Tuesday, February 23

Gearing Up For The NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday is a mere 19 days away and while we do not yet know the match-ups, it is never too early to start speculating on what the madness will bring. Today we look toward the top. For a variety of factors the teams at the top of the rankings are not inspiring anyone with great confidence right now. While these teams are talented and have impressive records, it is hard to say there are any clearly dominant teams. Last year there were the heavyweights of North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Connecticut as the 1 seeds. Not to mention Memphis, Oklahoma and Michigan State as 2 seeds. This year there are a few teams at the top and everyone else in a indecipherable mix of slightly better than average squads. Looking at the heavy favorites going into the tourney this year I think that most, if not all of them are missing that ability to put away opponents and finish strong.

I use the term killshot for lack of a better one. We have seen it with great teams in the past, to beat a team down and keep them down. It also means making a late charge when the team is in a close battle. Can any of these top teams have that "step on the throat" mentality come tourney time? I think there are only two of these teams capable of this and only one that has the ability to display it throughout the tournament.

When we discuss some of the recent great teams that used this ability during the tournament we can look no further than last year. North Carolina was the most complete team the whole season. Their talent and experience were unmatched. Many were even hinting at an undefeated season early on. While that dream floated away and Ty Lawson became gimpy, the Heels were still the unquestioned favorite in the tournament. Their average margin of victory was just over 20 ppg in the tournament. While the 43 point win in the first round helps that average, Carolina whipped a very game Gonzaga in the sweet 16 and was never in danger in Detroit during the Final Four. Their only test was in the 2nd round against LSU. The Tigers had the lead in the 2nd half, but then Carolina turned on the afterburners and won by 14.

The factors that lead to this ability goes beyond simply having talent. That of course is important but talent alone does not get you through the 6 game gauntlet. You have to have a coach who knows how to manipulate the line-up and put the foot to the floor. Game theory is important but coaching in the tournament is a different animal than a conference game in January. Secondly, teams are going to make mistakes but how well does a team limit them? That usually starts at the point and it is no secret solid guard play is a must-have for tourney teams. It also means making your free-throws and not turning it over. Shooting the ball well goes without saying but every team is going to struggle at some point in the tournament if not for an entire game at least part of one. It is how the team responds in that situation that will prove if they have the killer instinct. With these factors in mind let's look at the teams that will right now are projected favorites going in.

West Virginia (21-6, 10-5)

Right now they sit at 4th in the Big East due to their loss last night to UConn. The Mountaineers have plenty of experience and talent in Butler and Ebanks, but as we say last night if they go cold is there enough behind them? Their early season schedule was a joke but they have come on in conference play and beat Ohio State a month ago. They did get thumped at Purdue though.

The concerning factors about WVA is there lack of free-throw shooting (68.7%) and that their opponents shoot roughly the same percentage that they do. They do limit their turnovers to just under 12 per game, and Butler can carry them a very long way. Huggy Bear is one of the best at the game getting talent and maximizing it but has yet to get a team over the hump to the Final Four. It is not absurd for anyone to pencil in the Mountaineers for Indianapolis, they are not a killshot team.

Villanova (22-4, 11-3)

The Wildcat bandwagon is riding a little higher off the ground at the moment. After losing two straight many are being quick to dismiss Nova but that would be foolish. The Wildcats returned a lot from their Final Four squad a year ago headlined by Scottie Reynolds. Jay Wright has established himself as one of the premier coaches in a stacked Big East. They have been blowing out the bads (Penn, Fordham, Delware, Depaul) but even their good wins have been battles. Of course, if they can walk into the packed Carrier Dome this weekend and beat Syracuse in front of a record crowd it will change opinions quickly.

The biggest problem I see with Villanova is that they are a guard-dominated team that have been struggling from the outside. Pena is 6'8 and their biggest low post player. While they shoot 46.6% from the field they only shoot 37.6% from 3 which is 47th in the NCAA. They will come into the tournament having the record and resume of a juggernaut but can they overcome their long-range woes repeatedly or will it keep their tourney opponents in the game?

