Was that the worst-ever Super Bowl?
My generation is spoiled. That’s a common sentiment among older generations in this country and almost all of it is unjustified.
I know the thing to do as you get older is to hate the generations that come after you, but the Millennials seem to be despised more than all others.
Even Generation X, the one right after the Baby Boomers, doesn’t get the hate that we do, which confuses me. Aren’t you supposed to dislike your kids’ generation and not your grandchildren’s one?
However, I will concede this to all the Millennial haters. When it comes to Super Bowls, we are spoiled. I’ve watched a lot better Super Bowls than bad ones. That’s why Sunday’s debacle between Los Angeles and New England is, for a lot of us, the worst Super Bowl so far.
My generation includes people born between 1982 and 1996 — now ages 22 to 37 — and if you look at the Super Bowls during that span, a lot of them were awful. We don’t remember most of them, though, because we were too young.
Most of us are aware of San Francisco’s dominance in the 1980s and Denver’s misfortune of trying to beat really good NFC teams, including the 49ers once.
We definitely know about Buffalo’s combination of bad luck and ineptitude when it came to the big game, which sadly, is like what the Lions’ would probably be doing in that situation. Hey, there’s a fun bonding moment for all generations!
For Millennials though, we got John Elway and the Broncos beating Green Bay late in the fourth quarter, the then-St. Louis Rams stopping Tennessee at the 1-yard line, the Patriots winning almost all of their Super Bowls in entertaining fashion (no matter how painful that was to experience), the Giants upsetting New England twice, Pittsburgh beating Arizona (of all teams) on a circus touchdown catch, Philadelphia getting its first title in a shootout with the Pats and Baltimore almost blowing a massive lead to the Niners.
Yet another time Jim Harbaugh failed under the national spotlight. I kid, I kid, Michigan fans.
As nice as all those were, my generation has gotten some games that make you wonder why you wasted three to four hours of your life watching this mess. However, each of them has one saving grace that saves them from topping Super Bowl LIII. Let’s count them down to see how close they get.
Honorable mention: Super Bowl XXXVII — Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21
Other than this being the Jon Gruden Super Bowl, there really wasn’t much to say about this one. Watching Gruden coach the Buccaneers to a victory over his former team was a somewhat entertaining concept before the game, but Raiders head coach Bill Callahan’s terrible play-calling turned what could be a good story into a forgettable affair.
Tampa led 20-3 at that half and 34-9 after the third quarter, so it was over at that point. If you’re wondering what the moment is that saves this mess from climbing the rankings, it’s that Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon threw three (three!) pick-6s in the game, including two in the final two minutes. The last one resulted in my uncle strutting around the apartment like pro wrestler “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, a memory I will always treasure. Woo!
No. 5: Super Bowl XXXV — Baltimore 34, New York Giants 7
Anybody remember this one? This is the game where the Ravens’ defense won Trent Dilfer his Super Bowl ring. The 2000s Baltimore “D” ranks up there with the 1985 Chicago Bears as the best defense of all time and it crushed Giants quarterback Kerry Collins all game.
The Ravens held New York to just 152 yards offense and forced four turnovers as Ray Lewis was named Super Bowl MVP, but didn’t get to go to Disney World as Disney went with Dilfer to avoid a potential public relations issue.
What keeps this one from being higher? The fact that there were two consecutive kickoffs returned for touchdowns. The Giants finally got on the scoreboard, but the Ravens answered with one of their own virtually sealing the victory and making Cleveland Browns fans drown their sorrows in their beers.
No. 4: Super Bowl XXVII — Dallas 52, Buffalo 17
Ooh boy. The Cowboys made it back to the big game for the first time since the late ’70s, while the Bills were making their third attempt at not Buffaloing themselves.
For a while, Buffalo looked as if they’d finally do it as the Bills were down just 14-10 in the second quarter. But then it was all downhill from there.
It was the first Super Bowl that I watched from start to finish and I’m still not sure why I did it. My guess is that the epic halftime show with Michael Jackson was the thing that kept me interested.
I’d rank it the second-best halftime show ever, after Prince in 2007. Other than that, the only thing worth remembering in that game is Bills receiver Don Beebe chasing down Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett and negating a sure touchdown by knocking the ball away.
It showed all of us that you shouldn’t give up even when things aren’t going your way — a perfect message for Buffalo sports fans.
No. 3: Super Bowl XXVIX — San Francisco 49, San Diego 26
That game is the closest the Chargers have come to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and it was over just three minutes after the opening kick when Jerry Rice caught a long touchdown pass from Steve Young.
The Niners led 28-10 at halftime to move the focus to how many TDs Young was going to throw. He finished with six, which is still a record, and he finally was seen as his own guy rather than Joe Montana’s backup.
The two most memorable moments involved Young, the first being the TD heave to Rice and the other asking a teammate to remove the “monkey off his back.”
Young may still not be the same as Montana in some fans’ eyes, but at least he’s no longer in someone’s shadow. Unlike the next QB who despite far better stats, was still compared to his brother.
Runner-up: Super Bowl XLVIII — Seattle 43, Denver 8
The Chargers-Niners game was over in the first three minutes, but this one was over after the first play from scrimmage. For those who have blissfully forgotten, the Broncos’ opening snap sailed past quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Knowshon Moreno was tackled in the end zone after recovering it for a safety.
When your team starts off that badly, that’s a sign it’s not going to be your night. The Seahawks virtually wrapped up the game with a pick-6 from Malcolm Smith before halftime and a kickoff return for a TD by Percy Harvin early in the third quarter.
Denver didn’t score until late in the third and there was serious concern until that point that the Broncos would be the first team shut out in the Super Bowl. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NFL coach have his team so woefully unprepared for a title game, but John Fox pulled it off.
How did this game not get the top spot? Easy, it had a memorable moment. That terrible first snap will linger in the minds of Broncos’ fans and until Denver won Super Bowl 50, some comparing Peyton to his sibling Eli because the latter had two titles to the former’s one, but now that “rivalry” has come to an end and Peyton can be the ad pitchman he was born to be.
Strangely enough, Manning’s ability to act in commercials helped make last Sunday tolerable. His appearance in the NFL’s 100th anniversary commercial was one of the evening’s memorable moments along with a great ad from the Washington Post, a heartwarming one from Microsoft and a funny one from HBO’s Game of Thrones.
The action on the field was awful, though. Several punts, a 3-0 halftime score, a terrible halftime show (told you last week it would be!) and some remarkably bad offense made for a massive waste of time. It was 3-3 after the third and any hopes of an entertaining ending ended when Rams quarterback Jared Goff threw a duck into the waiting hands of the Patriots’ Stephen Gilmore.
LIII was the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever and it had the lowest TV viewing audience in a decade. If you were one of more than a few who didn’t watch it all, you didn’t miss much, and if you did, you don’t really have anything to remember about it.
Maybe that’s the game that my generation needed. We now know what watching the Super Bowl was like for you Boomers and Gen-Xers and we can all sympathize together.
Now that moment has passed, let us never speak of it again.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.