Since the end of Super Bowl XLIII, I’ve been hearing quite a bit of debate as to whether this was the best Super Bowl ever. Don Banks says yes, as does Peter King.
Bill Simmons says definitely not. John Madden didn’t say anything...and he needs his bedpan changed.
I’ve thought about this, and I can’t really make a decision. Honestly, because of my age, my viewpoint when it comes to Super Bowls starts somewhere around the 1982 game between the Redskins and Dolphins.
The Redskins won that game 27-17, but were beaten the next year by the LA Raiders. After that, watching the Super Bowl became a real-life version of Bill Murray waking up day after day to cover Punxsutawney Phil. You just wanted it to end.
You would find yourself doing things like completing Knight Rider-themed crosswords because they were more interesting than the game. There was no Internet…and you couldn’t NOT watch. It was the Super Bowl...an American institution. And I wasn’t old enough to drink.
Seriously, here are some of the facts about Super Bowls in the 80’s and 90’s:
- After the Raiders beat the Redskins (in a blowout), the NFC won the next thirteen (13!!!) Super Bowls by an average score of 116. [the average margin of victory was actually about 21 points]
- Only two of those 13 NFC wins were by single digits. The 49ers beat the Bengals 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII and the Giants beat the Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV.
- That 13-year run brought us scores of 46-10, 39-20, 42-10, 55-10, 52-17, and 49-26. This was supposed to be an annual game between the two best teams in the league.
After this run of legendary games came the free agency era, where it seemed like you got a couple of lucky bounces and, next thing you knew, you were going to Disney World.
In back-to-back-to-back years we had the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers get hot at the right time and coast to Super Bowl victories. Granted, the Pats proved to be more than just an okay team for the long haul.
So, you can see why the term “Best Super Bowl Ever” doesn’t mean all that much to me. As long as everyone remembers their helmets and the TV works, then it’s among the top 10 ever. If I have a seat on a couch or recliner, the game is immediately a top 5 game.
With all of that said, as far as I’m concerned, this Super Bowl did provide us with (at least) three of the top 10 plays in Super Bowl history. I guess that’s to be expected whenever Larry Fitzgerald is on the field.
These three plays were incredible plays at incredible moments. And, best of all, we got to watch them with John Madden, a man who can spout out incredibly intelligent facts about a cover-2 defense one moment then follow that up by asking Al Michaels what he thought of the previous night’s episode of "Gunsmoke."
Here are the three plays in vivid detail.
Great Play No. 1
An estimated 88 percent of the 5 billion people watching the game (per NBC estimates) had full bladders, but nobody wanted to miss a potential Cardinals touchdown.
Combine that with the fact that most people would stick a pencil in their eye before missing a Super Bowl commercial, and you had yourself close to 5 billion bladders on the verge of explosion.
When James Harrison intercepted Kurt Warner’s pass in the end zone with less than 15 seconds to go, stampedes occurred at parties from Juneau to Key West.
You see, the worldwide logic was that Harrison would get caught within about twenty yards by Larry (Batman) Fitzgerald; the Steelers would kneel down to kill the clock, and, most importantly, all of this would take just long enough for a bathroom break that did not cause fans to miss a touchdown or an ad.
But, the few people who kept watching saw something completely unexpected. Harrison just kept on running. Anquin Boldin, confident in the knowledge that Fitzy would track down Harrison, had retreated to the locker room to call his agent to see if there had been any progress on his new contract during the first half.
Several other Cardinals players stood and watched Fitzgerald, knowing he would do something cool. When Harrison crossed midfield and Fitzgerald was nowhere to be seen, his teammates figured he had something big in mind. They were excited. Larry was gonna put on a show.
Meanwhile, a few yards behind the ball carrier, Fitzgerald looked like the hot girl in the climactic scene of a horror movie, running as fast as he could and tripping over everything in sight. Just when he was catching a head of steam around midfield, he ran into Antrel Rolle on the Cardinals sideline.
Harrison continued running, confused why Fitzgerald hadn’t drilled him yet. This scared him. What did Larry have in mind? Would it hurt? Was he going to be humiliated? The waiting killed him. He felt like Tom Hanks and Matt Damon in “Saving Private Ryan” as they waited for the Germans to come and pummel them. Harrison wanted to go home.
To this point, Steve Breaston had been giving full chase the entire way and was only feet away from Harrison as he approached the end zone. Breaston’s effort had nothing to do with catching Harrison though. Breaston just wanted to be as close as possible when Fitzgerald did whatever cool thing he had up his sleeve.
As Harrison approached the end zone, Fitzgerald started gaining on him. Billions of people were returning from their bathroom breaks – excited by the fact that they were about to see another superhuman Fitzy moment. Finally, Fitzgerald jumped on Harrison’s back and dragged him down. One……inch…..too…..late.
