Classic Super Bowls come in different forms. For the last decade and a half, we’d gotten lulled back to sleep, if that’s possible, by a slew of “Classic Super Bowls” in the truest sense.
From the moment the Titans fell a yard short of tying the ’99 Rams in SB XXXIV at the dawn of the 21st century, and then a few last-second Adam Vinatieri FG’s in Patriots squeakers over the Eagles and Panthers… and on through Santonio Holmes impossible toe-tap catch of a Ben Roethlisberger fade to the corner to beat the Cardinals in a thriller; right up to last year when the Ravens stopped the 49ers on four downs inside the 10-yard line to preserve a 34-31 win…
The Super Bowl had become truly super on the field, after a generation or so of blowouts. So for those of us old enough to remember stuff like “55-10” and Doug Williams 4-TD onslaught to bury the Broncos in the 2nd quarter of SB XXII, last night was like a long-lost old friend returning to our Super Bowl party uninvited.
Actually, those old blowouts are part of the reason the Super Bowl became the event we know it as today. All the silly prop bets, and the massive attention to the commercials and halftime performances stem in part from the days when the game itself didn’t live up to the billing so we invented other ways to entertain ourselves. William “The Refrigerator” Perry scoring a TD in the ’85 Bears 46-10 dismantling of the Patriots spawned the massive Super Bowl prop industry, and soon after we almost didn’t care that the Cowboys were destroying the Bills, again, because we all were actually wagering on the Bud Bowl and whether or not Moose Johnston would have more than 3.5 receptions.
Things started in the 80s, with The Marcus Allen Run to 38-9, Montana over Marino 38-16, the aforementioned Bears-Pats 46-10 and Washington-Denver 42-10, and Giants-Broncos 39-20 (sorry Denver). Then the early 90s went full blowout when the Broncos and Bills took turns getting their asses kicked by the likes of the Cowboys and Niners. By the time we got to 1995 and Steve Young was hanging 49 points on the Chargers, we just accepted that stupid expensive commercials and wacky prop bets were all we were really gonna get on alleged Super Sunday, so we shrugged and looked for new ways to combine buffalo wings with some sort of dipping product.
The Super Bowl had become Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. We gorged on food and celebrated consumerism and commercialism sprinkled with red, white, and blue glittery Freedom from TV to shining TV, and drank record amounts of terrible light beer and possibly set some stuff on fire.
But then somewhere on the way from Pasadena to New Orleans to Miami to Glendale, AZ, for Big Game after Big Game that just became Bigger and BIGGER… we started to get some really good football mixed in with our cheesy commercials and cheesier snacks.
After the Titans lost to that great Rams team by the exact point spread of 7, the Ravens 34-7 thrashing of the Giants actually felt like a better, more entertaining game than the final score indicates. Then the modern day Pats showed up with Belichick/Brady and win or lose, their Super Bowls were settled by 3, 3, 3, 3, and 4 points. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, New England managed to deliver the TV-ready drama to the masses.
Even the halftime show was peaking. Ironically, the controversy about almost kinda seeing a flash of one of Janet Jackson’s boobs (we saw more in the blurred-out photo that spent the next two weeks displayed on the “news”), spurred on the powers that be to “fix” the halftime show and suddenly we were getting U2 and the Rolling Stones and Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen and it was like okay now these guys know how to put on a stadium concert! Again, the action on the field was finally worthy of all the stupid hype that had gotten to the point that there were actually people whose favorite team was just the hype. “Oh, I don’t care about the game. I just like the commercials.” This became an accepted position and social demographic.
Meanwhile, the rest of us were tired of the nonsense surrounding the big game and just wanted more Game and less Big. And in the 2000’s, thankfully, the games had finally gotten good.
Sure we still got some blowout-reminder clunkers like when Rich Gannon threw more TD passes to Bucs defenders (3) than he did to Raiders receivers (2). And while some games like Colts-Bears and Steelers-Seahawks weren’t exactly heart-stopping classics, they were relatively competitive contests. Certainly more so than 43-8. The props and commercials faded a bit into the background, as the Steelers-Cardinals game was one for the ages and Peyton Manning ran into Drew Brees and the Saints and Sean Payton calling for an onside kick to open the second half. And it was like Damn, the Super Bowl has gotten really good every year, and what? It’s pouring rain the whole time and PRINCE plays at halftime (also in the pouring rain) and just kills it. But Manning’s quest for a second ring would be pick-sixed into Super Bowl lore.
And as much as this Seattle swarm felt a bit like Baltimore’s somewhat surprising (at the time) beatdown of New York, or even New England’s first title when they prevailed against the high-flying offense of that time, this Broncos-Seahawks game just got boring and bad after a while.
That’s when our old friends The Commercials and Halftime Show came back to our party. Fittingly one of them featured Alf and Marry Lou Retton, and, as if they were accidentally celebrating the heyday of blowout Super Bowls, there was a Seinfeld citing and then the freakin Red Hot Chili Peppers jumped out of the stage to givitaway, givitaway, givitaway-now (possibly without their guitars plugged in, but we stopped caring about that years ago) and it was like the 80s and 90s all over again! The Broncos were getting annihilated on TV and everything was familiar and right in the world (sorry again, Denver).
And like all those corporate food products and Seinfeld and The Muppets and everything else we’d grown up on, we’d also grown up on a steady diet of these blowouts so many Roman numerals ago.
Going into this game, we thought we were poised for a classic. Not an old blowout classic, just yet another modern real classic. A battle of RoboQuarterback Peyton Manning vs. Defense Wins Championships. On the first play of the game we added to the Weird Shit Happens at the Super Bowl list when Manning saw the first snap of the game go flying over his head for a safety and a 2-0 Seattle lead. And while 2-0, or even 5-0, shouldn’t have been an insurmountable deficit for the likes of Manning and Co. to overcome… after all, despite those scores this was American football (if you hadn’t noticed from the truck commercials and soda products). We thought all signs pointed to a possible Peyton comeback, with or without the crippling pick-6, and one of these teams would survive another “classic.”
Unfortunately it turned into that other kind of classic Super Bowl. Even when it was “only” 15-0 in the 2nd quarter, it just felt like things had gotten outta hand from the jump and those signs had actually pointed to Blowout City. Manning had a pretty hyper case of happy feet, jumping around in the pocket, forced into rushing throws so his receivers could get crushed on the way to more 3-and-outs. It seemed like his feet were the only happy thing about Manning. He would eventually throw the crippling pick-6 and make sad faces for the Internet Meme-makers to ridicule him with. Kick returners put nails in coffins and a good ol’ blowout was on. At some point in the telecast, Kiefer Sutherland returned as Jack Bauer, probably because someone was getting tortured and killed.
And while the headline writers cued up some version of “ORANGE CRUSHED” and America got down to the business of “Rating the Commercials” and praying for snow or calling in sick on Monday, long after we’d said goodbye to the last of our party guests and re-heated some coagulated cheese dip, we woke up to the realization that football is over.
Was it all a dream? To drop two more references from the 80s and 90s, had we warped into The Truman Show and gone Back to the Future? If anyone could pull that off, it would be the NFL. I mean, Bruno Mars did look an awful lot like the Seahawks quarterback…
Tags: ALF Best Super Bowl Commercials Bruno Mars Bud Bowl Denver Broncos Flea Mary Lou Retton Peyton Manning Red Hot Chili Peppers Seattle Seahawks Seinfeld Super Bowl Super Bowl 48 Super Bowl Commercials Super Bowl Props Super Bowl XLVIII