Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top Ten: Super Bowl Distractions

The Super Bowl is mere days away, but it appears that the Cardinals and Steelers have been well trained by their respective coaching staffs. No one is out running their mouth, the seemingly bottomless supply of strip clubs has yet to be hit by rain clouds, nary a curfew violation has been made. But that isn't always the case, and as we've learned in the past, though there are only 4 days and 3 nights until the Big Game, there is still plenty of time for someone to make a splash.

So without further adieu, here are the Top Ten Super Bowl Distractions, in chronological order.

Super Bowl IV:
On the eve of his second Super Bowl, when the AFL was trying to prove they belonged with the NFL, Len Dawson was trying to prove he was just as good as any NFL quarterback. But in the week leading up to the game, Dawson was linked to a Federal Gambling investigation. Questions and rumors were afloat. Despite all of the distractions Dawson walked away with Super Bowl MVP honors as the Chiefs took down the heavily favored NFL representative Minnesota Vikings.

Super Bowl VII:
1972, Miami Dolphins have been dealing with building pressure each week. Their Opening Day starter Bob Griese was ready to play again after missing the final 9 games of the regular season plus the postseason with a knee injury. Earl Morrall had proven himself capable enough to finish what Griese had started. But that wasn't the biggest distraction. The biggest distraction was the pressure of trying to finish the perfect undefeated, untied season, trying to prove they deserved to be there (since they only beat two teams with records over .500 during the season), and redeeming themselves after the embarrassing Super Bowl VI loss to the Dallas Cowboys (24-3). Miami managed to hang on against the Redskins with a 14-7 win.

Super Bowl XX:
The punky QB known as McMahon had trouble going anywhere without causing controversies and distractions and in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, it was no different. McMahon managed to get associated with a quote that labeled the women of New Orleans as "sluts" which led to some boos during the game and plenty of questions leading up the Super Bowl XX. He distanced himself from the quote by saying that he would never have been awake early enough to make such statements. He also, in response to Commissioner Pete Rozelle fining him for wearing an Adidas headband, wore headbands with handwritten ROZELLE on them, and lastly was photographed mooning helicopters. It's safe to say that had the Bears lost the Super Bowl equal blame would have been put on McMahon's antics and the team's R&B hit (reached #41 on the Billboard Charts and received a Grammy nod) the Super Bowl Shuffle. The Bears managed to triumph in one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history.

Super Bowl XXII:
"Doug, how long have you been a black Quarterback?" While that urban legend has been proved false, that doesn't mean there weren't many other questions. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl all Redskin Quarterback Doug Williams heard were questions about him being the first black Quarterback to start in the Super Bowl. Among those asked by reporters, as documented by the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon:

"Doug, do you feel like Jackie Robinson?"
"Doug, would it be easier if you were the second black Quarterback?"
"Doug, are you upset about all the questions about you being the first black Quarterback in the Super Bowl?"
and of course
"Doug, do you think America will be rooting for or against the Redskins because of you?"

Williams went out and did Jackie Robinson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and all of the other civil rights leaders he was compared to or asked about proud as he threw for 4 TDs and took home the Super Bowl MVP.

Super Bowl XXIII:
On the eve of the Super Bowl Cincinnati Bengals Fullback Stanley Wilson was found by a coach in the bathroom using cocaine. Obviously, they had to punish him and he was left off of the Super Bowl roster. Of course, the next punishment was worse, as it was his third offense and he was subsequently banned from the NFL. According to a report by Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wilson would have made a difference in the game as the turf was muddy and wet and Wilson excelled in those conditions. The Bengals lost to the Niners 20-16.

Super Bowl XXXI:
The Patriots were back in the Super Bowl for the first time since being embarrassed by the Bears eleven years earlier. They were led there by Bill Parcells who already had one ring to his credit. But Bill Parcells and team owner Robert Kraft didn't really see eye to eye and Kraft came on board after Parcells. Because of this there was a serious rift between coach and owner. Six days before the game a Boston Globe story came out that linked Parcells with a job opening with the rival New York Jets. Parcells was in contact with the Jets the entire week brokering his deal, which was complicated since he was still under contract. The distraction seemed the be enough as the Pats dropped to the Packers 35-21 and Parcells took a separate plane home from that of his team.

Super Bowl XXXIII:
This was the last Super Bowl of John Elway's career. He managed to play in 5 during his Hall of Fame career and everyone was wondering if this would be his last game, as many thought it would be for the 38 year old. But we can't forget the first 3 Super Bowls of Elway's career. The three out of four between the years 1987 and 1990. In Super Bowls XXI, XXII, and XXIV the Elway and head coach Dan Reeves led Broncos lost to their NFC counterpart, including the 55-10 drubbing in XXIV. Reeves was soon chased out of town, and he believed that the ill will was led by Elway and former QB coach Mike Shanahan. Now it was Reeves vs. Elway and Shanahan. Plenty of the media circus focused around that match-up and it was the talk of the week leading up to the game. That is until Falcon DB Eugene Robinson was arrested for solicitation the night before the game and took all of the remaining headlines. Many blamed Robinson for two of Denver's biggest plays of the game, one an 80 yard TD reception and another a long Terrell Davis run that eventually led to a TD.

Super Bowl XXXVII:
The Gruden Bowl. Chucky had essentially been traded by the Raiders to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after failing to get the Raiders past the AFC Championship game. Gruden was able to take Tampa past the NFC Championship game and right into the Super Bowl in his first year. His replacement in Oakland, Bill Callahan was able to do the same. The whole week there was talk of Gruden's knowledge of his former team and players. How much did he know? How big of an advantage did he have? Did Oakland have an advantage knowing Gruden's tendencies. But this story disappeared in the days leading up to the game, along with Pro Bowl Center Barret Robbins. Robbins, the leader of the Oakland Raiders Offensive Line went missing for much of the week prior to the Super Bowl only to reappear in the hospital suffering from depression and bipolar disorder. The Pirates beat the Pirates 48-21 and Chucky got the last laugh.

Super Bowl XXXIX:
In similar fashion to a previous Patriots Super Bowl, much of the distraction in the days leading up to the game focused around the coaching staff. Though as opposed to Bill Parcells eight years earlier, the conversation was about the Coordinators. Offensive "Genius" Charlie Weis had already committed to head to his alma mater, Notre Dame, as the Head Coach and many people believed, correctly, that Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel, was also on his way out to take over in Cleveland as the new Head Coach. The players all knew that the team was heading into a major restructuring and that this might be their last hurrah. In a case of the distraction perhaps helping out, the team rallied around their departing coaches and eked out a 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Super Bowl XLII:
Much like the Dolphins 16 years before, the Patriots were trying to finish an undefeated, untied season. The pressure was on but all season the Pats looked unstoppable. A few weeks earlier they had already defeated the opposing New York Giants and everyone had as much as given the Lombardi Trophy to the team from New England. The Patriots ownership decided to Trademark 19-0 The Perfect Season. The Boston Globe had already placed the 19-0 book up for sale on One small problem. They still had to beat the Giants. Thanks to the "Helmet Catch" and Evasive Elisha, along with constant pressure from the Giant Front Four, the Pats couldn't finish what they started and finished 18-1, a trademark bought by the New York Post for $375.00.

What distractions are waiting in the wings in the next few days? Will we look back down the road and blame a Cardinal loss on Anquan Boldin's pouting during and after the NFC Championship game? Will a Steeler loss be blamed on an unknown player disappearing or getting arrested on Saturday night? Who knows.


dkalman said...

Classic! Well played.