Fitzgerald stood up and saw the dejected look of disappointment in the eyes of his teammates. Breaston had tears in his eyes. Ken Whisenhunt, with a camera in hand hoping to capture another great moment, looked confused.
Fans around the world were walking into walls like a Sims character when he doesn’t get enough sleep. The world no longer had a hero.
It had been 10 or 12 seconds and nobody on the Cardinals had moved. Breaston, still in a complete trance, finally muttered, “Who’s gonna save us now?”
For the answer to Breaston’s question, fast forward to the fourth quarter.
Great Play No. 2
Before I get to play No. 2, I want to give a quick honorable mention to a play that would have easily made the top 3 of every other Super Bowl ever played. Take a quick look - Fitzgerald's Second Best TD of Super Bowl XLIII .
But, I couldn’t find a place for that play on my list – so, it’s out.
Play No. 2 is the now famous catch and run by Larry Fitzgerald.
I can’t stop watching it. It may be the single greatest athletic feat I’ve ever seen. You’ve all seen it a million times, but here’s the video of Fitzgerald’s play: Best Play Ever
Go ahead, try and look away…you can’t can you? I now have a man-crush on Larry Fitzgerald. And not one of those phony man-crushes, like Curt Schilling claims to have on Satchel Paige, but a real man-crush, like Curt Schilling has on himself.
A few things come to mind when I watch this play.
The first is that this one play single handedly undermines everything the scouting combines stand for. Think about it. Larry Fitzgerald, the guy in the white helmet running really fast was clocked at 4.63 in the 40-yard dash at his combine. Troy Polamalu, the guy in the black helmet who looks like he’s pulling a rickshaw, runs a 4.35.
I may not be Peter King, but there are two things I’m pretty sure of:
- A 40 time of 4.35 is faster than a 40 time of 4.63
- Larry Fitzgerald, the guy who runs a 4.63, was running faster (oh so much faster) than the guy who runs a 4.35.
This got me to thinking. I know it’s a cliché, but this play, more than most, is a clear example of a player having game speed. Game speed, of course, is the extra gear some players can channel when they’re in a game situation.
(A quick aside here. What the hell does the term “extra gear” even mean? I’ve driven 4 speed, 5 speed and 6 speed transmissions. An extra gear didn’t make a car go any faster. In fact, I just checked Yahoo Answers to research what an extra gear really does. Conclusion: when people say someone like Larry Fitzgerald found an extra gear what they mean is that “he had somewhat smoother shifting, better gas mileage and acceleration.” Now it makes sense.)
The question, of course, is how to measure game speed in the meat market that is the NFL scouting combine. Well..I have an answer. From now on, all athletes at the combines will be clocked in the 40-yard dash twice.
The first time will be exactly the way they do it now: in shorts on a track. The second time though (and listen up, because this idea will change the NFL draft as we know it) the athlete will have to run the 40 with Troy Polamalu chasing him.
But, I’m not done. The player won’t know when he’s going to be chased by Mr. Polamalu. Maybe it will be right after his initial 40 yard dash. Or, maybe, it will be during his interview with the San Francisco 49ers.
Picture the following exchange between NFL network analysts Jon Gruden and Steve Mariucci:
Gruden: “Mooch, the report on John Smith is that he’s a touch slow, having run the 40 in 4.65”
Mariucci – “True, but Jon, that doesn’t tell the entire story. Smith’s PA (Polomalu Adjusted) 40 time was actually 4.15. The larger concern now is his ability to deal with adversity, given that he s&*% his pants while running his PA 40.”
This play also made me realize that there is a very basic solution to the issue of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports: non-random drug tests.
Seriously, why are the pro leagues wasting time with randomized drug testing? Does MLB really need Dustin Pedroia to pee in a cup to ensure he’s not juicing?
From now on, any time a player does something unusually and freakishly athletic, an employee of the league will approach the player within 30 seconds and force him to take a drug test. Henceforth, these types of plays will be referred to as “Pee in the cup plays.”
Would MLB be in the situation it is right now if this rule were in place before 2003?
- Sammy Sosa, you just hit a home run that landed in Wisconsin. Pee in the cup!
- Mark McGuire, you just hit a 600-foot checked-swing home run (while wearing an extra tight XXXL jersey and getting measured with -3% body fat). You’re going to have to...pee in the cup!
- Roger Clemens, you just threw a 102-mph fastball on your 58th birthday. Roger, we’re going to have to ask you to (everyone say it with me) pee in the cup!
Of course, this rule would have to apply to non-performance enhancing drugs as well.
- Fellow Nutmeg stater Dan Orlovsky, you just ran out of the back of the end zone without realizing it. Sorry, I’m gonna have to ask you to pee in the cup.
I’m not in any way, shape, or form insinuating that Fitzgerald cheated. I highly doubt he did. In fact, I think he should be rewarded upon receiving word of a clean drug test.
