Let me preface this post by saying that this has nothing to do with Super Bowl TV ratings. The ratings have improved upon the prior year in 7 out of the last 8 years and, in Peyton Manning’s last game, that’s likely to happen again. Got it? Good.
I’ve been a fan of the NFL for most of my 33+ years on this planet. The first Super Bowl I vividly remember was Super Bowl XXV. That was the infamous Giants-Bills game where Scott Norwood pushed a game-winning field goal wide right and the Giants won 20-19. The victory solidified Bill Parcells’s place among the best coaches in NFL history and was foreshadowing for the agony Bills fans would experience over the next several years — losing 4 straight Super Bowls.
That Super Bowl introduced me to square pools, prop bets, overs, and unders. I was 9 years old. I remember watching the game at a large party hosted by my parents’ company. There were between 40-50 people there of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. At the time, I didn’t quite understand why salespeople were on their knees praying as Norwood lines up for that field goal. I soon realized that their joy or despair after that kick was based on the fact that they all had money on the game. They were all degenerates. It was fantastic. There were life lessons learned that night that I’ve held with me since.
I loved all of it. In reflection, it was probably the game that made me addicted to the NFL.
Sunday will mark the 25th Super Bowl since that game. The league has evolved exponentially since that time. Television money has skyrocketed, offense is a priority, and more eyes are on the NFL than ever. But the Super Bowl model has remained largely unchanged over those last 25 years. And in the buildup to Sunday’s game, I realized something that I didn’t think was possible.
The Super Bowl model is broken.
For the first time in 25 years, I’m not excited about this year’s game. There, I said it. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it has nothing to do with the Broncos and Panthers. It has everything to do with the build up to the game.
The buildup to the Super Bowl is endless and outdated. The two weeks between the championship games and the Super Bowl feels like an eternity. The original intent behind the bye week was to allow teams to rest, take care of logistical issues for family and friends who are attending the game, and to allow the maximum amount of time to pump up the Super Bowl.
But a two-week build up is no longer needed. With the advancements in social media and addition of exponentially more reporters and media covering the game over the last two decades, two weeks only serves to make sure that everybody has Super Bowl fatigue before kickoff. Even the media is cognizant of it to the point where they discuss the fact that they don’t want to create the “fatigue” by talking about the game too early. What eventually happens is that we just hear an endless flow of celebrities and former athletes being interviewed to plug various promotional items and the actual game is never discussed.
That brings me to Media Day. It’s a dinosaur. Get it out of here. It jumped the shark 20 years ago when non-sports media began using it for entertainment value — making it more about them than the athletes they were there to interview. It provides no useful information. Moreover, the players are available to the media each day for the rest of the week until Friday. It needs to be scrapped so we can all stop hearing about how much it is dreaded each year.
The solution? Cut the Super Bowl down to one week. This has happened once over the last two decades — in 2002 when circumstances from 9/11 caused the Patriots and Rams to play without a bye week. It only produced one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory.
NFL teams say all the time that the game is all about getting into a routine and doing certain things and certain times each and every day. The extra week afforded by the NFL for the Super Bowl takes everybody out of that routine. That doesn’t improve the product on or off the field. It only promotes a saturation of information and superfluous stories that grow tiresome. In fact, we’ve heard more griping about the distance between San Francisco and the actual stadium in Santa Clara than which Broncos receiver Josh Norman is likely to focus on or how Peyton Manning can have success against Carolina. The 24-hour news cycle of today ensures that we will get all of the info we need in one week.
On the field, teams have a tendency to over-prepare and think too much once the actual game comes — which deteriorates the on-field product. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we understand that the Super Bowl is rarely the best game of the season. It’s usually not even close.
The Super Bowl model is outdated and broken. And while I still love the actual game, the buzz I experienced 25 years ago isn’t the game. Here’s to hoping that the league can change some of these things for the better. For now, I’m left with the memories of degenerate salespeople jumping in the air over a missed field goal. It’s a great memory that I’ll never forget.