Even if you’re a romance fan who doesn’t like football—and with all those muscles and tight pants on display, it’s hard for me to fathom why—the guys playing in this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis are more than just Patriots or Giants. By Lombardi, they’re also romance heroes!
In a romance, it’s the combination of a hero’s personality, obstacles, and the way he fights through them that makes us want to cheer. Without following the sport’s Xs and Os, there’s still a lot of human drama to appreciate, and for better or worse, because these guys are public figures, we find out about it. Here’s just a smattering from both team rosters, displaying enough heroic types and tales (plus bonus siblings for you brother-lovers) to make any heart beat faster.
New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning
Regency fans, this one’s a classic story, only it’s about football royalty: Two of a quarterback’s sons became quarterbacks, six years apart. The older was crowned by the media as perhaps the best ever without even winning a championship. Never as favored, the younger brother settled in, winning his first championship just a year after his older, more lauded brother finally popped the cork. Eli calmly toils away regardless of criticism and unflattering comparisons. Given age and injuries, Big Bro Peyton may never get another chance at a ring. But on Sunday, this discounted second-fiddle will play in his second Super Bowl. Don’t we love it when a Spare beats the Heir?
New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez
This one’s a wisecracking just bad-enough boy with his heart on his sleeve. Hernandez’s collection of ink reflects lessons from his beloved father as well as milestones from his life. This inveterate clown was the NFL’s youngest rookie last year, though his prospects were hurt when he failed a test for wacky weed. He fessed up without hedging, and has played with great finesse and versatility. He doesn’t get serious until it’s serious.
New York Giants Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul
Putting aside the delicious surname, this young gun can do what only an insane author would invent. Sure, lots of romance authors write heroes that are 6-foot-five and almost 250 pounds of muscle like JPP. But they know readers would never buy one doing thirteen backflips in a row like a freaking gymnast. This pass-rusher goes after his object with intensity, strength, and *whew, you might need to fan yourself* acrobatics.
New England Patriots Wide Receiver Julian Edelman
This is the journeyman Jack-of-All-Trades, accused of something he didn’t do. Edelman’s position on the offense is technically WR, but he’s also been returning kicks and punts with special teams, and even plays on the other side of the ball as a defensive back. On the field, he does whatever it takes. Then, last year, he was booked for criminally groping a woman at a club. Big But: the charges were dropped when it was proven by security footage that the accusation was cooked up by the woman and her boyfriend as a preliminary to trying to get a payoff. (Thanks, Sister.) What fires you up more on a hero’s behalf than injustice?
New York Giants Wide Receiver Victor Cruz
Cindefella Gets to the Dance! Unlike rookies landing fat, guaranteed contracts, this smaller guy from a smaller program didn’t make it into the NFL draft. He signed with the Giants as a free agent, basically a ticket to bust his ass trying to earn a job. He showed off his stuff, but an injury delayed his move into the spotlight. Without this season’s highlight reel of Cruz’s catches, fans would’ve missed out on some pretty choreography and his team might’ve missed the playoffs. Look for the signature bit of salsa he does in the endzone after scoring—yes, they’ve already invited him to Dancing with the Stars.
New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady
Relentless. After 10 seasons in the league and a string of records that keeps getting longer—not to mention luxury endorsements and a supermodel wife—this All-American boy could get complacent, but he’s still fired up to compete. After choosing between baseball and football draft options, it’s well-known how he spent time warming benches in college and the pros. But he made sure he wasn’t just waiting with a chip on his shoulder. It became time for disciplined preparation, part of a work ethic that never relaxes. Brady still gets emotional recalling being passed over when he knew inside what he was capable of doing. He still thirsts to achieve. What’s hotter than unstoppable, unquenchable devotion?
New York Giants Punter Steve Weatherford
You don’t get to define how this hero performs his duty. In football, punting is a variety of kicking without even the potential to score points. No one’s happy to see him on the field, because it means his team failed to make a first down. His career goal is to limit the damage from failure, making the opposing team’s return trip as looooong as possible. If his team plays really well, he’s doomed to anonymity. For a guy who’s all about worst cases, Weatherford’s making a run at being his team’s top bod. In his role, no one expects it, but Weatherford won’t oblige expectations. He’s 5% body fat, the strongest Giant pound-for-pound, and keeps up a monster workout routine that awes his teammates. The proof above appeared in Men’s Fitness.
New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski
Barbarian Brothers? In his second NFL season, Gronk broke the league records for most touchdowns and yards by a tight end. Guys at this position are typically big, but this TE is full-on Conan-sized. At 6 and-a-half feet tall, about 275 pounds, he’s got hands the size of catcher’s mitts. In the field, he’s a challenge to bring down, frequently dragging tacklers behind him as he plows ahead. Here’s the sibling twist, just for those of you who dig such: The to-be-sainted Mrs. Gronkowski had 5 sons. The oldest played baseball. The youngest has just started college. Three of them are pro football players. I think a heroine would have to be brave indeed to be surrounded by that beefy crew and say, as Gronk did famously,“Yo soy fiesta!”
Just as there’s a fantasy for every taste, there’s a heroic model for every heart. Who are the real-life counterparts to your fave fictional heroes, and who are you rooting for on Sunday?
Clare Toohey (clare2e) usually lurks over at CriminalElement.com, but always enjoys stopping by to borrow some sugar.