Forget the reality TV crap, or the sordid details of his personal life over the past decade, because above everything, Hulk Hogan was a superstar, a monster in the world of sports entertainment. He was a Real American, he had legions of followers; what were you going to do when Hulkamania ran wild on you, brother?!
It was too much fun not to watch, to avoid being swept up in American pride, because it was one hell of a great script: He came out pointing fingers, ripping his shirt from the chest, cupping his ears, asking his fans to rise to another level of hysteria they didn’t know they could reach.
Then the match started, and Hogan and his opponent would do the usual posturing, grappling, body slams and turnbuckle punching … and maybe some more posturing.
Then, the low point came. The Hulkster lost steam, his opponent gaining confidence and barreling down at a victory against the mightiest of them all. Hogan would be down on the mat, turning over in agony, the crowd either restless or straight up stunned.
There was no way Hulk could come back from this.
Invariably, after one too many punches from the opponent instead of going for the knockout, Hogan would rise. He’d shake his head, the yellow hair from the back of his head flinging sweat like a sprinkler into the crowd; then his fists would shake, and soon his entire body would spasm, in a gleeful rage. His opponent would be incredulous; the fans overjoyed. After one last gasp, one final punch from the soon-to-be-loser, Hogan would shoot his head up, give a soul-piercing death stare, and point.
The other guy was screwed. After the iconic leg drop, Hogan would cover, the bell would ring, and the Real American would be champion again.
How? There’s no way, you would say. I can’t believe I just saw that!
Hulkster, meet your match. They’re called the New England Patriots, and they just pulled another trick out of their endless bag in Super Bowl LI. The Patriots were once, if not darlings of the NFL, at least a team people could root for. They beat the heavily favored Rams for their first championship with baby-faced Tom Brady behind center. Brady
is was a true underdog, taken by the Pats in the sixth round of the draft in 2000 .
“We’re all Patriots, and tonight the Patriots are world champions!” bellowed owner Robert Craft on the big stage after the win over St. Louis. Talk about being a Real American, a story everyone not wearing Raiders gear could get behind, this was it.
The wins have never stopped coming, even if the public’s favor outside of Boston has soured to the point of a Simpsons character eating a lemon.
Hogan didn’t always win the belt. In the title match against the Ultimate Warrior in 1990, it looked like he had it in the bag. But Ultimate came back and shocked the world. So did the Giants against the Pats, twice.
Hulkamania never stops, though, and to the chagrin of NFL fans, neither do the Patriots. They’re the heel of the league, their Hollywood NWO phase lasting longer than even their haters would like. The reasons to dislike them are endless, and exhausting, so why bother going over them again?
But just when you think the other team has them down, ready to take over and become the new darlings, the Pats start to shake. The Seahawks’ Jermaine Kearse just completed one of the most amazing catches you’ll ever see, and now Seattle is yards away from winning Super Bowl 49. No one can stop running back Marshawn Lynch, so this is a gimme. Patriot-mania is done. Game over.
Until, well, you know.
Two years later, the Falcons have dominated the championship against the Pats. Fending off a comeback late in the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan completes a pass to Julio Jones that is, once again, one of the more amazing plays you’ll ever see. This is devastating to the Pats’ chances, as it puts Atlanta in field goal range. Soon, Atlanta will have an 11-point lead, essentially securing the title. Sorry Patriots, you’re down on the mat and this time, you’re not getting up.
And again, the shaking starts. The Patriots flip their hair, ball their fists and start pointing fingers. It’s happening again. Matt Ryan is sacked on third down, taking them out of field goal range. Now Tom Brady gets the ball back with a chance to tie. He gears up for a flurry of punches. They connect. Tie game. It goes to overtime. Maybe, just maybe, if Atlanta wins the coin toss, they’ll be the ones to end it with a touchdown. You think back to Super Bowl 38 when the Panthers should have forced overtime if John Kasay hadn’t kicked the ball out of bounds, giving Brady prime field position to drive down for the win. That was Patriot-mania rising up, the football gods, somehow, for whatever reason, thinking that needed to happen.
Not surprisingly, the Pats win the coin toss this time. There’s too much momentum on their side. Atlanta is helpless. The Falcons are thrown against the ropes and bounce off, but before they turn around, they know — everyone knows — what’s coming.
Brady with the leg drop. Boom. New England with the cover. Touchdown. They did it, again. I can’t believe what I just watched.
And the Patriots climb the turnbuckles, hold the belt high, flex their muscle, and ask … nay, demand an answer that no one can give, because who in the world can possibly explain what keeps happening, time and again:
Whatcha gonna do, brother?