Duke (23-4, 11-2)

Want to discuss this year's Blue Devils with Catfish? DON'T. This season has not been enjoyable for Tar Heel fans but on the bright side while Duke is atop the ACC, they will be far from a dominating presence in the tournament. It does not mean coach K is fielding a weak team though. I think this year's version of Duke is much improved, if not more pale. Scheyer, Singer, and Smith have been carrying the load this year. The minutes they take each game is mostly viewed as a negative that could have them worn down by the first weekend of the tournament. When you look at their schedule, though, Duke has a shown an ability to run away from opponents. However, this has usually happened in the confines of Cameron.

It should not come as a shocker that Duke so far has shot 122 more free throws than their opponents. They also shot theirs fairly well at 76%. Duke also forces over 15 turnovers a game and shoots 39.2% from deep. They have all the makings of a team that can finish any opponent off. The problem? It is really the same problem Duke has faced in its years following their 2001 title. They grind minutes out of their big stars as mentioned above. Even when games are decided the big 3 stay out there. Singler has already tweaked his wrist this year and is there any guarantee Zoubek can stay on the floor for a long time? Also Duke rarely has an answer if they go cold from the outside. The biggest block in recent years and this year are athletic ball handlers. Duke's agressive defensive style often is trumped by ball quickness and athleticism. Georgia Tech and Georgetown handed Duke defeats away from home using this tactic. With no tournament games in MSG or New Jersey, Duke is going to have to prove itself on a neutral floor. Many are saying it is all about their draw, not exactly the benchmark of a dominating team.

Kansas State (22-4, 9-3)

It goes without saying that K-State is not going to be viewed as a dominant team. Detractors seem to point to their pre-conference schedule which only featured Xavier and Dayton as possible tourney teams. Yet their SOS is ranked 8th. They dropped games in-conference to Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Kansas in an OT crushing loss in the Octagon of Doom. Frank Martin has shaken off the stigma of fill-in coach from when Huggins left and put together a strong squad. There is no doubt the man can recruit, but now his team's success is becoming more of the story than him...or his suits. Not surprisingly Martin wants his boys to play up-tempo and it is very hard to blow through good teams playing that way unless they are very disciplined and experienced. They sit at 8th in scoring average, but they also commit 15.2 turnovers per game and shoot a paltry 65.8% from the FT line. Guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente combine for almost 35 ppg.

K-State sits in 2 seed territory right now and has supplanted Texas as the 2nd best team in the Big 12 but this team is not battle tested in March and it is going to be a hit or miss affair for them that will not bring back memories of the great Arkansas teams of '94,'95.

Purdue (23-3,11-3)

Is this the year Purdue stops being Purdon't?(/shows self out, /realizes no one else is here to write post and lets self back in) Seriously though, how many times has Purdue come close to the Final Four in the modern era only to fall short. Their last Final Four was in 1980 and since then it has been a lot of seasons cut short. Matt Painter has taken the torch and carried it well for Gene Keady. Ward "Piggy" Lambert would be proud. Purdue boasts a 3-headed monster of Moore, Hummel, and Johnson. They have the experience but after these three the production slopes off.

The Boilermakers won their first 14 games which included a 14 point win over West Virginia. They then lost 3 in a row to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Northwestern. Since then they have bounced back and won their last 9. They have done it with defense, holding all opponents but one under 66 points in the last month. Purdue is holding opposing shooters to 40% from the field and forcing nearly 16 turnovers per contest. Concern comes in for their 3-point shooting which is only 32.4%. Another worrisome stat is the fact that they have been outrebounded for the season. Hummel has shown he is a streaky shooter from deep, and I don't think Purdue runs away from anyone in the brackets. Plus, the pressure to break a reputation for failing to get to the Final Four almost always results in a team struggling with, not killshotting their opponents.

Syracuse (25-2,12-2)

People thought Syracuse was good last year and they were, but this year's team has thrived with the addition of Wesley Johnson following the subtraction of Flynn, Harris and Devendorf. Andy Rautins is the real catalyst behind the team. His shooting has always been there but his defense and passing ability this year has filled the void left by Flynn. Rautins is not the athletic driver Flynn was but makes up for it with this shooting. The Cuse have an inside presence as well as the outside threat with Onuaku and Jackson. Yet Johnson leads the team in rebounds which is always a challenge in the 2-3 zone.

