Super Bowl XLVI was more than just a thrilling game that saw the New York Giants edge the New England Patriots once again. It was much more than the vehicle for Eli Manning's climb into the Hall of Fame, Gisele Bundchen's profane defense of Tom Brady or even a halftime extravaganza that saw Madonna slip on stage and MIA flip the bird to the world.
Above all, the Super Bowl served as the spectacular culmination of a wildly successful NFL season that came unnecessarily close to never happening.
According to Nielsen, Sunday's game was the most widely viewed event in American television history, drawing 111.3 million pairs of eyes to their respective sets—166.8 who watched at least part of the game—and narrowly edging last year's Super Bowl, between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, for the top spot in the record books.
This after attracting a viewership of 12.5 million fans to the 2012 Pro Bowl, which even commissioner Roger Goodell lamented as an embarrassment to the league and its reputation.
And to think, just six months ago, there remained a possibility, however remote, that the NFL would lock out its players and forfeit part (or all) of a season to score an even bigger share of the league's giant revenue pie.
Instead, after cutting into training camp and losing the Hall of Fame Game, the league and its players shook hands on a 10-year pact and embarked on one of the most heavily watched seasons the sport has ever seen.
The NFL's regular season drew more than 200 million unique viewers in the US, with each televised game averaging better than 17.5 million, marking the league's second-highest viewership average since 1989. What's more, a record 37 games drew at least 20 million people to the TV.
Any way you slice it, the NFL saw no ill effects to its TV ratings from its labor dispute. If anything, the threat of losing games might actually have whet people's appetites for football, to the point where audiences ended up clamoring to watch games in droves like never before, even with the rapid diversification of viewing options.
Maybe the NFL and its players should consider staging a strike or a lockout every year, just to scare legions of football fans into watching.
Or not. So long as the league continues to improve its product and the way its games are delivered, the ratings will only go up, up, up.