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Year of the (Sea)hawk

 Russell Wilson, the face and form of football’s present – and future.

Russell Wilson, the face and form of football’s present – and future.

It’s supposed to be the Year of the Horse. But someone forgot to tell the Seattle Seahawks.

And the Denver Broncos. Thunder, the Broncos’ Arabian stallion of a mascot, may have thundered into MetLife Stadium, but the Broncos sure didn’t.

So what did we learn from the less-than-Super Bowl?

1. Good pitching stops good hitting. Football translation: Good defense stops good offense. The Hawks’ D-line just shut Peyton Manning and company down.

2. But you still have to put up some points, otherwise a good defense means nothing. Ah, 43 – 8 Seattle? No problem.

3. The guard has changed. Peyton may be the classic pocket passer but – and it breaks my heart to say this – his time is past even as he lives it. The game belongs to a breed of young, largely African-American, running quarterbacks – led by the Hawks’ Russell Wilson – who are not afraid to move and mix things up. They’re risk-taking, they’re thrilling and their time is now.

4. New York remains a class act. And let’s be clear about this: MetLife Stadium may be in New Jersey, but Super Bowl XLVIII was all about New York and recompense for 9/11. On Super Bowl Sunday, New York came full circle. It wasn’t East Rutherford, N.J. that Fox kept flashing on. It was the Manhattan skyline, particularly One World Trade. The heartbeat of Super Bowl Week came from The Great White Way, a portion of which became Super Bowl Boulevard. Having Renée Fleming of The Metropolitan Opera sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” simply and beautifully with fireworks bursting in air, the presence of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, swathed in Tiffany & Co. blue: New York demonstrated that when it comes to rising to an occasion, no one does it better.

5. Classical, pop: A great performance is a great performance. Fleming, looking fab in columnar black and white, rocked it. But so did Bruno Mars at half-time in a gold jacket. Which bring us to….

6. Why do some people rise to the occasion and others shrink? For all his greatness, Peyton Manning is not the post-season quarterback his brother Eli – looking forlorn Sunday in his own home ballpark – is. Nor is he the quarterback that Russell Wilson is now. Did Denver choke? Did Seattle want it more? Or was it destiny? It’s hard to say. Maybe it’s a combination of all three. But one thing is sure – and it’s certainly a sub-theme of my “The Games Men Play” series: You have to be willing to refuse to be defeated. That doesn’t mean you’ll win. But it does mean you will never beat yourself. And you may just create an opportunity to succeed when all seems lost.

7. As if things weren’t bad enough for Denver, the best commercial of the night featured ex-Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow, contract-less for the equally contract-less T-Mobile, rescuing puppies, riding bulls, stunt-driving, etc. (Runner-up – Tom Hiddleston, Ben Kingsley and Mark Strong making the case for Jaguar and Brit villains.) Tebow was fresh, funny and pitch-perfect. Which is more than we can say for his ex-teammates.