What is holding Syracuse back from that killshot characteristic is their inability to consistently finish off opponents. Jim Boeheim said recently his team was not playing extraordinarily well and many scoffed since they only had one loss going into last weekend, but they were not putting the other team away. A lot of their games look closer than indicated. UConn and Georgetown both mounted big comebacks on them and to their credit the Orange won, but doing that in the tournament can lead to getting upset. They turn it over 15.6 times a game and shoot 67.1% from the stripe. However, they are 38.2 percent from deep and Johnson has a sweet stroke from beyond the arc. Johnson has one of those shots that always looks like it has a chance to go in. Syracuse will be favored in each of its regional games, but if they let teams hang around, foul trouble and their poor free-throw shooting could come end it for them. They normally start playing their best at the end of the season so the game upcoming versus Nova and the Big East tourney should be good indicators of them taking the next step.

Kentucky (26-1, 11-1)

Kentucky has all the makings of a team that could run through the brackets like a hot knife through butter. They are not as talented as the '96 squad(but who is) but they have the ability to put the most athletic and talented line-up on the floor. John Wall is tremendous, if unpolished and Demarcus Cousins is an absolute beast on the boards. Lost in this shuffle is Patrick Patterson, who could have been drafted last year.

As expected with new freshman talent and a new head coach, Kentucky's play has been a bit erratic at times. Wall and Cousins have shown the propensity to get rattled during games. Calipari claims he allows the give and take with him, but Cousins has been giving to other players and officials. Teams are going to try to exploit this in the tourney. The freshman are also going to have to adjust to playing much more games and Calipari's old friend, free-throw shooting(sensing a trend? a lot of these teams are not even close to 70%) has returned again. His Memphis team and star freshman Derrick Rose missed critical free-throws a few years ago in the tournament which costs them a title. John Wall has been struggling from the line late in games this year. The Wildcats have had to hold on lately in the SEC but they have time to get their team back and clicking. There are just too many variables for me to take UK as a team that will crush opponents once they get past the second round.

Kansas (27-1, 13-0)

Kansas is the most complete team in the country to me. They have great guard play with Sheron Collins. They have athletic scorers in Henry and Morris. They have a dominant big man in Aldrich(averaging a double-double). They have solid role-players in Taylor, the other Morris, and Morningstar. They shoot just under 70% from the line and 40% from 3. They are shooting 48.8%(!) from the field while their opponents shoot 36.9%. Their average scoring margin is 19 points. Bill Self is no longer an "almost" coach. When his Jayhawk team almost choked away a regional final against Davidson two years ago, you could see Self was coaching tight. Once the final buzzer sounded Self collapsed to the floor, all the weight taken off. Since then he has been coaching like he is playing with house money and he is. This led him to winning coach of the year last year and a Sweet 16 appearance that went down to the wire with Michigan State. Self is going into this tournament with the experience under his belt and without the pressure of getting over the hump.

Kansas has blown the doors off most of their opponents and also won the few tight games they have had. Their one slip-up was at Tennessee and if not for that everyone would be asking if the Jayhawks could make a run at going undefeated. They may be happier not having that pressure on them. Right now I would have to say that Kansas is the team to beat because they have shown throughout the year that they have ability get up on quality opponents and keep them down. The Jayhawks may be the only team this year that has that killshot ability.

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Friday, February 19

Tiger Does Not Owe Me An Apology, But I Want One Anyway

In a little over an hour Tiger Woods will take the podium and face America. He will face the whole world. He will not face the media. That has the media upset, as if they should expect something more from a person who has up until now picked and chosen when he talks to the media and how much he gives them. Tiger has been prepped by his PR team and will deliver a carefully thought-out and written statement. It will be dissected and examined by all forms of media outlets: network and 24 hour news, blogs, major sports networks/websites, and certainly by the general public.

We have generally stayed away from all Tiger talk on our blog, even before the Thanksgiving incident up until now. We did do one post on how Tiger apparently thought tipping was for the birds, and referenced his skill on the golf course. Other than that, we left it up to others to make judgments about what drives Tiger, how good he really is, or what went on in his personal life. However, everyone and their mother has an opinion on this topic. Seriously, we all have thoughts on what Tiger did and what he should do.

