One man’s attempt to simultaneously avoid the interminable Super Bowl pregame and shoveling the roof by making up some Super Bowl lists:

Five Super Bowls that changed football, if not America (in chronological order):

1. Super Bowl III (Colts vs. Jets) — For the obvious reasons, although the myth that it forced the AFL-NFL merger has become widely accepted as fact. The wheels were already in motion for a merger long before this game was played. Nevertheless, it made the merger a lot smoother.

2. Super Bowl X (Cowboys vs. Steelers) — What I like to call the first “modern” Super Bowl. In one respect, it’s still the most watched Super Bowl of all time — 78 percent of all the TV’s in use that day were tuned to this game, the highest share ever. By comparison, last year’s Super Bowl had that largest audience ever, but it’s share was only 68. Super Bowl X was the first Super Bowl to reach the event status that the game has held ever since.

3. Super Bowl XX (Patriots vs. Bears) — Super Bowl as spectacle taken to a whole new level by the Chicago Bears. Thanks to the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” William “The Refrigerator” Perry and their complete dominance during the season, the Bears were the biggest show in America in January of 1986. Teams like the Cowboys of the 1990s and the Jets of the present have tried stealing from their play book in hopes of becoming icons, but the 1985 Bears were one of a kind.

4. Super Bowl XXV (Bills vs. Giants) — Super Bowl as jingoistic spectacle. The Gulf War had just started, so flags were everywhere, and you can still hear a recording of Whitney Houston’s national anthem played before an occasional high school game. It laid the blueprint for Super Bowl XXXVI (the first post-9/11 Super Bowl) and essentially every Super Bowl since.

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII (Panthers vs. Patriots) — We have Janet Jackson to thank every time a radio station garbles the lyrics to a Guns & Roses song. And Justin Timberlake, too, although he somehow got a free pass.

The Top Five Super Bowls:

1. Super Bowl XXV (Bills vs. Giants) — As tense and intense a Super Bowl as there has ever been, with a great ending (wide right), but also the best-played Super Bowl ever (no turnovers). The Giants’ game plan was beautiful to watch as it unfolded, and I hate the Giants. The Bills played very well, too. They just didn’t get the ball enough. (Incidentally, I’ll never understand why Bill Belichick’s defensive game plan is in the Hall of Fame for this game. The Giants’ offensive game plan belongs there. New York’s ball control is what shut down the Bills’ offense).

2. Super Bowl XXXIV (Titans vs. Rams)  — Best ending ever (Mike Jones tackles Kevin Dyson at the 1). Great second half. Unbelievable fourth quarter. Well-played (no turnovers). Some fantastic individual plays. But there were a lot of penalties, and the first half was a bit boring. Otherwise, it would probably be No. 1.

3. Super Bowl XLIII (Cardinals vs. Steelers) — Features one of the great individual plays in not just Super Bowl but sports history (James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return), one of the great comebacks in Super Bowl history (Cardinals trailed, 20-7, with under eight minutes left, then rallied to take a 23-20 lead with 2:37 to go), one of the great drives in Super Bowl history (Steelers 78 yards in eight plays and 2:02 to win it), and one of the great catches in Super Bowl history (Santonio Holmes for the win).

4. Super Bowl XXXVIII (Panthers vs. Patriots) — Not much happened in the first and third quarters, but the second and fourth quarters were heart-stopping. The Panthers, who had several big plays for big yardage on offense, looked dead early in the fourth quarter, only to rally to take the lead. The Patriots, with Tom Brady playing like a machine, were unstoppable on offense. And, of course, we had Adam Vinatieri for the win, again. I’ve never been more exhausted after watching a sporting event in my life.

5. Super Bowl XLII — I still can’t bring myself to rationally discuss this game, and I never will. I can’t even bring myself to write who played in it. You’ll have to look it up for yourself if you don’t know. But this list aint legit without it, so here it is.

Honorable mention (aka “Games I tried in vain to convince myself were good enough so I didn’t have to bring up Super Bowl XLII”): Super Bowl V (Cowboys vs. Colts); Super Bowl XIII (Cowboys vs. Steelers II, purely nostalgic reasons); Super Bowl XIV (Rams vs. Steelers, very underrated); Super Bowl XXIII (Bengals vs. 49ers II, probably No. 6 on the list); Super Bowl XXXVI (Rams vs. Patriots); Super Bowl XXXII (Packers vs. Broncos); Super Bowl XLIV (Colts vs. Saints).

Five members of the Patriots “dynasty” who never get their due:

1. Antowain Smith — He doesn’t just get slighted, he gets dissed. People sneer when they say his name, as in “Come on, the Patriots won two Super Bowls with Antowain Smith.” The fact is, he came up pretty big in some big games, including the overtime of the Snow Bowl with the Raiders, Super Bowl XXXVI (92 yards rushing. With the exception of two drives, he pretty much was the Patriots offense), the AFC championship against the Colts (his only 100-yard game), and Super Bowl XXXVIII (a respectable 83 yards and a TD on a workhorse 26 carries). 

2. Roman Phifer — When people talk about the great Patriot defenses of that era, his name never gets brought up. Ever. But he was the team’s defensive MVP in 2001 and was a solid, versatile role player for the next two Super Bowl titles.

3, David Patten — His name does get brought up occasionally, and he got some love when Belichick brought him back for a training camp retirement party before this season. But he still doesn’t get his due for all of the big plays he made in the 2001 post-season. He was the Dave Henderson of the 2001 Patriots.

4. Antwan Harris — Who did Troy Brown lateral to when he blocked the punt and scooped it up against the Steelers in the 2002 AFC championship game? Who forced a key fumble by Ricky Proehl that led to the Patriots’ only offensive touchdown of Super Bowl XXXVI?  This is the guy.

5(a). J.R. Redmond — Only played on the first championship team, and had a very limited role even then. But boy did he make an impact, including a couple of big plays in OT of the Snow Bowl and had three huge catches on the final drive of Super Bowl XXXVI. Belichick relegated him to the doghouse in 2002, then the outhouse (the Raiders) in 2003. 

5(b). Bobby Hamilton — Another regular contributor to all three titles who never gets mentioned. Sure would have been great to have someone like him on this year’s team.

P.S. Kudos to the NFL Hall of Fame voters for selecting NFL Films founder Ed Sabol for induction. The NFL isn’t what it is today without NFL Films.


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