Watching the Super Bowl
Watching Super Bowl XLVIII brought back memories of the first Super Bowl I ever watched, or attempted to watch, Super Bowl XX.
That game, in 1986, pitted a mighty Chicago Bears team against a happy-to-be-here New England Patriots team. Nobody expected the Patriots to win, but in New England excitement over the team’s first Super Bowl appearance reached fever pitch. Just 11 years old at the time, I requested permission to stay up past my bedtime to watch the game.
“OK,” said my mother, who likes to manage expectations. “But the Patriots will probably lose, and the game probably won’t be very exciting.”
Sure enough, Super Bowl XX was a dismal affair, at least for Patriots fans. I remember eventually walking away from the TV and marching myself off to bed.
During Sunday’s Super Bowl, my thoughts drifted to that ill-fated Patriots-Bears game. I wondered whether my good friend Dave and his 4-year-old son Milo, Broncos fans who don team jerseys for every game, were experiencing what I had experienced so many years ago. Were they sitting silently in front of the TV, rendered speechless by the carnage taking place? I wondered whether their disappointment was worse than my 11-year-old self’s. After all, my mother had warned me that the Patriots were unlikely to win, or even come close to winning, and the lopsided loss was just another thing she ended up being right about. But I suspect Denver fans felt pretty good about their chances Sunday. And why wouldn’t they? Their team boasted one of the best offenses of all time, one of the best quarterbacks of all time and a pretty good defense. Even if the Broncos lost, it would be a close, exciting game, something you could take pride in.
Or not. I watched the Super Bowl with friends, and we could not believe what was happening. At some point, we begin rooting for a shut-out — for Denver to fail to score any points. Had their ever been a Super Bowl shut-out before? We consulted the Internet and learned that, no, there had not. This gave us something to root for, and we were extremely disappointed when Denver finally managed to score eight points.
Then we began wondering about the biggest loss in Super Bowl history, and whether the game we were watching had the potential to go down in the history books. We turned back to the Internet. Turns out, the biggest loss in Super Bowl history occurred in 1990, when the Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers 55-10. The second biggest Super Bowl loss? That Patriots-Bears game that gave me my first taste of sports heartbreak. Sunday’s game ties a 1993 Dallas Cowboys-Buffalo Bills Super Bowl for the third biggest Super Bowl ever.
I won’t lie: I totally enjoyed watching the Broncos fall to the Seahawks in such humiliating fashion. Maybe it was the premature coronation of Peyton Manning and all the blathering about his legacy that made what happened on Sunday such a treat. Or maybe I just couldn’t help but laugh every time the camera panned to the dejected Broncos bench, or showed us Manning’s glum visage. We even came up with a name for his downbeat expression — “sad slow motion face.” As in, “Look! It’s sad slow motion face!”
In many ways, the Super Bowl was a terrible game. It was never close. One team showed up ready to play, and the other team did not. But I found plenty to take pleasure in: a delicious dinner, the fellowship of friends, funny jokes and interesting conversation. And, really, what else do you need?
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