A common theme among the media yesterday was that Tiger does not owe us an apology, he owes his wife, his family, and his sponsors an apology. While what Tiger did affects those parties a lot more than any of us, it does not mean he has not dropped a bomb in the middle of the American sports landscape. He does not owe me an apology, but I want to hear him say it anyway.

Speaking of his wife, I cannot believe she is staying with him after all of this. I know there are those that disagree but in my mind the man repeatedly and willfully banged anything that would serve him pancakes while you gave him two children and stayed behind. At this point money should not be an issue, Elin will get paid either way, this is about recognizing that the person you married had no intention of being faithful. How do carry on an intimate realtionship with this man? The time for those two having any kind of romantic connection has come and gone, unless Elin can deprogram her brain and shove enough prescription drugs down her throat to be okay how with she has been treated. It seems that those who are trying to save the marriage have found a scapegoat in the form of sexual addiction and lay the a large part of the blame on that instead of Tiger. The sexual addiction excuse is beyond a joke. I am not saying sexual addiction does not exist, I am saying it was not the cause of Tiger's behavior. An addiction is something that cripples your life and prevents you from functioning. Ever watch the show Intervention? That, my friends, is addiction. Tiger was still able to play golf, and quite well mind you. He was able to do his charity work, keep himself in shape, grab a shave with Roger Federer, and keep his wife in the dark for years. He may have a problem, but not an addiction. I liken this tactic to the trend of coaches getting caught at on-campus parties and pulled over for DUIs suddenly coming out and saying they were alcoholics to soften the blow. For the most part it works, the public takes sympathy and accepts the apology; is it any wonder both Eustachy and Huggins are employed coaches right now?

The problem lies in many layers underneath the stoic face we know of Tiger's. It has to do with his past, the way he has been deified in sports culture, and the manner in which wealthy men/athletes conduct themselves. Basically it is the way business is done for the super rich, Tiger just had it blow up in his face. He may have been more blatant and less discreet about some of his choices of partners, but once he became a super athlete he had no reason to feel constrained by what the general masses consider proper social sexual etiquette.

You may ask why I post this right before the actual reading of the statement, and the answer is I don't care what Tiger says. I know he will apologize, act contrite, and make it clear that he wants to move on and get back to golf. In this case I accept Tiger's apology and I am glad he gave it. It is something he should have done long ago in my opinion. Sooner or later if you want to get back to where you one stood among the titans, you have to own up to your transgressions. The media will not be satisfied because once again Tiger will not entertain their pointed questions. Others will not be happy because they feel Tiger never needed to apologize to them and just want to see him play golf. I am perfectly fine with whatever Tiger says, because he will say he is sorry and that is all I needed to move on.

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Wednesday, February 17

Duke Does Not Respect The "Littleuns"

During the Blue Devils 81-74 victory over Miami tonight, dissension occured in the new Castle Rock, also known as the Bank United Center. While Jon Scheyer was attempting free-throws Coach K alerted the refs to a noise in the stands. It turns out it was a student blowing into a conch shell. The refs, ever eager to please the Rat King, removed the conch from the student's possession. It is this kind of blatant disregard for the order of the tribe that led to Piggy's downfall. Respect the conch people!

[UPDATE: Video of the incident!!!]

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Monday, February 15

How Wrong(and Right) Were We: 2009 NFL Season

Another season in the books and while most people gloss over their NFL predictions for this year, we always try to own up to how (in)accurate our predictions are. Trying to nail down where teams will land, especially in the NFL is folly to being with. The season is such a long grind with so many variables no one should live and die with the predictions unless you're rolling into Vegas in July. So as we often try to do, we examine how my picks did for the season.

AFC East

New England
NY Jets

I still feel good about this order, even though the Jets and Dolphins were switched, I was not off by much and without the Colts bitching out in week 16, the Jets never sniff the playoffs.

AFC North


Pittsburgh and Cincy ended up flip-flopped but the Bengals played like a 3rd place division team in their playoff game.

AFC South


Show yourselves people, I wasn't the only one riding high on the Texans. No one saw what happened in Tennessee coming, but I do admit my big faux pas of all of my 2009 predictions was that the Colts would not make the playoffs. I underestimated Manning's ability to implant the offense into the new receiver's head, Johnny Mnemonic style.

How the academy passed on this performance is beyond me.

