WASHINGTON - Confession time: I know there is a Football Game of Supreme Importance™ tonight. But I find myself not caring about it much at all.
For whatever reason - and I don't think I'm alone in this - this two-week lead up to Super Bowl LI has been very "blah" and such "meh."
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a fan of the Carolina Panthers and have been my entire life, so that probably explains some of my indifference. I was on top of the world last year as the Panthers laid waste to nearly everyone in the league, but then I was absolutely crushed when they couldn't quite put it together in the one that mattered most. Like most, I had high hopes for this season, and that didn't pan out.
So, here we are. Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. One has been an NFC South rival of the Panthers for years, and the other is disliked by pretty much everyone outside of Boston. Oh, and in 2004, the Patriots edged the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII in the very same stadium they'll look to win their fifth title tonight. If this Super Bowl could end in a tie, I'd be all for it.
I realize in explaining why I cannot root for either teams, I sound like Vizzini from "The Princess Bride," as he attempts to rationalize which cup to drink from in a battle of wits. Unfortunately for him, he did eventually drink from one of the two glasses in front of him, but I will punt on predicting a winner in tonight's Big Game.
Instead, I turned to the Carolina Hurricanes. In a Totally and Completely Scientific Poll*, I have compiled some results of what the locker room says will happen tonight.
*As in, I asked around the plane once we landed in Washington on Saturday night.
The New England Patriots will defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, according to those Hurricanes surveyed. Though I didn't get everyone's opinion (and a couple didn't have predictions at all), results were quite one-sided. The Patriots received double-digit votes - Noah Hanifin's vote was still just worth one for the Pats - while there were just two players I asked who predicted Atlanta - and one said so because "Skip is sitting right here"; that's Skip Cunningham, the longest-tenured Hurricanes employee and equipment man extraordinaire, who is very much a Patriots fan.
Bill Burniston, the team's assistant strength and conditioning coach, said his prediction was "the team that scores the most points."
And the head coach? "My heart says Falcons. My gut says Patriots," he told the media in Raleigh on Friday.
There you have it. Enjoy the football, commercials and other various ancillary entertainment tonight. The Hurricanes will return to the ice for practice on Monday before facing off with the Capitals at Verizon Center on Tuesday night.