By Rick Morris
^ Ever since Denver beat Green Bay in Super Bowl 32 some 14 years ago (in a game I voted as the best Super Bowl in our FDH Lounge Pantheon balloting) and ended the NFC’s legendary 13-game championship streak, the next mega-trend to materialize was even more inexplicable: familiarity in the AFC and constant turnover in the NFC. Starting a decade ago, the AFC has been exclusively represented by the Patriots, Colts and Steelers. Meanwhile, starting the year after Denver’s breakthrough for the NFC, the National Conference has had every team except Dallas, Washington, San Francisco, Minnesota and Detroit in the Super Bowl (the constant turnover in the NFC over the last two decades is even more profound when you consider that the Cowboys, 49ers and Redskins all made the Super Bowl in the ‘90s). Only the Rams and Giants had repeat appearances in the Super Bowl since 1998 and now the Giants are up to three trips. So, never mind the novelty of a rematch between past Super Bowl participants, the usual pattern of a super-familiar AFC squad against some neophyte NFC team is more than enough intrigue on its own.
^ New England became the first “Team of the Decade” to lose a Super Bowl in that decade when Big Blue toppled them four years ago – because Green Bay, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Dallas previously won all of the Super Bowls in the decades they stood atop. But the Pats now have a chance to do something only San Francisco did previously in the winter of 1995 – have the dynasty carry over into the next decade and win one more title then. Of course, in many ways, New England would surpass that feat, because they will have more continuity – especially in the defining areas of coach and QB – than the Niners did on their last go-round.
^ Oddest accomplishment by either team in making it this far? It’s got to be New England becoming the first team to have four Super Bowl appearances in a row that are the first one being hosted by a facility (the past three Pats Super Bowl appearances were in Glendale, AZ, Jacksonville and Houston). Washington came the closest to this in the 1980s and 1990s, making three appearances in a row that broke in Super Bowl facilities (Tampa, San Diego and Minneapolis).
^ This is the sixth Super Bowl in the last nine that is hosted by a first-time Super Bowl facility. It is the first such stretch in Super Bowl history. It is also, however, the first Super Bowl to be played in a first-time market since 39 in Jacksonville back in February 2005 and only the second since 30 in Tempe, AZ back in January 1996.
^ Does the Super Bowl rematch favor either team? Somewhat, if you look at the historical records. Pittsburgh beat Dallas in Super Bowls 10 and 13 and then, a generation later, fell to the Cowpokes in 30. Miami got past Washington to be perfect in Super Bowl 7 and then dropped the rematch exactly a decade later. San Francisco got past Cincinnati in Super Bowls 16 and 23. And Dallas beat the Bills in consecutive Super Bowls, 27 and 28. So a 3-2 margin on the records favors the Giants.
^ Indy’s first time hosting a Super Bowl comes equipped with all kinds of weird angles, from the impending departure of “the man who built Lucas Oil Stadium,” Peyton Manning, to the Super Bowl return of Peyton’s brother Eli to the invasion of the team who bested the Colts for “Team of the 2000s,” New England. And last year the Packers and Steelers played the Super Bowl in Dallas, a city with a lot of history intertwined with each franchise – and the year before, the Colts played the big game in Miami on the very field where they won their first Super Bowl three years earlier. But these last three Super Bowls have bucked a trend, inasmuch as most years neither visiting franchise has a lot of history with the host city.
^ The winner of Sunday’s game will not score 31 points right on the nose – because that’s the tally for the winner in the past two Super Bowls and while the winning score has been replicated in consecutive years once before (Super Bowls 18 and 19), there’s never been a three-peat of this sort.
^ Last year, the Steelers and Packers tied the Super Bowl record by bringing a combined 13 appearances into the game (with the Steelers participating in the other one with that many, Super Bowl 30 with Dallas). Believe it or not, this year the Pats and Giants are right on their heels with 12. The others in double-digits? Buffalo and Dallas with 11 in Super Bowl 28 and Denver and Green Bay with 10 in Super Bowl 32.^ Here’s the celebrity picks – and belated congratulations to beloved FDH Lounge guest The San Diego Chicken for reigning as 2011 Super Sage winner.