Give us our Roman numerals back

Watching a game of rugby in High Wycombe between Wasps and Northampton a few years back, my cousin leaned over to me at one point and said, “One day they’re going to ban this sport”. Rugby’s definitely getting a bit rougher, and maybe it’s foreseeable that one day it will be widely considered to be too attritional on the human body, especially the head. But there’s another sport that’s closer to that threshold; one that is, as I write, presenting its showpiece event to a global audience. American football has in recent years been subject to highly wrought essays, compensation payouts, and now the Hollywood treatment.

I, however, will be revelling in this annual date with Americana. As a sport, the delineated roles suggests that it must be more fun for some players than others, even if those players whose responsibilities are focused on competing at the line of scrimmage appear to enjoy their craft. Thoughts also alight on the general character of American sports, the way prowess is so measurable, the way bursts of action are subject to meticulous analysis. But those attributes don’t necessarily stifle the creative talents, and if I am going to be forced to reveal my preferences for this particular contest, then I hope it will be the occasion for a special talent to announce himself on the biggest stage. It’s obviously early to say how Cam Newton will eventually measure up against the game’s other great quarterbacks, including his opposite number in this year’s Super Bowl (absurdly not being called Super Bowl L), but he can go some way to curating his legacy with a starring performance today.

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