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The Super Bowl: Where Legends Are Created

It’s finally here… the Super Bowl. Giants vs. Patriots, rematch of the 2007 game in which New York spoiled New England’s perfect season. If I remember correctly, there are 4 Michigan players who are playing in this game (Tom Brady, Zoltan Mesko, Mario Manningham, and David Baas). The game should be pretty good, Super Bowls usually are, but it is games like these that make careers.

Think about it this way, quarterbacks aren’t necessarily measured by touchdown passes and passing yards. They’re measured by Super Bowl titles, which is why Ben Roethlisberger and Brady supposedly have had better careers than Dan Marino (0 Super Bowl titles) and Brett Favre (1 title).

Without the Super Bowl’s humongous viewing network and it’s one-and-done format (unlike a 7-game series in every other major sport), players form identities that they carry for the rest of their careers. No one would know who Dallas Cowboy Jackie Smith is if he hadn’t dropped a wide-open touchdown catch against the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII. No one would remember Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood if he hadn’t missed the game-winning field goal against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.










Without the Super Bowl, guys like Adam Vinatieri wouldn’t be known as one of the best clutch kickers of all-time (he’s won multiple Super Bowls with last second kicks, including one against the Rams in 2001 that destroyed my spirit). For a pro-St. Louis example, no one would remember linebacker Mike Jones if he hadn’t stopped Tennessee Titans receiver Kevin Dyson at the 1-yard line on the last play of Super Bowl XXXIV.










Granted, not every Super Bowl is this memorable. I’ll gladly forget Super Bowl XL in Detroit a few years ago when the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 on what seemed like a meaningless early-season matchup. The Bears defeating the Patriots 45-10 in 1985 also comes to mind, although the Bears had to live up to the hype of the Super Bowl Shuffle. But with any luck, we’ll get a game much like 2007, when David Tyree etched his name into history with one of the most miraculous catches in Super Bowl history.

Is it fair that one game should determine a player’s legacy? Probably not. But big players step up on the biggest stage. At the same time, big blunders can cost someone their reputation (Bill Buckner anyone?). It’s an unfortunate side effect, but it is the clear opposite to guys like Tyree and Mike Jones.

In the world of sports, the championship ring alone can do all the talking, and Sunday will induct a new group into the club of Super Bowl champions. Congrats to them, and here’s to a good game. If nothing else, enjoy the commercials.

  1. yemily
    February 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’ll admit I’m definitely more excited for the commercials than the game itself, but I really like your take on the Superbowl; it comes down to one extreme (winning the title) or the other (dropping a game winning TD pass) in order to become a talked-about athlete. I can’t imagine the amount of pressure that is put on those guys–and probably the pressure they put on themselves to make sure they get remembered for the right reasons.

  2. February 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I completely agree. Everything these guys did the past two weeks was scrutinized, and of course, every play was scrutinized as well. Look at Patriots WR Wes Welker: he dropped a pass late in the game and a lot of people are blaming him for the loss. And now he has to go through the rest of his career (which has been a great career so far) knowing he dropped that pass. Meanwhile, Mario Manningham will forever be known for his great catch on the final Giants drive. Good for him at least.

  3. Amy
    February 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Again, I wish I got to see the commercials. Even though I hadn’t cared much about football until recently (I know! It’s blasphemy, I don’t know how I lived without this kind of excitement in my life before :\), I’ve always remembered the commercials.

    In any case, watching the game was tense, especially that last minute. I agree about what you said above regarding Wes Welker and Manningham (my friend is a bit embittered that Manningham doesn’t bother mentioning going to University of Michigan). It really is a shame that these players are primarily defined by one game of the year. I’m still trying to wrap my head about quarterbacks being measured by their Superbowl titles–I admit it, I don’t really know much about professional football :\

  4. February 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Haha well even though you didn’t care until a little while ago, we’re glad to have you on our side.

    I was actually discussing quarterback legacy with one of my roommates yesterday, and we determined that there are essentially two different ways that QBs can be measured: championships and statistics. Compare Peyton and Eli Manning. Peyton is better statistically, and most likely always will be. His ability to read defenses is second to none.
    Eli has won two Super Bowls compared to Peyton’s one, and is great in the 4th quarter. But, his numbers aren’t up there with Peyton.

    Long story short, you can’t merely judge a QB by his titles. If I still had to choose, I would want Peyton over Eli. Having more Super Bowl rings doesn’t make a QB better, it just improves his legacy.

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