Sunday, February 06, 2011

What Day Is the Super Bowl Being Played This Season?

The title of this post is what was by far the most frequently asked question by people who called the Herald sports desk looking for information prior to the mass popularity of the Internet. I used it to reflect the fact that when it comes to Super Bowl XLV, I have no clue, hunch, or vague presentiment about what might happen.

Any conceivable outcome within about a 60-point margin error makes sense to me. A Packer blowout win? I can see that, easily. A Steeler blowout win? Certainly possible. And of course, anything in between is far more easily envisioned than either of those two outcomes.

I kind of believe (but could change my mind) that the quality of these two teams' defenses is such that the game ought to be a low-scoring one, where turnovers and big special teams plays (special teams, a Steeler bane since 1980) will be disproportionately influential. In short, a game decided by the football's funny bounces, which is a chickenshit pregame opinion even it turns out to be right.

I suppose handicapping this one comes down to how one feels about Aaron Rodgers as a quarterback. He's obviously a good player. A champion? Beats me.

In lieu of certitude or guesswork, I offer trends. The Super Bowl has been a trend-dominated event throughout its history, in that the games have fallen into distinct patterns for years, sometimes a decade or more, at a time. For the first VIII-IX Bowls, the games pretty much stunk in aesthetic terms, with snoozers and blowouts the rule. Then in the '70s, the AFC dominated, This was followed by the event's Dark Ages, the 13 straight NFC wins from Bowls XIX-XXXI, in which the average margin of victory was 20.8 points.

Since the 2000 season and Super Bowl XXXV, there have been three separate trends in action. 1. The AFC has won 7 of 10, for which you may mostly thank your New England Patriots. 2. Interestingly, the past decade saw the most sustained stretch of Super Bowls which were close, and entertaining games. Aside from the Ravens beatdown of the Giants and the Bucs-Raiders fiasco, the Bowls have been dull at worst, and three of them (Pats-Rams, Pats-Giants and Steelers-Cardinals) might well be labeled "historic" for their entertainment value.

Trend three gets its own paragraph, although it is not unrelated to trend two. In a stunning reversal of the oldest Super Bowl trend of all, the 2000s were the decade to bet the underdog. From Super Bowls XXXV-XLIV, the 'dog either covered or won outright eight of 10 times, again thanks to your New England Patriots where the underdog when 4-0 in their Bowl appearances.

These trends point to the underdog AFC Steelers, don't they? Before betting the snowblower on Pittsburgh, however, the plunger should note that this is the first Super Bowl of the NEXT decade in NFL history.

No bet this year. Enjoy the funny bounces fans.


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