Super Bowl organizers could not have asked for a more intense finish, with New Yorkers roaring for the Broncos, who made a strong push at the wire, and the Seahawks, who held on for a one-point win.
This was how it turned out Thursday, anyway, as former Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees coached a team of Bethpage High School students to a victory over some of their classmates in "Financial Football," an educational video game in which a team can move the ball only by correctly answering finance-related questions.
"Pretty awesome, meeting Drew Brees and actually talking about financial literacy and all that," said Tom Mkrtichian, a senior who wore his Bethpage Baseball hoodie to the Manhattan event and helped lead the digital Seahawks over the Broncos, who were coached by NFL Hall of Fame finalist Derrick Brooks.
One of the joys of Super Bowl week, wherever it is held, is that local people get close enough to touch it in one way or another. The Bethpage students, through a connection with Visa, which sponsors the video game in schools throughout the country, represented the New York area yesterday.
So they got to hear advice from Brees and Brooks (the latter also mentioned to the students, "Man, I wish I had the chance to go out to Bethpage and hit that golf course"). Then they got to play the game, which was shown on large screens. The NFL stars called the plays -- a deep pass brought a tougher question than a conservative run -- and the kids came up with consensus answers.
"I was sitting next to him, so I was able to help him out. He was pretty nice," Mkrtichian said of Brees. "We don't really learn a lot about this kind of stuff, so this was helpful."
Brees' team answered enough questions about mortgages, taxes and emergency funds for a 7-6 win.
"Honestly, it kind of re-emphasizes things to me that have gotten me to this point," Brees said. "I guess the lessons you try to impart on them, a lot of them are from experience, you know? Hey, we were all in their shoes at one point."
In a financial-planning pep talk to the whole group, the Saints quarterback emphasized the importance of living within one's means.
"Could I go out and buy a Ferrari right now? Yes, I could. Am I going to do that? No. That is not responsible," he said. "So whether you have a dollar or have a million dollars, my message to you would be to live within your means, live responsibly."
As for how the real game Sunday will turn out, Brees raved about Peyton Manning. "I think it would be pretty unbelievable to cap off the season he's had by winning a Super Bowl championship," said Brees, whose Saints lost at Seattle in the divisional round.
"But I'm a big fan of Russell Wilson. He's a tremendous young man. He carries himself the right way, both on and off the field. So I don't know. I like both of those guys."