AFC West

San Diego
Kansas City

Definitely was too high on the Chiefs, but I knew the Broncos would collapse, I just thought it would start week 1 instead of week 9.

NFC East

New York

Dallas was my big miss in the NFC. The Giants were correctly called frauds by Catfish in the early weeks of the season, while I was sitting back and thinking I had called it perfectly.

AFC North

Green Bay

While many had Chicago making the playoffs, I was able to sense the Cutlerplosion. I did not correctly pin the Vikings getting the number 2 seed.

NFC South

New Orleans
Tampa Bay

My first perfect division yet.

NFC West

San Francisco
St. Louis

I lifted up the Seabirds a little too high. San Francisco is the Houston of the NFC. They have been a darkhorse pick for a playoff team for a few years now but have yet to make it. I saw San Fran for what they were yet put so much faith in Houston.

Things I wrote that have me nodding:

The Patriots will not and cannot be as dominating as they were two seasons ago. First off, they are replacing 6 starters on defense that had years of experience in the league and under Belichick's system.

This pick is made mostly due to what Rex Ryan will being to the Jets' defense. Besides being a great defensive mind, Ryan gets players excited to play defense for him and they believe that they can beat anybody.

There is no reason for me to believe the Browns are going to turn the corner this year.... I can honestly see them going 1-5 in the division.[They did!]

Everyone is very high on the Eagles this year, which makes me cautious. I personally think that Vick will have very little impact on the field this year barring injury. The offense has a lot to like with McNabb at QB, Jackson and Maclin at WR, and the Westbrook/McCoy combo at RB. It could be the defense that struggles for the Eagles.

Sean Payton and Drew Brees will continue to get only more efficient and imaginative on offense while the defense will be the big hurdle for this team to overcome. Making Pierre Thomas the full-time RB and making Reggie Bush the slot/wildcard guy will help the offense tremendously. While my gut misleads me more than not, I think this will be a special year in New Orleans. Be prepared to see a lot of Katrina montages.

I expect the Falcons to come back down to earth a bit this year.

It will be tough to swallow for Panther fans after last year's success but it appears to be a season hovering around .500 in Carolina.

The Niners are moving in the right direction and despite Catfish pegging them as a surprise playoff team this year I think they are a year away. That is a year away if they finally decide to grab a decent quarterback.

Things I wrote that have me facepalming:

The offense should be firing on all cylinders once again with Brady and the Pats should be able to attain 12 wins.

With the defense expected to be every bit as staunch as it was and the offense continuing to evolve in the passing game, Pittsburgh once again claims the division and most likely the number one seed in the AFC.

The enigma that is VY will pine for playing time but unless an injury happens I doubt he will ever see the field as a starter for Tennessee.

...I just think the Colts have lost their edge. That is not to say that they are not a good football team. 9 or 10 wins is a possibility but for the first time since 2001, the team will miss the playoffs.

I see no improvement for this team from last year while every other team in the division has gotten better. Roy Williams is going to have to show me something before I grant him status as a great wide receiver. Tony Romo got a lot of fan fair when he came on the scene, but that was years ago and he still has not limited his mistakes.

The Cardinals will not be as "great" as they were last year and Seattle once again wins the division.

My playoff picks:

AFC Wildcard Round
Ravens over Texans
Titans over Chargers

Divisional Round
Patriots over Ravens
Titans over Steelers

AFC Championship
Patriots over Titans

NFC Wildcard Round
Vikings over Seahawks
Packers over Eagles

Divsional Round
Saints over Vikings
Giants over Packers

NFC Championship
Saints over Giants

Saints over Patriots

I think the Saints winning the Super Bowl supersedes a lot of the wrong picks I made. That may be overcompensation in my mind but if all that matters to the teams is who wins the Super Bowl, then picking the winner correctly has to count for something. So it turns out I was more right than wrong this year in the NFL but I won't let it go to my head.

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Friday, February 12

It's Friday

20 years ago today. Soda Popinski could not be reached for comment.

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Real Men Don't Taunt, But This May Take It Too Far

Yes, football season is over but the news never stops! We will get into basketball soon enough but a quick story on a possible rules change in college football. After a season in which refs were already forced to make game-changing judgment decisions on penalties for celebration, in 2011 could have even more significant impact on the outcome of games.

