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CHRIS TRAINOR


Well, this is it.

It’s the last day. The really, final, for real last day.

At least until September.

Indeed, today is the last day of this football season. High school ball has been over for a while and, yes, I’m still smiling after my beloved Abbeville Panthers who won their eighth state championship. The college season ended about a month ago, and many of my Clemson friends are still celebrating their national title -- or “natty” as I’ve now heard about a hundred thousand times.

And now the pros are set to put a bow on the whole thing, and do it in style. Super Bowl LI is here.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or have been preoccupied with your preferred fake news channel, you’re likely well aware of tonight’s big game. Quarterback Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will meet Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in a showdown that will kickoff just after 6:30 p.m. in Houston, Texas.

The fine, upstanding gentlemen out there in Las Vegas, Nevada think the Patriots will win by about 3 points. It’s a reasonable spread. This is business as usual for New England, which is going for its fifth Super Bowl win under coach/mastermind/malcontent Bill Belichick. Few are likely to bet against the “evil genius” and his poster boy quarterback.

But if you’re from this neck of the woods, you’ve got to pull for Atlanta, right? In the years before the Carolina Panthers showed up in Charlotte, the Falcons were sort of the de facto favorite team for many in this part of the Upstate. For a long, long, lllooonngg time they weren’t much, but they were ours.

In fact, I’ve known some folks in the Lakelands who have been quite dedicated to the Falcons. Local physician Bob Saul and his son Ben have been super fans, attending numerous games in the Georgia Dome over the years.

I also have a friend -- who shall remain nameless on Sunday morning -- who once nearly died because of his devotion to Atlanta’s long maligned Dirty Birds. He was at his parents’ house watching the Falcons play on TV, and late in the fourth quarter it appeared the team was certain to lose. He left before the game was over, but was listening to the broadcast on the radio as he drove away. Right then, the Falcons scored a dramatic touchdown and, in an effort to quickly go back to his parents’ house and see a replay of the score, he wrecked his truck. That’s devotion, even if he didn’t get to see the replay.

Regardless of which team wins tonight’s game, it should be quite a spectacle.

Of course, there are the commercials. The Super Bowl is the only game of the year in which people stay glued to the couch during the commercials, then make a run to grab snacks or hit the bathroom when the game comes back on.

Spots during tonight’s game on FOX went for $5 million apiece. And yet, despite that price tag, some companies continued the curious practice of releasing their Super Bowl commercials online last week. I don’t get it. Wouldn’t releasing your big, fancy commercial online ahead of time lessen the impact it will have during the game itself? I guess crass commercialism just isn’t what it used to be.

And we’ve got Lady Gaga performing at halftime, which should be fun, in part because she’s got an incredible, world class voice, and in part because there is a chance that she could come out in a dress made completely out of veal cutlets. Gaga’s appearance represents the best chance for some inappropriate halftime hijinks since Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction back in 2004. (That Super Bowl also was played in Houston, by the way.)

Then there’s the food. The wings. The nachos. The beer and soda. The pizza. The salad (just kidding).

When you add it all up, you come to the inevitable conclusion that today is, in fact, a holiday. An unofficial national holiday, one in which we bid adieu to our national pastime (Sorry, baseball, it’s true) until next season. The only bad part is having to go to work on Monday after a game that will no doubt stretch deep into the night. That’s why I’ve long lobbied for the Super Bowl to be moved to Saturday. But that’s another column for another day.

PREDICTION: Sure, New England should win. But I’ve got to roll with the boys from the ATL. Falcons 28, Patriots 27.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter@ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.