by Clark Groome
Back in the days when the Super Bowl was called the NFL Championship, title games were played at the home field of one of the participants. In 1960 that venue was Franklin Field, home to the surprising Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The opponents were the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers, a team on the verge of becoming one of the NFL’s legendary squads.
The game was played on Monday, Dec. 26, at noon. It was a thrilling and unexpected Eagles victory.
The game itself was a corker. Green Bay led after one period 3-0. The Eagles were up 10-6 at the half. After a scoreless third period both teams scored a touchdown and extra point in the final frame.
As the clock wound down – and with no timeouts left – Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr at the Philadelphia 22 threw a short pass to Jim Taylor. The Eagles’ Chuck Bednarik tackled him and then held him down until the clock ran out and the NFL Championship belonged to Philadelphia.
My stroll down memory lane is not being taken to remind everyone about that Eagles victory on that long ago Boxing Day. Rather it’s to establish a time when the game was the only thing that mattered rather than the concluding event in a two-week long media and commercial circus.
This comes as a reaction to the run-up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. The best offensive team, the AFC’s Denver Broncos, and the best defensive team, the NFC’s Seattle Seahawks, met in the annual dust-up to crown the latest NFL champ and win the Lombardi Trophy.
Prior to the contest every media outlet imaginable, and some that defy imagination, covered the event. Serious sportswriters and others spent a considerable amount of time analyzing the various pluses and minuses each team brought to the fray.
There was a lot of conjecture about what import another Super Bowl victory, or lack thereof, would have on Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning’s legacy.
There was considerable chatter about whether or not the Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman is the loud-mouthed egotist he seems to be or a wily chap who’s drawing attention to himself so his teammates, none of whom have previous Super Bowl experience, won’t feel the pressure and the hype.
If, however, you’ve been paying even casual attention to the coverage – and unless you’ve been to Tibet on a retreat I don’t know how you could miss it – the lasting impression is that the most important topics have been the game-time weather and the war being waged by New Jersey residents who resent the game being billed as the “New York Super Bowl” when it is clearly being played in New Jersey.
Although ideally I would like to see the championship game played in the home town of the finalist with the best record, I know that finances and planning dictate it be played at a site where the approximately 100,000 people who attend, cover or sponsor the game can be comfortably accommodated.
That said, choosing a cold-weather site was done not to bring back the good old days, as many have been implied, but to take advantage of the wealth and draw of the New York metropolitan area. The weather will be what it’ll be, right?, so get over it.
As to the War Between the States, what’s new about that? North Jersey has always felt overshadowed by New York. In this case, I think its ire was justified, since almost all of the surrounding events took place in Times Square, which was renamed “Super Bowl Boulevard” for the fortnight preceding the game.
New Jersey was definitely shortchanged. The mayor of East Rutherford, the town where the stadium is located wasn’t even invited to the game.
The reason for all this meteorological and state chauvinism kerfuffle is due in large part to there being two weeks between the last playoff game and the Super Bowl. If there were but one week – as there was years ago – billions of words wasted on non-essentials would be vastly reduced.
The game itself? The best thing I can say about the evening Seattle trounced Denver 43-8 is that the golden retriever/Clydesdale Budweiser, the Muppet Toyota and the multi-lingual Coke commercials were worth watching. The football game was not.