The all-powerful Football Rules Committee has endorsed a proposal that would penalize unsportsmanlike conduct as a live-ball foul. In other words, if you break a 90-yard kickoff return you better not salute the band, student section, or your Aunt Prudence or you get flagged. The biggest thing about this rule change would mean that the penalty would not simply be enforced on the kick-off, it would be marked off from where you taunted and the touchdown would be nullified.

The chair of this committee is former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who is now the school's athletic director. Bellotti said:

“Our committee firmly believes in the team concept of college football,” said Mike Bellotti, chair of the committee and athletics director at Oregon. “Taunting and prolonged individual acts have no place in our game, and our officials have generally handled these rules well. This is just another step in maintaining our game’s image and reflecting the ideals of the NCAA overall.”

I get the whole believing in the team concept (which has nothing to do with celebrating a score in my opinion) but saying that officials handle these calls "generally well" is a double talk way of saying it is not an exact science. If the rule is enacted these refs will have to make instant in-game decisions on whether a player being happy for getting to the endzone is worthy of taking that 6 points off the board. With the officiating we have had, particularly in the SEC and ACC, we do not want refs to have that power. The Georgia/LSU debacle was bad enough, but not it adds another element that fans really don't care about. Pardon me for dusting off the old "football is played with emotion" line but it is true, these games are hyped up so much by fans, media, and coaches, only taunts and celebrations way out of line need to be penalized. It was not too long ago when NCAA football put forth what was known as "The Miami Rule" to eliminate displays after a touchdown. It snowballed into what we have today where a simple high five, body bump or stare into the thrnong of thousands in the stadium can result in a 15-yard penalty.

The idea sounds great while you are in a NCAA boardroom and you want to put forth the perception that you are promoting good sportsmanship but the bottom line is that what has brought your sport billions and billions of dollars over the years has been the element of showmanship. Asking to keep these displays from being egregious is important but the game is not played without emotion, especially at the highest levels. Even Tim Tebow, the example of the highest level of student-athlete can take it too far once in awhile.

Football taunting rule could be tougher by 2011 [NCAA.org]

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Monday, February 8

No More Football

"Be on your guard, there are slower and fouler things than the WNBA in the sports places of the world."

I feel you Gandalf. Today this is plenty of banter about the game from last night, but soon it will diminish and the reality sets in; no meaningful games until the end of August. Sure, there will be trade talks, spring practice, OTAs, the draft, labor disputes(fun times!), and predictions to be made but ultimately no contests on the field.

Congrats to the Saints, mostly for proving me a Nostrodamus for picking them to win it all.

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Sunday, February 7

Super Bowl Countdown #1: Super Bowl XXXII

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

Just hours before the big game, the 44th Super Bowl, we come to number 1 in my countdown of Super Bowls I have seen in my lifetime. It has been a great trip down memory lane to review all these Super Bowls. I have spent even more time reading and reminiscing and watching video than I have typing out the memories on here. If you follow sports with the zealous nature that I do, every sports memory is associated with a point in your life. It is great to take perspective on it. The best Super Bowl I have seen with all factors concerned was Super Bowl 32 in San Diego. John Elway, Brett Favre and two great teams battled to the end to decide tie championship.

Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

Semi-Lame Nickname: "This one's for John"

Historical Significance- 5: This was the last Super Bowl for Brett Favre, who now holds almost all of the NFL passing records. The Packers had won the Super Bowl the year before and were aiming to place themselves among NFL all-time teams. John Elway was playing in his 4th Super Bowl, and had not only lost the previous 3, his team was blown out. Whoever won this game would forever impact the way the NFL viewed them and the legacies of multiple players and coaches involved.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: The scoring and play was consistent throughout the game. The intensity never waned. The game came to a crescendo in the final quarter and relied on players making plays to win the game.

High Profile Element-5: Elway had the pieces him around him to finally get over the hump. A big part of that was coach Mike Shanahan implementing a rushing attack featuring Terrell Davis. With Davis not only gaining yards, but putting up big numbers, Elway had less pressure on him to get the ball to his star receivers Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey and tight end Shannon Sharpe. Denver's zone blocking scheme was also a reason for the ground success, although the cleanliness of some of their blocks can be a topic of debate. Gary Zimmerman and Tom Nalen led the line that was famous for its silence with the media. The Broncos also made key additions on defense, mainly Neil Smith at DT. Bill Romanowski and John Mobely were key at linebacker. Steve Atwater, had been with the Broncos for a long time, including their last Super Bowl lost, was a viscous hitter in the backfield.

