Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

Okay, Cardinals - Steelers, going for their first and sixth Super Bowl titles. First, a trivia question (no I didn't make this up myself). Name the two franchises that have won three Super Bowls with three different starting QBs, and name the QBs. Barring a pre-game injury to Roethlisburger (I'm not looking up how to spell that correctly) and a start and win by Leftwich, the Steelers are not one of the teams. Answer at the bottom of this post.

My Super Bowl past has been dominated by games that aren't close. The first Super Bowl I remember was Dan Marino's first and only, Super Bowl XIX, 49ers-Dolphins. This game was a blow out, 38-16. So was the next one, Bears over the Patriots 46-10. And the next, 39-20 Giants over Broncos. Then Redskins 42, Broncos 10. Finally, the 1988 Super Bowl produced a close one, with Montana-to-Taylor besting Boomer and Icky Woods and the Bengals, 20-16. 9 of the next 10 Super Bowls were largely uninteresting -- as in, the final 5 minutes of the game were essentially meaningless -- with the exception of Giants-Bills in '90, the Norwood game. Some of the games in this span were over before they started, such as the Cowboys 52-17 over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII (I think this was the Don Beebe/Leon Lett game), and the 49ers over the Chargers 49-26 in 1994, where Steve Young hit Jerry Rice for a bomb on just about the first play of the game.

It wasn't until the Rams held off the Titans on the 1-yard line in Super Bowl XXXIV that the big game started getting interesting again, triggering a run of quite a few nailbiters: Patriots in '01, '03, and '04 were all close games, as was last year's game. That's 5 great games out of the past 9.

In general (last year being a notable exception), the sports public is pretty good at predicting what kind of game it is going to be. In other words, for some games, the general consensus is, gee, I just hope [Team X] keeps it close and makes it interesting. For other games, people are genuinely divided over who's going to win. This year's match-up seems to be much more along the lines of the former than the latter. Not a lot of folks think the Cardinals are going to win, and most are just hoping that Warner stays vertical long enough to keep it close.

One thing that must be taken into account, though, is that the best experts are a team's fans, and I don't know any Cardinals fans. Lemme tell you what I mean... in 2001, no one gave the Patriots a shot, but they pulled off a huge upset, and I wasn't terribly surprised -- I had seen them play all year and I thought they had a shot (a similar thing occurred for the 1996 Syracuse Orangemen, led by John Wallace to the NCAA Finals, where they lost to Kentucky -- sometime you just know that your team has a shot). Around Christmas time my brother-in-law, a Steelers fan, didn't seem overly enthused by their chances, but then again, I can't remember the last time I saw him terribly enthused about anything.

Immediately after the NFC & NFC Championship games concluded, I asked a few football fans what they thought the spread would be, and the near-universal answer was 10 points. Vegas, however, opened at ~7, and hasn't really budged. I suppose one could interpret this as meaning that they want people to take the Steelers.

In terms of how the teams got here, neither team was really tested in the playoffs. The Cardinals played a home game against a rookie QB, then faced the Panthers in what might be the worst game ever played by a QB, and finally played another home game against the Eagles, who are really good at losing Championship games with Reid and McNabb (1-4 or 1-5, I think). Likewise, the Steelers didn't have to face either the Colts or the Titans, who were probably the top challengers in the AFC.

Anyway, while I want the Cards to win, I think the Steelers will win and cover (putting 50 on them, although regardless I'll finish in the negative this postseason).

Of most importance, though, is what will Bruce play during the halftime show? The consensus appears to be 4 songs, although I'm not sure if that is set in stone. Born to Run seems pretty obvious, so we should assume he'll play that. A lot of people seem to think Glory Days will make an appearance, but I'd rather hear Badlands, which is probably his most high energy live song. Will there be something off the new album? If so, it'd be either My Lucky Day or Working on a Dream. I'll guess:
Promised Land, Working on a Dream, Badlands, Born to Run. But I have no idea.

Trivia Answer:
NY Giants: Simms (86), Hostetler (90), Manning (07)
Redskins: Theismann (82), Williams (87), Rypien (91)