Are Super Bowls Getting Better?
February 06, 2012, 09:13 PM
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I made sure to come home from school on time on Monday, January 16, 1967 so I could watch the entire first ever Super Bowl on tape delay. Super Bowl I had been played the day before in the L.A. Coliseum, but it hadn't sold out, so it wasn't shown live in L.A., just on tape delay the next afternoon at about 3:30 pm. It turned out to be a pretty lousy viewing experience. 

My recollection is that most of the early Super Bowls were either lopsided or inept. For example, Super Bowl VII Miami 14 - Washington 7 was a real bore, memorable only for Garo Yepremian's pass, which was famous for awhile as the worst play in the history of the NFL. The imported soccer player's attempt at a forward pass only goes about 4 inches forward, so he then bats the football up in the air as if it were a volleyball, allowing the Redskins to intercept it and score their only touchdown of the game. 

After awhile, when I was a teenager, I made a rule not to waste time watching the Super Bowls, a rule frequently broken, but one that seemed to be pretty sensible. Conference championship games were often thrilling, but Super Bowls were typically a waste of time. 

At some point in the 1980s I read a theory for why Super Bowls were so bad: the two week layoff between the conference championship and the Super Bowl and the intervening media hoopla posed unusual challenges for coaches. Some coaches made excellent use of the time, while others, unable to restrain their mania, whipped their teams into a game day frenzy by about Day 10 only to have them come out flat half a week later. 

I don't know if that was true, but my impression is that Super Bowls are seldom the stinkers they used to be so regularly. I wonder why that is? Obviously, the skill level is higher, but why do the games seem more competitive? Back in the 1970s, the Rose Bowl was usually more exciting than the Super Bowl, even though the skill level of college players is lower