Thom Peters knew he still had plenty of time to build up a healthy hate for the New England Patriots.
As he lunched Wednesday afternoon at Buffalo Wild Wings, Peters admitted that he thought the mighty Patriots, who will make their record ninth Super Bowl appearance Sunday, were headed toward their fifth championship.
“The Patriots have won so much that I should be against them,” said Peters, a Belleville resident. “I hope that by kickoff time that I’ll be an Atlanta fan.”
Super Bowl LI — or 51 for you non-Romans — will be held in Houston. The AFC champion Patriots, featuring the NFL’s winningest coach-quarterback duo in history with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, will face the underdog NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. While the Patriots are Super Bowl regulars, the Falcons are playing in the big game for the first time since 1999 and just the second time in their history.
Doing the ‘Dirty Bird’
Should Peters finally hop on the Atlanta bandwagon by the time kickoff rolls around at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, he won’t be alone. According to a poll, most Americans are hoping to see a lot of the Dirty Bird — the Falcons’ signature touchdown celebration dance.
Of football fans who responded to polling done by Public Policy Polling, 53 percent are hoping the Falcons will win, as opposed to only 27 percent for the Patriots.
How united are Americans on the Super Bowl? The poll found that Republicans (58 percent for the Falcons to 23 percent for the Patriots), Democrats (54 percent to 27 percent) and Independents (47 percent to 31 percent) were all in agreement that they want to see Atlanta walk out of NRG Stadium with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Mark Kurz, who also was at Buffalo Wild Wings, will gladly root for New England on Sunday. A fan of the Green Bay Packers, he admits to still being a bit bitter about the Falcons knocking his favorite team out of the playoffs in the NFC Championship Game.
“I don’t like the (Falcons), but I’ll admit that I’m petty,” said Kurz, of Webster Groves, Mo. “I want the Patriots to win. Once the Packers are out, I’m usually pretty ambivalent.”
What about ‘02 heartbreak?
Some local football fans still feel the sting of the heartbreaking Super Bowl XXXVII, when the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17. But now that the Rams have abandoned us, should we let bygones be bygones?
We asked BND Facebook friends. Victoria Meier-Fults is going with the Patriots. Steve Bunting likes the Falcons.
Commenter Mike Donohue’s cheering for the Falcons “because they aren’t New England.”
Commenter Phillip McClure said: “Go Falcons — since they are my wife’s team.”
Commenter David Stellhorn said he isn’t cheering for either team.
“I’m cheering for the time clock. The faster it goes, the sooner the season is over!” Stellhorn said. “Just give me baseball, hockey and soccer, and I’m happy.”
If you’re still on the fence and need a rooting interest, there is a local connection to this year’s game. Former Edwardsville High School star Vincent Valentine is a rookie defensive end with the Patriots, who drafted him out of Nebraska in the third round of last year’s NFL draft. Valentine played in 13 games, starting the final two regular season games. He has 19 tackles and one sack.
Peters and Kurz said they’ll be watching Sunday. They’ll be among a crowd of more than 188 million people worldwide expected to watch the broadcast. What will they be watching? According to the National Retail Federation, the game is still the most important thing according to 43 percent of those polled. The commercial breaks are the key ingredient for 24 percent of the audience, while the halftime show, which this year features Lady Gaga, is the reason for 12 percent of the people to tune in. Another 15 percent said they only watch the game in order to hang out with their friends.
Be ready to break out the wallet before you watch the game. Consumers will spend an average of $75 each on the game, nearly 80 percent of which will go toward food and beverage purchases.
Some folks will be looking to cover those expenses by gambling on the game. The American Gaming Association predicts that $4.7 billion will be wagered on the game, an all-time high. The group says that 97 percent of that money bet will be bet illegally. The Patriots are favored to win by three points, with the 58.5 points being the highest over/under in Super Bowl history. The over/under bet is the combined points by both teams.
Super Bowl betting also provides plenty of opportunity to bet on weird things. Lady Gaga’s hair color (either blonde or another color) is one betting option, as is what kind of pants Luke Bryan will wear while singing The Star-Spangled Banner (blue jeans is a heavy favorite over any other type of pants). Bettors can also bet on the number of times President Donald Trump is mentioned during the contest, which player will score the first touchdown and which player will be the game’s MVP.