eagles fan running into a pole while chasing a subway car is pure comedy gold.
In contrast, Patriots fans are classy, gracious winners, reasonable when discussing football, not prone to conspiracy theories and fun to hang with. ... Just kidding. There’s a reason the term “Masshole” was coined.
A NEW ENGLAND REBUTTAL: I loved this comment from longtime reader CPT_Doom, so am adding it here:
I just want to point out the term “Masshole” was coined long before Belichick or Brady ever heard of the Patriots, and commonly refers to bad Eastern Mass drivers when they venture to the rest of New England. It can certainly refer to some New England fans, but it’s an attitude that is far more encompassing than just sports (For the record I grew up in Western Mass, aka “God’s country.”)
I also think we should remember that many of us Pats fans are true New England sports fans — used to decades of failure and “wait until next year.” Sure we’re a bit full of ourselves in victory, but we had a lot of 2-win seasons when the only consolation prize was a first round draft pick. Someday the picture aging in Tom Brady’s attic won’t be enough to keep him young and he’ll retire and we’ll go back to being mediocre.
LGBT SUPPORT: Boston and Philadelphia are two extremely LGBT-friendly cities, so it’s hard from that standpoint to single out one over the other.
In many ways, the Patriots have been the most LGBT-supportive team in the league. Team owner Kraft and his late wife Myra were early supporters of same-sex marriage. In 2015 the Patriots were the only NFL team to sign an amicus brief supporting marriage equality to the Supreme Court.
In 2017, the Patriots gave $25,000 to support Gay Bowl XVII in Boston. Kraft attended the closing party to thank the attendees and give a short speech.
In 2012, Gronkowski told Outsports he would “cool” with a gay teammate.
In addition, the Patriots once had a player who later came out as gay, offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who was on the Super Bowl team of 2007. I asked seven current Patriots offensive linemen about having a gay teammate and all were very supportive. “For anyone to have to hide what you are is wrong in my opinion and I’d like to think I play in a league where we’re openly accepting of anybody,” James Ferentz said.
The Eagles haven’t voiced nearly as much public support for LGBT issues, though QB Foles said he doesn’t care if a teammate is gay. “I’m going to treat them the same way ... [football players are] normal people, and we just want to treat people decently,” he said.
WHO YOU CALLING SWEETHEART? Thanks to Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald, Cyd and I got to briefly chat with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. When I asked him about having an openly gay Patriot, Kraft said: “The only thing I care about is can they help us win, sweetheart.” I guess it’s a compliment.
ROOT, ROOT: Gay men are like most Americans in rooting for the Eagles to win. A survey of users by the gay social app Hornet found 37% of gay men want the Eagles to win vs. 19% for the Patriots, with 44% not caring. This tracks a general survey of fans and shows that people have a clear rooting interest and it’s rooting for someone to lose rather than the other team to win.
R.I.P. JOE IN PHILLY: There is one Eagles fan I wish was around to see this Super Bowl — Joe Guckin, aka Joe in Philly. Joe was an original Outsports reader and a longtime supporter and contributor (his discussion board posts were legendary) who made our site a community for other gay sports fans. He was blunt, opinionated and very funny, yet also very loyal to his Philadelphia sports teams, which he would rip with abandon when they deserved it (which was a lot).
POLITICS: It’s hard to avoid politics these days, so here’s your scorecard.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is good friends with President Trump and gave the president a Super Bowl ring last year with his named engraved on it. He also gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. Coach Bill Belichick wrote a letter endorsing Trump during the 2016 election. Quarterback Brady had a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker room.
On the other hand, as the Nation’s Dave Zirin, points out, “an unprecedented number of Patriot players skipped the White House visit for explicitly political reasons.”
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie donated to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith called Trump “the most divisive person” in the country, while defensive back Malcolm Jenkins called Trump a “social media troll.” Injured Eagles quarterback Wentz took to Twitter to support the people of Haiti (where he traveled last year) after Trump’s reported “shithole countries” comment in January.
A Pennsylvania state legislative district in Philadelphia is represented by Brian Sims, an openly gay former college football captain.
THE CANINE ANGLE: Dog masks are big sellers in Philadelphia after two players donned them following their first playoff win when they were rare home underdogs. This one is great:
GRONK’S FAVORITE NUMBER: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (uncertain to play because of a concussion) gets giddy like a 12-year-old boy over the number 69.
He said he would pay $69,000 to wear 69 in a game (numbers in the 60s are reserved for offensive linemen), and in a high school basketball game he deliberately missed a free throw so his team’s score could stay at 69.
ENTERTAINMENT: Justin Timberlake will perform the halftime show. The last time he performed at a Super Bowl was in 2004 when the infamous Janet Jackson “Nipplegate” episode ensued. The odds of anything remotely like that happening this year are about nil — the NFL will probably make any female performers wear burkas.
Leslie Odom Jr. of “Hamilton” fame will sing “America the Beautiful” while Pink will sing the national anthem. Pink is an Eagles fan. Pink is ecstatic over the idea of singing at this Super Bowl.
Ummm. I’m singing the national anthem and the EAGLES ARE PLAYING?!?!?! IS THIS FOR REAL?!?!?!THATS WHASSUP!!!!!!!! Shtjtkd widnamc ckamcnsnzncbx!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wooohooooooooooooioooooooooooooooooooooooooiiiiiiooooooooooo— P!nk (@Pink) January 22, 2018
Since you can bet on anything related to the Super Bowl, you can bet on whether Pink’s anthem version will clock in at more than or less than 1:58.
THE COMMERCIALS: Each 30-second spot will cost about $5 million. That’s about all I care about these, which are overhyped and available online prior to the game. Yawn.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Here are some key players to watch besides the two QBs.
THE GAME: Last year I picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl by six points. They won by six. I should quit while I am ahead.
Here are the numbers to keep in mind about this game:
That’s the victory margin in all seven Patriots Super Bowls with Belichick and Brady. There are never blowouts and the game is going to come down to the wire. I see the same thing here.
This is a matchup of a five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Tom Brady, against an Eagles defense that has allowed 33 points total over its last four games. The key to stopping Brady is a strong pass rush and the Eagles have that with Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Chris Long. In addition, the Eagles excel against the run and the Patriots are not a great running team.
The X factor will be the health of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who I bet will play despite suffering a concussion and missing most of the AFC Championship Game. Gronk is a physical freak and hard to stop. And if Gronk is slowed down, the Patriots can hurt you with receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola and a running back in James White who scored three touchdowns in last year’s Super Bowl. The Eagles will have their hands full.
On the other side, the Eagles had one of the best offenses in the league when Wentz was healthy at quarterback. Under Foles, they have been mediocre, except in the NFC title game when he was brilliant (352 yards and three touchdowns). As Foles goes, so go the Eagles. He is helped by a strong running game led by Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and excellent receivers in Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholer, Torrey Smith and Zach Ertz.
On special teams, New England has the edge, with the Patriots ranked 3rd (out of 32 teams) and the Eagles 13th in a respected ranking.
Belichick (5-2 in Super Bowls) has the obvious edge over Pederson (first Super Bowl head coaching appearance). Pederson has to avoid being psyched out by Belichick like past playoff coaches have been against the Patriots (See Pete Carroll, Dan Quinn and Doug Marrone).
Pick: Close again and the Patriots (as is usually the case) pull it out. Patriots 30, Eagles 26.