Super Bowl 2023 had it all, from breathtaking to infuriating

We’re not going to fully recap the Super Bowl and all of its flashing lights and fireworks. You and 200-some million of your closest friends saw it. In an era of micro cultures and niche pockets of every part of life, football unites the United States like just about nothing else.

So you witnessed the nearly four-hour advertisement for capitalism. You watched the NFL wrap itself in an American flag and toast to this country. You saw advertisements from seemingly every beer brand, Pepsi and Dunkin’ Donuts, celebrities starring when the athletes took a break. Your breath was taken away in good ways and bad, with never-ending controversies concerning whether he caught that, the league oddly opting to play on an ice rink and a maybe-game-deciding errant flag.

And, right: You saw a brilliant game that lived up to the hype.

Super Bowl LVII encapsulated what the sport means and signifies to the world — a cultural touchstone in which values are laundered through a game — and to its biggest fans. The Chiefs escaped Glendale, Ariz., with a thrilling, comeback, 38-35 victory over the Eagles in a game that featured a wondrous display of modern offenses and a universal frustration with modern referees. Because on the NFL’s holiest holiday, of course some poor officiating was going to crash the party.

Travis Kelce #87 and Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes celebrate winning their second NFL title in the last four seasons.
Getty Images

The party officially began at 1 p.m., when Fox’s pregame show started five-and-a-half hours before kickoff. If you are American (or even a sympathizer), there surely was a slice of the pregame festivities designed to please you.

R&B star Babyface performed “America the Beautiful,” which was signed in American Sign Language by Colin Denny, a member of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Sheryl Lee Ralph sang the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Seven women piloted the U.S. Navy flyover above State Farm Stadium. Finally, country rocker Chris Stapleton’s mellow national anthem left Eagles coach Nick Sirianni in tears. In 2023 — and long before now, too — the NFL has attempted to align supporting professional football with supporting men, women, diversity and especially the troops.

In a lot of ways, championing the NFL is championing this country in all its excesses, and those excesses are rarely laid bare like they were yesterday. Every moment was sponsored, every ad carefully plotted and designed to engage (with too many QR codes to count). Hollywood was well-represented, an ad for “The Flash” or “Indiana Jones” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” every few minutes. A personal favorite was “Fast X,” the latest in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, solely because the spot was an ad for an ad: Go online to see the full trailer!

The game often felt like a sideshow, just one of many performances on the night. But this performance packed in so much of what has made football more popular than any president could hope to be.

Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs for a 4 yard touchdown during the second quarter against Justin Reid #20 of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Jalen Hurts accounted for 374 yards of total offense while rushing for three touchdowns and throwing for another in the Super Bowl.
Getty Images

Jalen Hurts was phenomenal, accounting for 374 total yards and able to make just about any pass while using his feet when necessary, including on the two-point conversion with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, when he bruised his way into the end zone to tie the game.

Patrick Mahomes, the freshly minted MVP, somehow also ran when needed — his 26-yard scramble on the ensuing possession set up Kansas City’s go-ahead field goal. He had limped his way off the field in the second quarter, appearing to aggravate the high-ankle sprain that has hampered him for weeks. But Mahomes, the most electrifying player in the game and perhaps in the game’s history, led the Chiefs to scores on every possession in the second half.

What might have been regarded as an all-time classic shootout instead will be partially remembered for slip-ups along the way, and we mean that literally. The NFL, which so often tweaks its rules and finds out which work on the fly, learned on its largest stage that the very surface the players ran on was not suitable for running. Several plays ended on unceremonious falls. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott tripped on a kickoff, which might have been a game-swinging slip had Elliott not stayed upright long enough to complete the kick.

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott slips on a kickoff.

The grass — not turf — was grown for two years in advance of the game at a Phoenix farm and installed a few weeks ago. The whole surface cost $800,000, according to, which suggests the problem is probably not in a lack of willingness to invest. But the fact the league would play on what became clear was not fully tested grass speaks volumes. A pregnant Rihanna could be suspended from moving platforms, but the players could not properly accelerate and decelerate on the ground below.

Also speaking volumes was the manner in which the game finished. A season that included constant complaining about the officiating — remember the Rams-Seahawks game that was called the “worst officiated game of the year?” How about the persistent roughing-the-passer calls that drove fan bases crazy? Or the pass-interference-that-wasn’t that helped the Giants beat the Commanders? — always was going to end with more complaining about the officiating.

On a third-and-8 with 1:54 left in the fourth quarter of a tie game, Mahomes threw too deep into the end zone for JuJu Smith-Schuster. For a moment, it appeared as if the Chiefs would have to kick a 32-yard field goal to creep ahead and hand the ball back to Hurts’ Eagles with a shot at a game-winning drive.

