Let it reign

OK, everybody together now…

Greatest Super Bowl ever?

Ah, ye olden days of Super Bowl blowouts and tepid veggie dip left by uninterested guests. These days, the Super Bowl is anything but a Vegas over, and we’re more often than not privy to attempt and answer the question of the superlative contest as the years tick by.

Ever since Mike Holmgren allowed Terrell Davis to change football history by delivering Mr. Lombardi to John Elway and the Broncos way back in 1998, we’ve been delegated 10-plus years of Super Bowls so competitive that they have changed the very nature of our national faux holiday. Heck, based on the three dramatic Super Bowls he’s been a part of, who’s got a problem with making Kurt Warner a permanent fixture in the game?

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Just think of the abundance of good fortune we’ve had since Y2K: The Longest Yard. Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri, Ty Law, and U2. Brady, Delhomme, and a shanked kick. Donovan McNabb’s intestinal fortitude.
And yes . . . David Tyree. It’s been a year, people — we have to talk about it. An objective point of view is imperative to include Super Bowl XLII among the classics. For whatever parochial perspective fellow Patriots fans might have, it is indeed in the discussion. Really, it is.
And now we have one more argument to add. Super Bowl XLIII.
Ah, progress. Games that live up to the overbearing hype. Go figure.
Take a look at this list, spanning from 1981 to 1997, the era of NFC dominance, and you tell me the competitive nature of the bulk of them:
XXXI Jan. 26, 1997 GREEN BAY 35 NEW ENGLAND 21
XXX Jan. 28, 1996 DALLAS 27 PITTSBURGH 17
XXIX Jan. 29, 1995 SAN FRANCISCO 49 SAN DIEGO 26
XXVIII Jan. 30, 1994 DALLAS 30 BUFFALO 13
XXVII Jan. 31, 1993 DALLAS 52 BUFFALO 17
XXVI Jan. 26, 1992 WASHINGTON 37 BUFFALO 24
XXV Jan. 27, 1991 N.Y. GIANTS 20 BUFFALO 19
XXIV Jan. 28, 1990 SAN FRANCISCO 55 DENVER 10
XXIII Jan. 22, 1989 SAN FRANCISCO 20 CINCINNATI 16
XXII Jan. 31, 1988 WASHINGTON 42 DENVER 10
XXI Jan. 25, 1987 N.Y. GIANTS 39 DENVER 20
XX Jan. 26, 1986 CHICAGO 46 NEW ENGLAND 10
XIX Jan. 20, 1985 SAN FRANCISCO 38 MIAMI 16
XVIII Jan. 22, 1984 L.A. RAIDERS 38 WASHINGTON 9
XVII Jan. 30, 1983 WASHINGTON 27 MIAMI 17
XVI Jan. 24, 1982 SAN FRANCISCO 26 CINCINNATI 21
A few gems, for sure, but aside from Joe Montana’s pair of wins over the Bengals and Scott Norwood’s “Wide Right,” the Super Bowl hardly lived up to its name, with the AFC a bumbling partner in the proceedings.
Nothing in NFL history compares to the annual behemoths we’ve got here this decade, save for wins by the Buccaneers, Colts, and Steelers the first time around. For a team billed by many as the worst Super Bowl participant ever, the Cardinals gave the Steelers every bit they had, only to witness Ben Roethlisberger and Co. steal it back from them in the final seconds. Box of chocolates, etc.
There’s a certain sense of depression for me every time the Super Bowl packs up and heads for Honolulu, and last night’s game illustrates why. I mean, how can you sit through an experience like that and not simply thirst for more? Alas, there are now six long months until America’s true pastime kicks back into gear. And no local parade to speak of.
But plenty of Brady-Matt Cassel debate. Yay.
Oh, they may inexplicably be laying off employees, but it’s evident that the recession isn’t going to hurt the NFL’s TV partners. At $3 million a pop last night, it was a risky venture for American corporations (and our foreign friends, Budweiser) to advertise. No matter what the next 12 months bring us as far as the economy is concerned, you think that number is going to go down next January? Right.
It doesn’t matter who plays, the money is going to flow in. But the caveat of possibly being part of classic theater like last night indeed must make it a little easier to fork it over.
Me, I still stick to the claim that New England’s victory over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII, a thrilling roller coaster ride in Houston, is the best I’ve ever watched. I was at that one, and I remember running into the late Dan Pires of the New Bedford Standard Times on my way down to the press gathering. It was just moments after Vinatieri again gave his team the victory with a kick through the uprights, and Dan, the football fanatic that he was, was downright electrified.
“THAT,” he said, “was the best Super Bowl. Ever.”
I can only imagine what he might have thought last night.
Heck of a game. Hell of a game.
But Best Ever? I have no problem if you say so.