Super Bowl Sunday. I plan on spending as much of the pre-game portion of the day as possible watching the half-hour Super Bowl highlight shows on ESPN2. I actually have the first XXXVII or so of them on tape in my basement, but I just moved into a new house and they remain packed. Football is my second favorite sport after baseball, but it's a pretty distant second, really. Nonetheless, those excellent NFL Films highlight shows, with their dramatic slow motion shots, trumpeting fanfares, and poetic John Facenda voice-overs, do it for me every year. I especially enjoy the first XXII, which include all of the shows Facenda narrated before his death in 1984 (plus a few more), and take us from Lombardi's Packers through the Giants' glorious Super Bowl XXI victory over that punk kid Elway and Elway's historic humiliation at the hands of the equally historic Doug Williams the following year.
As for this year's game, I'll be rooting for Big Ben and the Steelers, in part due to my everlasting distaste for expansion teams and gaudy uniforms and my corresponding fondness for past dynasties and sartorial consistency. That said, the Futility Infielder's Jay Jaffe has an enjoyable write-up of his thirty-years of rooting (albeit frequently half-heartedly) for those expansion Seahawks. Most of all, I'll be rooting for an exciting game. Nothing's worse than devoting a day to a dud match-up that ends in a blowout.
With that in mind, allow me to reprint a list I posted on the BRB in the wake of Super Bowl XXXVIII of what I believe to be the ten greatest Super Bowl finishes in the game's history:
10) VII: Dolphins 14, Redskins 7 - The Redskins trail the undefeated Dolphins 14-0 with just over two minutes left and are looking a 17-0 deficit in the face when the Dolphins' field goal attempt goes haywire. A botched snap is picked up by Dolphins' kicker Garo Yepremian, who attempts to pass only to have the ball fall behind him, where it is scooped up by Washington's Mike Bass, who takes it 49 yards to bring the Redskins within a touchdown with 2:07 left.
9) XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31 - Trailing 35-17 with 6:51 remaining, the Cowboys, led by Roger Staubach, score a touchdown to bring it to 35-24 with 2:23 remaining. They then recover an on-sides kick and drive for another touchdown to come within four points of the lead with 22 seconds on the clock. A second on-sides kick is snagged by the Steelers with 17 seconds left to kill the Cowboy comeback.
8) X: Steelers 21, Cowboys 17 - Leading by the final score, the Steelers turn the ball over on downs at the Cowboy's 39 with 1:22 left to play. Roger Staubach moves the chains twice in the final minute of play but his final pass is intercepted in the end zone by Pittsburgh's Glen Edwards as time expires.
7) XXXII: Broncos 31, Packers 24 - With the game knotted at a 24-24 tie, the Comeback Kid, John Elway, then 0-3 career in the Super Bowl, gets the ball on the Packers' 49 with 3:27 left. Helped by a 15-yard facemask penalty, Elway brings the ball to the Packer's one-yard-line with 1:47 left. Packers' coach Mike Holmgren tells his defense to allow the Broncos to score rather than allow them to take more time off the clock and win the game on a chip-shot field goal. Thus, Brett Farve, no slouch in the comeback department himself, gets the ball on his own 30 with less than 1:45 remaining. After two quick passes for 35 total yards the Packers are on the Broncos 35 with 1:05 left, but manage only four more yards before turning the ball over on downs with 32 seconds remaining.
6) V: Colts 16, Cowboys 13 - A messy, lackluster game--the first played on turf--is tied at 13 (appropriately) when Colts kicker Jim O'Brien connects on a 32-yard field goal to give the Colts the win in the final seconds.
5) XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 - Trailing 29-22 in another see-saw affair, the Panthers' Jake Delhomme hits Ricky Proehl for a game-tying touchdown with 1:08 remaining in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Carolina kicker John Kasay kicks the ball out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40. Tom Brady moves his team 37 yards to the Panthers' 23 in six plays setting up a game-winning kick by Adam Vinatieri (who missed both of his previous field goal attempts in this game). Vinatieri's 41-yarder splits the uprights and gives the Patriots a victory eerily similar to their first in Super Bowl XXXVI.
4) XXIII: 49ers 20, Bengals 16 - Trailing 16-14, Joe Montana and the 49ers get the ball on their own 8 with 3:20 left on the clock. Montana then seals his reputation with a 11-play, 92-yard drive that devours all but 34 seconds from the game clock, concluding with a 10-yard pass to John Taylor.
3) XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17 - Trailing 17-10 with 1:51 remaining, Kurt Warner takes the Rams 55 yards on just three passing plays for a game-tying touchdown to Ricky Proehl (yes, Ricky Proehl). With the game tied, 1:30 remaining, and no time-outs, rookie Tom Brady uses almost a full minute to get his team to it's own 41 before an incompletion stops the clock at 33 seconds. He then completes two passes for a total of 39 yards to reach the Rams' 30 yard line and spikes the ball to stop the clock with seven seconds left. Adam Vinatieri then connects on a 48-yard field goal to win the game on it's final play.
2) XXV: Giants 20, Buffalo 19 - The closest final score in Super Bowl history. A see-saw game reaches its conclusion as Bills kicker Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal attempt with seconds remaining sails wide right.
1) XXXIV: Rams 23, Titans 16 - Down by seven, Titan's QB Steve McNair executes a rousing drive in the closing seconds. On the game's final play, he wriggles away from a would-be sacker and hits Kevin Dyson at the three yard line. Dyson turns toward the end zone and sees no one between him and the goal line, but as he lunges forward, the Rams' Mike Jones wraps him up and drops him on the one as Dyson's outstretched arm hovers just inches short of the goal line and time expires.