SB43 Verdict: Good game, but overhyped

February 2nd, 2009 - 7:40 pm

Was anybody as surprised to see the guy on the right walk off the field disappointed as they were watching the guy on the left? I wasn’t.

I greatly respect and admire Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mike Mulligan, who also has a morning show on WSCR 670 The Score. Mulligan writes quality, intelligent pieces unlike the garbage spewed by another columnist from Chicago’s other major newspaper.

But I must take exception with him for his portrayal of Sunday night’s game. Mulligan’s column, titled True masterpiece theater, seeks to hype Super Bowl XLIII as one of the best in history.

In the column, Mulligan quotes Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes as saying: “That was the greatest game ever played in a Super Bowl.” And Mulligan doesn’t seem too quick to deny that claim.

Of course, being named MVP and winning a Super Bowl ring, every player in Holmes’ position wants to lay claim to the honor of playing in “the best Super Bowl of all time”, but Sunday’s game doesn’t hold a candle to last year’s Super Bowl, despite the close score and the late comeback.

A close game does not make a good Super Bowl. A close game makes a good game. There is a difference.

The Super Bowl is more than just a football game. Because of it’s national — and even global — appeal, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. More than football, it’s a piece of the entertainment industry. Sure, the game was entertaining, but who were the big stars in the game? Who were the big personalities and what were the interesting story lines? What was the motivation for watching this game and why were average fans supposed to watch it? Most of all, why are we going to remember it years down the road any more than any other close game that occurred this or any other year?

I’m not going to deny that it wasn’t a good game. But how was Sunday’s close game any different from, let’s say Week 1′s Carolina-San Diego game? A game that ended with a Jake Delhomme to Dante Rosario touchdown pass in the final seconds. Or, Week 2′s San Diego-Denver game in which Mike Shanahan went for the 2-point conversion and the win. Heck, what about the Bears-Falcons game in Week 6 in which the Bears held a slim lead with 11 seconds to go and the Falcons pulled it out?

Just because Sunday night’s game held the distinct title of “Super Bowl XLIII” doesn’t mean it was any better than any of the numerous close regular season games. A “great” Super Bowl has to have substance behind the game itself. For instance, if the Cardinals had pulled off the victory, then it would have had some substance for being called one of the best games of all time because the Cardinals are second to only the Chicago Cubs for the longest drought for a professional team without a championship. You would then have been able to play up the “underdog” story line. Or Kurt Warner’s “last hurrah” — because I’m willing to bet he would have retired and went out a champion if they would have won.

But, not once during that entire game did I feel the Cardinals were going to win. Not even after Larry Fitzgerald’s 64-yard, go-ahead touchdown with a little more than two minutes to go in the game. I calmly turned around to look at the 3-foot by 5-foot poster board that contained our Super Bowl Squares pool and checked to see who had the square with Pittsburgh 7, Cardinals 3, because I was that confident the Steelers would take it the length of the field and score. Or, I at least expected them to bring it into field goal range and send it into overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history — something I felt might happen when I released my prop bets blog entry.

Moving back to Mulligan’s column, he then expounds on his far-fetched proclamation by writing:

Of course, the most memorable catch in [Super Bowl XLII] was David Tyree’s ”helmet catch” on the winning drive. [Santonio] Holmes topped that because his catch scored a touchdown.

Can somebody please explain to me how you can consider Holmes’ catch — where he essentially caught a perfectly thrown pass while keeping his toes in bounds — outstanding? Does Mulligan realize how many catches like that occur during the course of a season? I’d be willing to bet that during the majority of the 17 weeks of the regular season that some player in the league catches a pass near the sideline while dragging his toes inbounds. It happens all the time, hence, it’s not a rare catch, hence, it’s not one of the best catches of all time. The fact that it resulted in the go-ahead touchdown in the Super Bowl doesn’t make it any more spectacular; just more meaningful.

And it certainly doesn’t top Tyree’s catch. Tyree was falling horizontally to the ground while pinning the football to his helmet, and it was, literally, about an inch from touching the ground when he landed. Now that is an unbelievable catch, and I challenge anybody to remember the last time they saw something like that. You can’t. It’s rarity means it has no equal.

Another line I disagree with:

The final score wasn’t secure until Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner fumbled after being sacked with five seconds left.

Don’t overdramatize it. Barring a miracle Hail Mary touchdown pass — which, again, would have made this one of the best Super Bowls ever — the Cardinals were in no position to win the game on that final drive. They were 44 yards away with :15 left on the clock and no timeouts. My heart never skipped a beat.

And finally, look at the sheer statistics. 53 yards rushing for Willie Parker and 33 for Edgerrin James. That’s awful. I don’t accept either one of those performances as helping make this game one of the best Super Bowls of all time.

You’d better get used to seeing close Super Bowls due to the growing parity of the league. The last blowout — which I would constitute as a two or more possession victory — was six years ago when the Buccaneers beat the Raiders. And even that Super Bowl was a two-possession game early in the fourth quarter. I don’t expect us to see a blowout for quite some time — or until a clever GM wisely assembles a dominant team the likes of last year’s Patriots. And as we saw, they were flat-out beaten by a hungrier team.

I’m hoping that as the off-season progresses, the hype from this game dies down and that people see it for what it really was: a solid game between two teams that lacked major star power in which the winner was apparent from the first quarter, and yet the underdog didn’t give up.

I know historians will feel the same way I do.