Instead, a flag was thrown on former Giant James Bradberry, who the officials believed held Smith-Schuster on the route. Perhaps he did for a moment, but the contact was minimal and likely did not keep Smith-Schuster from reaching the ball. With a new set of downs, the Chiefs milked the clock and booted a last-second field goal for the win.

NFL referee Carl Cheffers looks at a replay during the second quarter in Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Referee Carl Cheffers’ crew frustrated fans with a number of calls Sunday night, especially on a controversial holding penalty late in the fourth quarter.
Getty Images

What a terrible way to end a great game. What a predictable and symbolic way to end the 2022-23 season.

The Super Bowl was American, bloated, infuriating and thrilling. So much went wrong, which won’t affect the game’s popularity an iota. What a perfect capsule of the NFL in 2023.

Today’s back page

New York Post

Read more from the Super Bowl:

🏈 O’CONNOR: Patrick Mahomes is new face of American sports after Super Bowl heroics

🏈 VACCARO: The Chiefs are ready to address the dynasty question

🏈 CANNIZZARO: Andy Reid enters rarefied air with Chiefs’ thrilling comeback win

🏈 MARCHAND: Greg Olsen nailed Super Bowl’s crucial play — and now the pressure is on Tom Brady

🏈 Jets have Aaron Rodgers trade talks with Packers

Grind city

For a 50th straight year, New York won’t see an NBA title. The Nets only have ABA trophies, and the Knicks are ringless since 1973.

The Nets’ decision to trade Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ensured the streak would continue. Yet, both New York teams emerged from the trade deadline as immensely likable, if not legitimate contenders, ahead of their showdown at the Garden on Monday night (7:30 p.m., MSG, YES).

In tearing down their super-team, the Nets acknowledged defeat. In rebuilding on the fly with long, defensive-minded wings who also seem content in Brooklyn, the Nets have traded potential for popularity.

Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on February 11, 2023 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Mikal Bridges had 23 points and six rebounds in a Nets loss to the Sixers that showed Brooklyn may not need a total rebuild after trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
NBAE via Getty Images

Mikal Bridges already enjoys his natural “Brooklyn Bridges” nickname. Spencer Dinwiddie is showing that once a fan favorite, always a fan favorite. Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith play hard and defend always, which the organization clearly now is prioritizing. Even though the new-look Nets lost Saturday to James Harden’s 76ers, it feels as if a team is forming that the city can root for.

Speaking of grit, Josh Hart looked like the exact piece the Knicks sought in his team debut Saturday, a win over the Jazz. Jalen Brunson’s former Villanova running mate can quietly decide games without scoring. He finished with 11 points on six shots, but immediately became too important for coach Tom Thibodeau to sub out in the final quarter. Every loose ball — which included seven rebounds and four steals — seemed to wind up in Hart’s hands.

“He made my job 10 times easier,” said Immanuel Quickley, who had less dirty work to do. “Everywhere he goes, he’s a winner.”

Hart makes the Knicks better and more hard-nosed, an attribute the city appreciates. Still, these Knicks aren’t built to beat the Celtics or Bucks in the playoffs.

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart rebounds the ball against the Utah Jazz in the first half at Madison Square Garden in New York, USA, February 11, 2023.
It took all of one game for Josh Hart to become an indispensable part of Tom Thibiodeau’s crunch-time lineup.
Jason Szenes for the NY Post

But that’s OK. With the football season over, New York fans will have a couple fun teams to root for tonight.

The Captain’s conundrum

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are teammates again.

Jeter is the newest member of team Fox Sports, the Yankees legend and Hall of Famer going from Marlins CEO to national baseball analyst beginning this season.

In his playing days, Jeter excelled at saying nothing. He worked with reporters and always would be around to answer questions, but those answers rarely made headlines or raised eyebrows. He said a lot, and he said nothing, which is exactly how his Fox Sports stint started.

Former New York Yankees baseball player Derek Jeter attends a news conference at Yankee Stadium, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in New York. On Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, Fox Sports announced during its Super Bowl pregame show that Jeter will be part of the network's studio coverage for the coming season.
Derek Jeter will add more star power to Fox’s MLB coverage, but if his relationship with the media during his playing days is any indication, it’s not clear how much hard-edged analysis he will bring.

A few hours before the Super Bowl, Jeter was asked on air who would win. He answered, and he did not answer.

“It’s kind of hard for me to ever pick against [Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes] because we played against his dad,” Jeter said of Mahomes’ father, who pitched for the Mets. “So I’m hoping for a good game.

“I’m trying to be politically correct here. This is not my element, with football fans.”

Stating opinions has not been Jeter’s element, which will make this next chapter of his life fascinating.

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