Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII
Super Bowl XLIII will be played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on February 1, 2009 in which the Steelers are a 6.5 point favorite.

I had a connection in Super Bowl I in 1966 when the Green Bay Packers defeated Kansas City 35-10. The game was played on Jan. 15, 1967. While working as a motion picture filmmaker in New York City, I was a member of a motion picture film crew that made the main commercial (Ford) for the first Super Bowl game. We filmed a stunt man driving a Ford automobile off a Ski Jump at Lake Placid, N. Y. After the Ford sedan landed at the bottom of the snowy mountain, the driver drove the car away as it was not damaged.

As part of an agreement between the NFL and its younger rival, the American Football League (AFL) in which each league's championship team would play each other in an "AFL-NFL World Championship Game". After the leagues merged in 1970, the Super Bowl became the NFL's championship game, played between the champions of the league's two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Since the NFL season extends into the New Year, the Super Bowl uses Roman numerals to identify each game, rather than the year it was held. For example, Super Bowl XLII, played in February 2008, was actually part of the 2007 season.

The Super Bowl was created as part of the merger agreement between the National Football League (NFL) and its competitive rival, the American Football League (AFL). After its inception in 1920, the NFL fended off several rival leagues before the AFL began play in 1960. The intense competitive war for players and fans led to serious merger talks between the two leagues in 1966, culminating in a merger agreement announcement on June 8, 1966. One of the conditions of the AFC-NFC Merger was that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest to determine the "world champion of football". According to NFL Films President Steve Sabol, then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to call the game "The Big One". During the discussions to iron out the details, AFC founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had jokingly referred to the proposed inter league championship as the "Super Bowl". Hunt thought of the name after seeing his children playing with a toy called a Super Ball; the small, round ball is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The name was consistent with postseason college football games which had long been known as "bowl games." The "bowl" term originated from the Rose Bowl Game, which was in turn named for the bowl-shaped stadium in which it is played. Hunt only meant his suggested name to be a stopgap until a better one could be found. Nevertheless, the name "Super Bowl" became permanent.

After the NFC's Green Bay Packers convincingly won the first two Super Bowls, some team owners feared for the future of the merger. At the time, many doubted the competitiveness of AFL teams compared with NFL counterparts. That perception all changed with the AFL's New York Jets' defeat of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami. One year later, the AFC's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the NFL Minnesota Vikings 23-7 and won Super Bowl IV in New Orleans, the last World Championship game played between the champions of the two leagues, as the league merger finally took place later that year.

The game is played annually on a Sunday as the final game of the NFL Playoffs. Originally the game took place in early to mid-January following a 14-game regular season and playoffs. Over the years the date of the Super Bowl has progressed from the second Sunday in January, to the third, then the fourth Sunday in January; the game is now played on the first Sunday in February, given the current 17-week (16 games and one bye week) regular season and three rounds of playoffs. This progression of the date of the Super Bowl has been caused by the following: the expansion of the NFL regular season in 1978 from 14 games to 16, the expansion of the pre-Super Bowl playoffs from two rounds to three (also in 1978), the addition of the regular season bye-week in the 1990s, and the decision prior to the 2003 season to start the regular season the week after Labor Day, moving the start of the season to a week later than it had been (in 1997, for example, the regular season started on Sunday, August 31). Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle is often considered the mastermind of both the merger and the Super Bowl. His leadership guided the two competitors into the merger agreement and cemented the preeminence of the Super Bowl.

The winning team gets the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for the coach of the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Super Bowl games and 3 of the 5 preceding NFL championships (1961–62, 1965). Following his death in September 1970, the trophy was named the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and was first awarded as such to the Baltimore Colts at Super Bowl V in Miami. Super Bowl III was the first to be numbered. Super Bowls I and II were not known as such until the game's third year and were named "The AFC-NFC World Championship Game" when they were played.

Game history

1966-1967: Packers' early dominance
The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. The Packers were led by quarterback Bart Starr, who was named MVP for both games. These two championships, along with the Packers' NFL championships in 1961, 1962, and 1965 have led many people to consider the Packers to be the "Team of the 1960s. Green Bay, Wisconsin is often referred to as "Title Town" by its own residents due to the five championships the Packers won in the 1960s and its twelve championships since the team began playing in 1919.

