It’s hard to believe that the Super Bowl will be playing its FIFTIETH game this coming Sunday. That’s FIFTY years of football history since they started this thing that was once known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Do you realize all of the things that can happen in FIFTY years? That’s like 200 years in internet time. It’s kind of typical of the times back then that they would choose that long, stiff AFL-NFL name before everyone realized that Super Bowl was a sexier name and everyone started calling it by the “cool name” shortly thereafter.
That first “Super Bowl” was held so long ago that man had yet to walk on the moon. The U.S. was still fighting a war in Vietnam. Disco had not even begun yet. Martin Luther King Jr. was battling a system that still denied people of color their basic civil rights. There were no cell phones. And no personal computers were even on the horizon. The Internet was not even a dream in Al Gore’s mind yet either. Lyndon Johnson was the President of the U.S. and was soon going to be replaced by Richard Nixon. Do you remember your President Nixon?
The Super Bowl is so big now that it has become an American institution. The Super Bowl is so big, more people will probably watch that game than will watch the results of this year’s presidential elections. It is probably the only thing in society today that draws a massive American TV watching community together where more than a hundred million people can all go to work the next day and all be talking about that exact same thing they were all watching.
If only Soupy Sales were alive today. He too could have some thoughts, facts and comments about this gargantuan thing we now have called The Super Bowl.
There are 32 teams now playing in the National Football League. In the 49 Super Bowls that have already been played, there a grand total of only four of them, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns (the expansion Browns, not the old Browns that became the Baltimore Ravens), who have never played in a Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions did get to attend a Super Bowl and WATCH the game once when a Super Bowl, for some mysterious reason, was held in Detroit.
There are teams that always seem to be in or around Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos (after this week, they hit the magic number) have played in eight of the Super Bowls. The Steelers have won it six times, the 49ers and Cowboys have won it five. New England, four (all in close games), New York Giants, four (including two over New England in close games), Green Bay, four (winning in the 60’s, 90’s and 2000’s) have been other, impressive multiple Super Bowl winners.
Every great quarterback that ever played during the “Super Bowl Era 1967-2016” seems to have participated in the game. You name the quarterback that people might consider great, and most of these have either made the Hall of Fame, or probably WILL make it (Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, John Elway, Steve Young, Dan Marino, John Unitas, Bart Starr, Troy Aikman, Aaron Rodgers, Fran Tarkenton, Drew Brees, Joe Theismann, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Ben Roethlisberger, Bob Griese, Jim Kelly, Kurt Warner, Jim Plunkett, Len Dawson), and they played in the biggest game. Maybe Warren Moon and Dan Fouts could be considered Hall of Fame quality greats that DIDN’T play in a Super Bowl?
Ditto with the greatest of coaches. Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Chuck Noll, George Allen, Bud Grant, Hank Stram, Jimmy Johnson, Joe Gibbs, Mike Ditka, John Madden, Marv Levy, etc. Legends, check. Coached in the Super Bowl? You betcha. Others will (or probably could) join this list. The point is, you make it to the BIG game, your legacy grows with each time you make it there.
Running backs, surprisingly were not so synonymous with all time greatness AND participation in the Super Bowl. Jim Brown pretty much quit before the Super Bowl started, and he DID play in an NFL championship just a year or so before the whole thing started, so he gets a pass. But other GREAT running backs NEVER got to play in the game. That would include Barry Sanders (is it HIS fault he had to play for Detroit?), O.J. Simpson (if you remember him as a running back, he could really cut and slash with the best of them), Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Gale Sayers, and Ladainian Tomlinson, to name a few.
Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, John Riggins, Jerome Bettis, Franco Harris and Marshall Faulk DID play in Super Bowls. It seems that a great running back can be stopped and kept OUT of a Super Bowl, but the same great quarterback play GETS you there.
It seems as if there is no set pattern as to whether the game will be a great game (less than a one possession game or 8 points), competitive but greater than a one possession difference (between 9 and 15 or so points), or a flat out rout (16 points or greater difference). In the 49 previous games it has been roughly a 40-20-40 breakdown, meaning about 40% of the time, the game has been really close, less than a touchdown, with about 20% being competitive, more than a touchdown, but less than two touchdowns) and a good 40% of the games have been pretty much routs of more than two touchdowns’ difference.
Halftime shows take about twice as long as a normal halftime, all the more time to let TV air their expensive commercials. Speaking of those commercials, companies will have to pay somewhere around five million dollars for each 30 second commercial (compared to the approximate similar commercial buy of the “first” Super Bowl of $40,000). That’s a lot of money, of course, but they ARE reaching somewhere upwards of 100 million people. These companies put their best people on it to come up with commercials that attempt to be as entertaining as the game itself, and it often is the commercials that help to attract the non-football fan audience that the Super Bowl is so famous for. One thing that puzzles me, though. I still can’t tell, when the game is over WHICH of the cars (advertised from all of the car companies) was which. They always all look the same. Five million dollars of advertising money spent to show off something most people are going to forget. Wow.
No matter how you try to spin it, though, the Super Bowl DOMINATES the other major sports and their championships in the U.S. sports scene today. Baseball and its World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup playoffs all PALE in comparison next to the Super Bowl’s ratings. There are probably as many people in this country that look forward to the Super Bowl as they look forward to Christmas.
So we have a Denver Bronco team playing the Carolina Panthers this Sunday in the 50th version of what can now be considered America’s favorite day of the year. Over a hundred million American viewers are expected to watch this game. It has come a LONG way since that first game back in 1967. The Super Bowl is looking as good as ever and as strong as ever as it hits age 50.