There has been several blogs and articles debating which Super Bowl was
the best in history. People have jumped all over Don Banks, Peter King and others who have dared to call this year's game the best ever. I was surprised to pick up the newspaper today and read that this year's game was even topped by Super Bowl III. The depth of feeling is surprising. Here is my two cents for what it is worth.
In determining which game was the best, all that should matter is the
actual game that was played. By this, I mean that we shouldn't care what two
teams are playing or about the historical significance of the game. I
don't care if it is the Lions playing the Bengals or the Cowboys playing
the Steelers. That doesn't matter. What matters is the actual game
itself. Many of the people arguing against this year's Super Bowl aren't actually arguing against the game itself. They are arguing that it didn't have the historical significance of last year's game (or Super Bowl III) or that the teams were somehow inferior to some of the teams of past games. Those aren't fair criteria. While I don't necessarily agree that this game was any less significant historically or that the teams were inferior, you can certainly make those arguments when comparing this game to last year's because of the Pats historic run. But, I don't think those qualities have anything to do with judging the singular worth of a Super Bowl game.
I think we tend to overly value games from the distant past. Those teams, such as the 70s Steelers, Raiders and Cowboys or even the 80s 49ers squads are overvalued because they are now legends. Even those great teams, and all of them were great, could play some real sloppy games where every other play seemed to result in a turnover. To be fair, I also think we tend to overvalue the last Super Bowl. But, in this case and last year's game, I really don't think we are overvaluing them.
After watching last year's game, and I've watched just about every game since the
1979 Steelers-Rams Super Bowl (before that I was too young to remember),
I was convinced it was the best ever. Not everyone appreciates a
defensive struggle, but it was a real classic. I still believe it was
indeed the best Super Bowl to date...as of last year.
The likelihood that the best Super Bowls in history could be played back
to back in numbers 42 and 43 are astronomically low. But, that's
exactly what happened. This game was better than last year's game. Not everyone may want to admit that, especially those inclined to root against the America's team (just kidding).
Last year's game was a 3-act drama. The defensive struggle that the Giants were clearly winning was act one, The great Brady-esque drive to put the
Patriots on top and seemingly set them up to march into history was act two. The third act was the miraculous finish with one of the best plays in NFL history thrown in for good measure. Unbelievable game. But one of the reasons it was so great for me was because I don't particularly like Belichek and the hero worship he gets from the sports media. Plus, I've always thought Tom Coughlin is a very good coach who was treated unfairly by those same sportswriters who were always calling for his head. Plus, as a Pittsburgher, seeing the team that has broken our heart a few times lose on the big stage wasn't an altogether bad thing, even if I did feel bad for some of their players. These factors have nothing to do with the game that was played and more to do with personal feelings about the teams and personalities. But, it was a 5-star classic game.
This year's Super Bowl was a 6 act virtuoso performance. Act one was the first quarter that was dominated by the Steelers. You would be forgiven if you forgot that Arizona even had the ball during that quarter. If you blinked, you missed it. The second quarter saw a complete momentum swing when the Cardinals surged and appeared to be taking control of the game. The people who had come over to watch the game at my house (all Steelers fan but for a lone Texans fan pulling for the Cardinals) were surprisingly quiet for most of that quarter except for occasional muttered comments like, "Well, that wasn't good." The third act was one play...the Harrison 100-yard interception return...a 14 point swing heading into the half. Absolutely stunning...one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen, one that ranks right up there with the Tyree catch. It may or may not surpass it...I think it did but reasonable people can disagree on that one. Still, it was breathtaking. It is also the reason I had no voice left for the second half. Act IV was the third quarter when the Steelers reestablished control of the game and looked to be on the cusp of putting the game away not once but about three times. This was the worst act of the game (except for Steelers fans), marked by penalties and undisciplined play on both sides. But, halfway through the fourth quarter...it was all fireworks. There were so many ups and downs for fans of both teams...a non-stop adrenaline rush. That was Act V, which featured three amazing plays, both Larry Fitzgerald touchdowns and the safety in the endzone (only because it looked like an amazing throw to Holmes was about to put the game away before being brought back to earth by the flag and safety...ouch). Watching Fitzgerald split the defense and take it to the house and wondering if Roethlisberger had one more rabbit in his hat was tough. It looked like this might be the first Super Bowl to go to overtime.
Act VI was the final drive...all 88 yards of it (after the holding call on the first play by those refs who we all know are in the tank for the Steelers...those same in the tank refs who called holding in the end zone to score the safety). It was an amazing drive, one in which Roethlisberger repeatedly escaped from a heavy rush and made the plays that we've come to expect from him. It was capped off with a top-5 Super Bowl play, one in which I jumped up and cheered even though I fully expected the call to be overturned on replay because, come on, there was no way he could have possibly gotten his feet down while handling that rocket. And then the strip sack to seal the deal. That game is going to be a tough one to top.
There are other candidates frequently mentioned as top Super Bowls, like the two relatively recent Rams Super Bowls. But, those aren't quite in the same category. Mike Jones' tackle to end the Rams-Titans game was a great play and might have been a game saver (depending on overtime result), but it is also a tackle that he should have made (although he'll probably never have to buy a drink in St. Louis for the rest of his days). If the Titans had scored on that play and pushed the game into overtime, then I'd concede it should be talked about as the best. The Rams-Patriots game, at least in my opinion, nudges past that into the third spot. It was also a fantastic game with lots of great plays including the Ty Law interception return that set the early tone of the game. But, the best game for pure excitement happened this year. No question about it. Steelers fans, at least those who were alive during the 70s, have had the fortune to see five superb Super Bowls and only one real dud (XL). Of course, when your team is in the Super Bowl and wins, duds aren't an altogether bad thing.
Here's to hoping that next year's tops this one unless the Steelers are in it. If they are, my vote is for a dud of a game that they've locked up by the end of the first half. I'm not sure how many more of these cardiac arrest games I can take.