Looking Down from On High- It’s rare that a
Super Bowl Big Game, such as the one that will be played Sunday, features a relatively recent rematch of relatively recent champions. In fact, it’s only happened once before: January 21, 1979, when the Pittsburgh Steelers faced off against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl Big Game XIII.
In that epic contest, not only were both teams seeking their third championship of the 19790s, but they were also duking out against each other for the second time in four years. The Steelers had bested the Cowobys in
Super Bowl Big Game X.
Super Bowl Big Game XIII then, both teams’ legacies were at stake.
Pittsburgh was looking to go a perfect 3-for-3 in
Super Bowls Big Games over a five year period. Meanwhile, not only was Dallas angling for a repeat, having stomped Denver the year before, but they were also the unquestioned Lords of a the NFC; the Cowboys were making their fifth trip to the title game in an eight-year span.
In this last
Super Bowl Big Game to be played in the 1970s, the winner would be widely acknowledged as the unofficial Team of the Decade and one of the best clubs in NFL history.
The game lived up to its billing, featuring ferocity and high drama. Pittsburgh came out on top 35-31. The following year they defeated Los Angeles for a fourth title in six years, and are still considered the greatest of NFL dynasties.
For the Cowboys, it was a disappointing end to a good run. They would not return to the
Super Bowl Big Game for another fifteen years. And while the 1970s Cowboys of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach are still beloved by many as “America’s Team,” they are generally relegated to the second tier of great teams. Most now view them as perhaps no better than John Madden’s Oakland Raiders or Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins, which between them won three Lombardi trophies in four trips to the Super Bowl Big Game during the 1970s while playing in the tougher AFC.
Poor Cowboys. If they’d only won that one game, they’d be the team of the 1970s and perhaps the greatest of all time, not the Steelers.
Tomorrow, legacies will also be on the line when the Giants and Patriots lock horns. For the Giants, it’s pretty straight forward. A victory would bring them a second title in five years and establish them as one the dominant teams in this era of mild parity. Should they lose, they’ll seem more like a very good team that has a knack for overachieving.
For the Patriots, however, the equation is more complicated.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady already have their three rings. They’ll end up in Canton regardless of what happens tomorrow. The Pats dominated the first decade of the 21st century like no other. So on the surface, this means nothing to their legacy. However, for everyone but New England loyalists, it will carry a subtext of question marks.
Who are the real Patriots? Is it the team that looked unstoppable when they were on top, winning three titles in four years? Or is it the team that looks really good most of the time but hasn’t actually won it all since being exposed as cheaters.
Oh yeah. That.
While the Patriots were winning all those
Super Bowls Big Games, they were also breaking rules by secretly filming their opponents’ practices. And when the Pats got exposed, the league was so irate that it stripped the franchise of a number 1 draft pick and fined Belichick the most money allowable under NFL rules: half a million dollars.
The very year they were exposed, of course, is the same year their near-perfect season went down the Giants. And they hadn’t won a playoff game since, until this season.
So what every fan knows is this. If the Patriots win this game, you have to tip your hat to them and acknowledge them as the dominant team of their era.
But if they lose?
Yeah, that’s the sound of me chuckling softly.
If the New England Patriots lose tomorrow, every football fan in America will be entitled to question just how good they ever really were. Really good? No doubt. The best . . . I don’t know, who can really say at that point? After all, the Steelers went to three and won a couple. And of course, maybe the Colts, who split a pair, would’ve had more appearances if New England hadn’t been filming practices of their ultra-sophisticated offense.
In the Court of Public Opinion, the Patriots legacy will be decided tomorrow. Afterwards, they will be forever perceived as one of the greatest football teams of all time, right up there with the 1970s Steelers, or as merely a good team clouded in shadows and question marks, somewhere between the St. Louis RAms and the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.
And make sure to get some quality pre-game action tomorrow right here from our very own Cheesy Bruin.