There are lessons to be learned in a Patriots-less Super Bowl

New England Patriots fans, who count among their numbers many Mainers, are understandably down this weekend because their beloved football team is not in the Super Bowl.

We share in the anxiety but there is consolation in knowing 30 other NFL teams did not make the marquee game either. If that’s not enough, we all get to watch the memorable commercials. Better yet, there are going to be lots of Super Bowl parties. And of course, there’s always the halftime show and extravaganza.

Still not over it? You may be beyond our ability to help.

When the game kicks off at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday, the networks and cable channels will all be perched in their elaborate booths in the Meadowlands, braced with superlatives and superstitions, each highly-paid commentator going back and forth over nearly five decades of Super Bowl lore.

Somehow, they will manage to fill the seemingly gazillion hours of programming with relevant material. It’ll make for a very long few days, given the Super Bowl has become more about the ancillary aspects of the game as much as it is about the game itself.

Such a segue way moves us to look at this year’s NFL season, and try to put all the insanity into some kind of perspective. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

The season hadn’t started when New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was booked and later charged with murder. The team moved quickly in disassociating itself with the all-pro tight end but that event would turn out to be one bookend to a very violent and lawbreaking NFL season.

In between,various players faced mounting legal obstacles on charges such as assault, carrying a handgun into an airport, DWI, simple battery, domestic violence, child abuse, DUI, criminal mischief, possession of marijuana, public intoxication, solicitation and attempted murder.

And just last week, Darren Sharper, the all-pro defensive safety who along with quarterback Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl Championship in 2010, is alleged to have raped a woman at his apartment in one of the city’s trendy neighborhoods.

Granted, all of these crimes – whether alleged or convicted – are committed every day by ordinary people. But few of those people’s misdeeds are broadcast over the airwaves or go viral on the Internet.

Fair or not, everyday people don’t earn several million dollars a year for doing something they love. Moreover, every day people aren’t pampered and promoted every day the way professional athletes and entertainers are.

Finally, every day people don’t live their lives inside an arena, before millions of people on television or treated with the sort of reverence once reserved for kings.

And we haven’t even mentioned the NFL’s recurring legal issues with former NFL players regarding concussions.

Let’s face it. Football is a violent sport that thrives on a public appetite for more violence. While it’s convenient to group all of these events under a singular heading, the truth is the problem goes beyond one hit or one interview or one crime.

The thing that cannot be forgotten is that for all the NFL, college and even high school football players who have run afoul of the law, there are thousand of others who live normal and model lives, individuals who have not fallen prey to the images put forth by a few and exacerbated on the sidelines by men and women sticking microphones into the faces of people who just went through a bloodbath.

For what it’s worth, that may be the most memorable part of this Sunday’s game.

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