1968-1979 AFL/AFC dominance
Super Bowl III featured one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history as the New York Jets, behind the guarantee of Joe Namath, defeated the 18-point favorite Baltimore Colts 16–7. Namath, the MVP of the game, and Matt Snell, 121 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown, led the Jets to victory. The win helped solidify the AFL as a legitimate contender with the NFL.

The 1970s were dominated by the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers, winning a combined six championships in the decade. Miami won Super Bowls VII and VIII, the former completing the NFL's only perfect season. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) behind the coaching of Chuck Noll and play of Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and Franco Harris each receiving at least one MVP award—and their "Steel Curtain" defense led by Jack Lambert.

The only NFC franchise to win a Super Bowl during the decade was the Dallas Cowboys winning Super Bowls VI and XII. On the other end of the spectrum were the Minnesota Vikings, who lost Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI.

1980-1996: Two decades of NFC dominance
NFC teams won sixteen of the twenty Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s, including thirteen in a row from 1984 to 1996.

The 49ers lead the NFC domination of the 1980s
The most successful franchise of the 1980s was the San Francisco 49ers, who won four Super Bowls in the decade (XVI, XIX, XXIII, and XXIV). The 49ers were led by coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana. They were known for using the precision accurate, fast-paced west coast offense. The 1980s also included the 1985 Chicago Bears who finished the season 18–1 (a feat accomplished the prior year by the 49ers), and two championships for the Joe Gibbs-coached Washington Redskins. The Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders were the only AFC franchise to win a Super Bowl in the 1980s, winning Super Bowls XV and XVIII.

The Cowboys dominate the early 1990s
The Dallas Cowboys became the dominant team in the NFL in the early 1990s. After championships by division rivals New York and Washington to start the decade, the Cowboys won three of the next four Super Bowls. The Cowboys were led by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, the first two of whom won MVP awards. The early 1990s also featured the Buffalo Bills appearing in four consecutive Super Bowls, although they lost all of them. The 49ers became the first team to win five championships with their win in Super Bowl XXIX, with the Cowboys accomplishing that same feat a year later. As both teams began to fizzle late into the decade, another NFC powerhouse, the Green Bay Packers, led by multiple-MVP quarterback Brett Favre, emerged, winning Super Bowl XXXI following the 1996 season.

1997-2000: The AFC rises again
In Super Bowl XXXII, quarterback John Elway led the Denver Broncos to an upset victory over the defending champion Packers, snapping the NFC's 13-game winning streak, and beginning a streak in which the AFC would win eight of the next ten Super Bowls. The Broncos would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIII the next year, over the Atlanta Falcons, in Elway's final game before retiring. After an NFC win by the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, the AFC continued its winning ways, with wins by the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.

2001-2005: The Patriots' Dynasty
The Patriots became the dominant team of the early 2000s, winning the championship in three of the first five years of the decade. In Super Bowl XXXVI Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady led his team to a 20–17 upset victory over the Rams. The Patriots also went on to win Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. After championships by AFC rivals Pittsburgh and Indianapolis in Super Bowls XL and XLI, respectively, the Patriots responded in 2007 an undefeated regular season - only the second in modern NFL history and the first with a sixteen game schedule - which included a road win over the defending champion Colts. Despite the regular season performance, the Patriots were upset by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Television coverage and ratings
For many years, the Super Bowl has had a very large television audience in the U.S., and it is often the most watched television program of the year. The game tends to have high Nielsen television ratings which usually come in around a 40 rating and 60 share (i.e., on average, 40 percent of all U.S. households, and 60 percent of all homes tuned into television during the game). This means that on average, 80 to 90 million Americans are tuned into the Super Bowl at any given moment. It is also estimated that 130-140 million tune into some part of the game.