I think he should be allowed to walk up to Tom Brady (while he’s with Giselle), turn to Brady, and say “I’ll be taking that” and walk off into the sunset with the Brazilian model.
Speaking of Giselle, has anyone seen her ex’s new flame? If not, take a look.
So, let me get this straight. Leonardo DiCaprio breaks up with Giselle…AND TRADES UP! How many guys on our planet can treat Giselle Bundchen the way most of us treat a 3-year-old Jeep Cherokee? Take another look….go ahead, I’ll wait.
Further, at no extra charge, I offer you this thought. Tom Brady is a star among stars in the NFL. He makes millions of dollars. And he recently finished fifth in the Sports Illustrated rankings of sports’ best looking male athletes, as rated by SI swimsuit models (i.e., Giselle’s friends). See the results here: Handsomest Male Athletes
Life is good for Tom, right? Well, sure, but couldn’t he have put himself in a slightly less emasculating position? He makes millions, which means he makes ALMOST as much as his girlfriend. And then there’s the ex-boyfriends.
The aforementioned Leo DiCaprio makes more money than Tom, is probably just as handsome, and really doesn’t seem to miss Giselle all that much. (Seriously, take another look - Bar Rafaeli 3 - yeah, that’s good stuff).
Of course, Leo’s only one ex-boyfriend and we all have to deal with at least one guy from our significant other’s past who is super attractive, rich, and talented and has been nominated for three Academy Awards and six Golden Globes. Besides, Tom is the fifth best looking athlete on the planet.
And, if you narrow the list down to Americans, he jumps all the way to No. 2 and that really has to impress Giselle’s friends, right? Uhhh….a little. But……you may want to check out No. 1 on that list of best looking athletes. That’s right. Former Bundchen boy toy Kelly Slater. Tom, Tom, Tom. (I’m shaking my head in disbelief).
It gets worse. In the section where the models give a quote saying what they think of each athlete, Brooklyn Decker had this to say about Slater.
“He's just dreamy. Eyes, mouth, the body structure. A dreamy guy.”
Marissa Miller had this to say about the surfer, “Can I give him an 11? Where do I begin? Number one, he surfs, which is hot, and he's extremely good-looking. He has these piercing blue eyes and an amazing body. He's my No. 1 out of everyone; I'll tell you that right now.” (I feel 20 percent worse about myself reading this quote about another man.)
Meanwhile, here’s what Fernanda Motta had to say about Tom. “He’s really cute!” Really cute?!?!? Did she pat him on the head after she said it? Marissa Miller had to take a cold shower after hearing the name “Kelly Slater” and Tom got “He’s really cute!”???
I have to stop talking about this.
Play No. 3
The game-winning catch by Santonio Holmes was a fantastic play all around. There were 43 seconds showing on the clock and Big Ben had just thrown a catchable (if not perfect) pass to Santonio in the left side of the end zone. The ball sailed through Holmes’ hands.
On the next play, Roethlisberger did a great job of buying time in the pocket and then threw a pass where only one person could catch it: Santonio Holmes. It was a great throw, but it was an even better catch. Holmes channeled his inner Cris Carter and brilliantly got both feet in bounds.
I mean, Larry Fitzgerald could have made this play with his eyes closed and a piano on his back. In fact, I think the league should level the playing field and force Fitzgerald to start playing with a piano on his back. Am I talking about Fitzgerald again? I may need to talk to someone about this.
The ramifications of Holmes’ catch were felt by more than just the members of the Steelers and Cardinals.
Santonio’s catch was another positive step in the advancement of wide receivers with funny first names. Last year, Plaxico Burress struck a blow for the goofily labeled pass catchers with the winning catch in the Super Bowl to beat the previously undefeated Patriots.
But, much of the work that had been done to gain acceptance for this group was lost when Plax shot himself in the thigh at a New York City bar this fall.
Holmes’ teammate Hines Ward, of course, started the unpopular movement to gain acceptance for these players three years ago by winning the Super Bowl MVP.
At the time, Hines knew he had a responsibility not only as one of the older players in the funny first name wide receiver club, but also as a player with only a moderately funny first name who may gain quicker acceptance.
Back in Pittsburgh, former Steelers’ star Lynn Swann admires Santonio for furthering the movement. Lynn, of course, has always had as one of his regrets his inability to forward the cause of girly named wide receivers.
As a result of Hines, Plaxico, and now Santonio, players like Reche Caldwell, Lavernues Coles, and Jabar Gaffney can hold their heads up high knowing that a funny first name is no longer a barrier to acceptance. And former players like Keyshawn Johnson and Peerless Price can sleep at night knowing their work was not forgotten.
That’s it. One game, three (and a half) great plays. I’m out of breath. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stand outside of Larry Fitzgerald’s house and follow him wherever he goes.