This year’s Super Bowl, XLIV if you happen to be Roman, like every Super Bowl, carries with it many storylines, some complex and some not so complicated. From the complex intricacies such as each team's game plan and defensive scheme to the simple outcome of the pregame coin flip, it’s roughly three and a half hours of excitement. Or, at least it’s supposed to be.
Not every Super Bowl game has been exciting, or even entertaining, for that matter. One that comes quickly to mind is the 1985 Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots. That game ended with the Pats getting fooled, schooled, and ruled by Chicago, 46-10. The game was virtually over by halftime.
That game was only exciting and entertaining if you were a Chicago fan. To me, it was memorable for only two things. First, William “the Refrigerator” Perry, a defensive tackle by trade, scored a touchdown on a short run from the two or three yard line. Second, Walter Payton didn’t score any touchdowns. It was unfair to Payton, who spent all season running the Bears offense into the opposition’s end zone, to not score a TD when Perry, who, let’s face it, was a gimmick walking about, got the touchdown. I may be wrong, but if memory serves me correctly Payton didn’t score in that game at all.
Super Bowl 44, as we non-Romans call it, pits the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints. The Colts are appearing in their fourth Super Bowl, while the Saints are making their Super Bowl debut.
To me, one of the most intriguing stories revolving around this year’s Super Bowl doesn’t even take place on the field; it’s the ironic situation involving former NFL quarterback Archie Manning. Manning played for 14 NFL seasons with three different teams—the Saints, the Houston Oilers, and the Minnesota Vikings. Manning played 10 of his 14 seasons for the Saints and he is remembered as being arguably the best player on a team that was consistently very bad.
Archie Manning’s son, Peyton, quarterbacks the Colts. So one must wonder, at least I do, how will this effect Archie? Archie, the Manning patriarch, makes his home in New Orleans. The Big Easy is where he and Mrs. Manning raised their sons, Peyton and his brother Eli, who have both won Super Bowls themselves, while Dad’s career was highlighted by futility.
Over the course of his career, Archie Manning completed 2,011 of 3,642 passes for a completion rate of 55.2 percent. He threw for 23,911 yards, 125 touchdowns, and 173 interceptions.
By most expert accounts, Peyton Manning is a first ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having completed 4,232 of 6,531 passes for a completion rate of 64.8 percent, 50,128 passing yards, 366 touchdowns, and 181 interceptions. He's done all that in a career that to this point spans two years fewer than his dad’s.
However, what I find intriguing is not the contrast between a father and his son’s careers, but rather between the senior Manning’s feelings for nostalgia and for his son’s performance. Quite simply, will Archie Manning be pulling for the Saints because of his history with the city of New Orleans or for the Colts since Peyton is their star quarterback?
I’ve never set a toe in New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know its reputation. From Mardi Gras, to the famously flamboyant and jubilant funeral parades, the Big Easy knows how to have fun. For the first 21 years of their existence however, the New Orleans Saints had anything but fun. It took them those 21 years to have their first winning season, and now the Saints have found their way into the payoffs two of the past four years.
Football aside, the city of New Orleans has had quite a bit to deal with in the past few years. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August of 2005 and laid waste to the city in nothing short of biblical proportions, leaving thousands homeless, including the Saints, who played the next seasons “home” games in San Antonio’s Alamodome.
Nelson Wolfe, the then Mayor of San Antonio, even began courting Saints owner Tom Benson in an effort to possibly move the team to San Antonio. I live in the San Antonio area and I am proud of the way the people of San Antonio opened their arms to the evacuees from New Orleans, but I thought the effort to move the Saints to San Antonio was displaced and very ill-timed; I’m glad the Saints are still in New Orleans. It’s where they belong. All of these things will serve to make the Saints the favorite, at least sentimentally, if not in terms of football prowess.
I'm sure Archie Manning will watch the Super Bowl in one of the best seats in Miami. But as the Colts and Saints do business against each other on the field, will he be hoping Peyton and the Colts come out on top? I mean, after all, the Colts won Super Bowl 41 against the Bears a few years ago, so Peyton has one ring already. Or will Archie be pulling for his former team, the Saints, on which he formed his persona as a young NFL quarterback on a perennially struggling team?
I suppose it really doesn’t matter and Archie’s sentiments may not be made public knowledge anyway, but I know that if it was me up there, I would be rooting for my son. After all, even when it comes to Super Bowls, I think blood is still thicker than water.