An urban legend has developed around the idea that the Super Bowl is watched by one billion people worldwide. This figure originates from NFL press releases stating one billion as the game's potential worldwide audience – i.e. the number of people able to watch the game; the one-billion figure is then misquoted by some media outlets as the actual global audience.[7] In fact, independent studies suggest that the average global viewership is just over 100 million, the vast majority of whom are U.S. viewers.[8]

The highest-rated game according to Nielsen was Super Bowl XVI in 1982, which was watched in 49.1 percent of households (73 share) or 40,020,000 households at the time. Super Bowl XVI is #4 on Nielsen's list of top-rated programs of all time, and 3 other Super Bowls (XII, XVII, and XX) made the top 10. Super Bowl XLII in 2008 holds the record for total U.S. viewership, attracting an average audience of 97.5 million and ranking second only to the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983. Although the proliferation of cable and satellite television has undercut broadcast ratings somewhat in recent years, the game is still sufficiently popular that a number of networks actually schedule original programming during the game, such as independently produced halftime entertainment, simply to take advantage of a large audience already in front of the television. Other networks air reruns or syndicated programming to avoid wasting a potentially highly rated new episode.

Following Apple Computer's 1984 commercial introducing the Macintosh computer, directed by Ridley Scott, the broadcast of the Super Bowl became the premier showcase for high concept or simply extravagantly expensive commercials. Famous commercial campaigns include the Budweiser "Bud Bowl" campaign, and the 1999 and 2000 dot-com ads. Prices have increased each year, with reports citing a record US$2.7 million for a 30 second spot during Super Bowl XLII in 2008. A segment of the audience tunes in to the Super Bowl solely to watch the creative commercials.

Super Bowl on TV

Early Super Bowls/NFL Championships featured a halftime show consisting of marching bands from local colleges or high schools. But as the popularity of the game increased, so did the potential of exposure. This has led to the trend of popular singers and musicians performing during its pre-game ceremonies, the halftime show, or even just singing the national anthem of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner". For example, Super Bowl XLI in 2007 featured Cirque du Soleil, Romero Britto, and Louie Vega during the pre-game ceremonies; Billy Joel performed the Star Spangled Banner; and Prince played during the halftime show. Unlike regular season or playoff games, thirty minutes are allocated for the Super Bowl halftime.

One especially memorable performance came in 2002, when U2 performed. During their second song, "Where the Streets Have No Name" the band played under a large projection screen which scrolled through all the names of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 generated controversy, when Justin Timberlake removed a piece of Janet Jackson's top, exposing her right breast with a star-shaped ring around the nipple. Timberlake and Jackson have maintained that the incident was accidental, calling it a "wardrobe malfunction." The game was airing live on CBS, and MTV (at the time, a corporate sister company of CBS within Viacom) produced the halftime show. Immediately after that moment, the director cut to a very wide-angle shot and cut to a commercial break. However, video captures of the moment in detail circulated quickly on the Internet. The NFL, embarrassed by the incident, permanently banned MTV from doing another halftime show in any capacity. This also led to the FCC tightening controls on indecency and fining CBS and CBS-owned stations a total of US$550,000 for the incident. The fine was later reversed in July, 2008.

Twenty-five out of forty-two Super Bowls have been played in one of three areas: New Orleans, Louisiana (nine times), the Greater Miami (nine total), and the Greater Los Angeles (seven total). The three "big" hosts are then followed by Tampa, Florida and San Diego, California: San Diego has hosted three games, while Tampa hosts its fourth on February 1, 2009.

Miami has been selected to host Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, Arlington, Texas in 2011, and Indianapolis in 2012. Although Hurricane Katrina damaged the Louisiana Superdome and the city of New Orleans, it was renovated. Some city officials have stated that they would like to put in another bid sometime in the future. The last time the Los Angeles area hosted the game was Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. The league's two teams vacated the city in 1995: the Raiders moved back to Oakland, California, and the Rams moved to St. Louis, Missouri. (No Super Bowl has ever been held in an area which lacks an NFL team: hence Los Angeles would be an unlikely choice as long as it lacks a team.)

No team has played the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The closest have been the San Francisco 49ers who played Super Bowl XIX in Stanford Stadium rather than Candlestick Park, and the Los Angeles Rams who played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl rather than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The only other Super Bowl venue which wasn't the home stadium to an NFL team at the time was Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas: the Houston Oilers used to play there, but they moved to the Astrodome several years prior to Super Bowl VIII. The Orange Bowl was the only AFL stadium to host a Super Bowl, II and III. Super Bowl IX was the last NFL game played at its venue: the New Orleans Saints' last season at Tulane Stadium was 1974, and the game was played there (and not at the newly built Louisiana Superdome) at the end of the season in early 1975. Tulane Stadium was the first of three Super Bowl venues to have been demolished: it was torn down in 1979. The others are Tampa Stadium (demolished in 1999) and the Miami Orange Bowl (demolished 2008).

Only three Super Bowls have been played in northern cities; two in the Detroit area (Super Bowl XVI at Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, and Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in Detroit), and one in Minneapolis (Super Bowl XXVI). However, both were played inside domed stadiums. There has never been a Super Bowl scheduled to be played outside in cold temperatures. The northernmost Super Bowl played outdoors has been Super Bowl XIX in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Super Bowl XLVI will also be played in a northern city, Indianapolis, Indiana. The new Lucas Oil Stadium has a retractable roof, which presumably will not be retracted when the game is played in February 2012.
On March 5, 2006, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, a "cold weather" city, was awarded the rights to host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. However, the game was contingent on the successful passage of two sales taxes in Jackson County, Missouri on April 4, 2006. The first tax would have funded improvements to Arrowhead, home of the Chiefs and neighboring Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball team. The second tax would have allowed the construction of a "rolling roof" between the two stadiums. However, the second tax failed to pass. With increased opposition by local business leaders and politicians, Kansas City eventually withdrew its request to host the game by May 25, 2006. Before that, Super Bowl XLIV, scheduled for January 2010, was withdrawn from New York City's proposed West Side Stadium, also to have been a retractable roof facility, because the city, state, and proposed tenants New York Jets could not agree on funding. The game was then awarded to Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Selection process
The location of the Super Bowl is chosen by the NFL well in advance, usually three to five years before the game. Cities place bids to host a Super Bowl. Candidate cities are evaluated in terms of stadium renovation and ability to host a Super Bowl. Then the NFL owners meet to make a selection on the site. The sites for the next four Super Bowls have been determined, up to Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. On October 16, 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested that a future Super Bowl might be played in London, probably at Wembley Stadium. The game has never been played in a region which lacks an NFL franchise. (Seven Super Bowls have been played in Los Angeles, but none since the Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Rams both relocated elsewhere in 1995.)

Home team designation
The designated "home team" alternates between the NFC team in odd-numbered games (the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in February 2007), and the AFC team in even-numbered games (the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in February 2008). This alternation was initiated with the first Super Bowl, when the Green Bay Packers of the NFL were the designated home team.
Since Super Bowl XIII in January 1979, the home team is given the choice of jerseys, colored or white. Formerly, the designated home team was specified to wear their colored jerseys; this resulted in Dallas donning their less familiar blue jerseys for Super Bowl V.

While most of the home teams in the Super Bowl have chosen to wear their colored jerseys, there have been four exceptions; the Cowboys twice (XIII & XXVII), the Washington Redskins (XVII), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (XL). The Cowboys (since 1965) and Redskins (since the arrival of coach Joe Gibbs in 1981) have traditionally worn white jerseys at home. Meanwhile, the Steelers, who have always worn their black jerseys at home since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, opted for the white jerseys after winning three consecutive playoff games on the road, wearing white. The Steelers' decision was contrasted with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Patriots had worn white jerseys at home during the 1985 season, but after winning road playoff games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins wearing red jerseys, New England opted to wear red for the Super Bowl as the designated home team. Generally the "home team" holds its practices the week before the game at the host team's practice facility and the "away team" practices at a nearby college or other practice facility in the area. For example, for Super Bowl XLII, the "home" New England Patriots practiced at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility, and the "visiting" New York Giants practiced at nearby Arizona State University. However, whenever the Super Bowl has been held in New Orleans, the NFC team has practiced at the facilities of the New Orleans Saints, an NFC team, regardless of whether the NFC team has been the designated home or visiting team. The AFC team has generally practiced at Tulane University for those same games.