The Packers were led by Mike Holmgren, who had brought the West Coast offense to Green Bay, and Brett Favre. Favre won the MVP for the third time, a record only eclipsed by Manning this year. Dorsey Levens and William Henderson also produced over 1,500 yards on the ground and also had 94 receptions. Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks were Favre's main targets and party man Mark Chmura was also heavily involved at tight end. Reggie White and Santana Dotson again anchored the line. The defensive backfield was great for the Packers: Eugene Robinson(no word on pre-game activities), LeRoy Butler, and a rookie named Darren Sharper.

Venue/Atmosphere- 4.5: Once again San Diego provided the backdrop for the game. There is a reason the game keeps going back there. Jewel sang the national anthem. I will not say anything disparaging about Jewel, it's just not going to happen. The halftime show featured Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, and The Four Tops.

Personal Enjoyment- 5: I, like many, was pulling for Elway to get over the hump. It was hard not to root for a person to succeed after he had fallen short on the biggest stage multiple times.

Cleet's Rating Index: 24.5

Where I Was: I was too young to be at any big Super Bowl parties, I was only 17. But I sat and watched the game intently and sometimes that is better. Super Bowl parties are great, but there are so many distractions and people who want to throw opinions out there it can get chaotic. To me this game is more about the game than the circus that surrounds it, but obviously a lot of people look at it differently. That said, I am going to a party for the game tonight.

What Happened in the World: Three days after the game Ford bought out Volvo for $6.45 billion. Had no idea this happened, Ford finally had a good quarter recently, no if they can get the Lions to win it would be amazing.

Record of Note: Denver scored 4, one-yard touchdowns in the game.

Game MVP: Terrell Davis ran for 157 and scored 3 TDs. He was able to overcome migraine headaches to have one of the best performances ever by a running back in a Super Bowl.

LVP: Oddsmakers. They placed the Packers at 11.5 point favorites.

Most Memorable Play: The John Elway scramble for 8 yards on a 3rd and 5 in the 4th quarter was the defining play of the decade.

NFL Fallout: The Packers had Favre at the helm for ten more seasons but never were able to make the Super Bowl again during his time there. The Rodgers era has begun and it has been one of promise so far. The Broncos won again the next year and completed the healing for all the Broncos teams and fans that had suffered through 4 defeats.

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Super Bowl Countdown #2: Super Bowl XXIII

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

The only Super Bowl in which the 49ers were pushed to the brink, it turned out to be a classic that is often mentioned 21 years later. In a rematch from 7 years earlier, the was a defensive battle until the final minutes. Joe Montana sealed his legacy with the final drive with his game-winning pass and his spotting of John Candy in the final drive. Super Bowl #2 on the list after the break.

San Francisco 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

Semi-lame Nickname: "The Drive"

Historical Significance- 5: The 49ers beat the Bengals in Super Bowl 16. The game is most remembered for the goal line stand made by the 49ers in the 26-21 victory. Bill Walsh coached in his final game, winning his 3rd Super Bowl. The Bengals were winding down a successful decade in the NFL, but were unable to make the final step.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: As mentioned earlier, this Super Bowl is often ranked by fans and media was the tops of all-time. There was a feeling that even though Cincinnati had a superior regular season, the Niners would prevail. It was put in doubt in the 4th quarter, but Montana delivered.

High Profile Element-4: Roger Craig often does not get a lot of recognition as one of the key members to the 49ers run. Montana, Rice and then the others. In this year when the 49ers only won ten regular season games, Craig was the glue that held them together. Craig had 2,038 yards from scrimmage that year.

The Bengals had bounced back from a 4-11 record in the strike year in 1987. Boomer Esiason and coach Sam Wyche bickered openly during that year. The two put aside their differences and Boomer was named MVP during the 1988 season. The other big personality on the team was Ickey Woods, who developed his delightful Ickey shuffle during the year.

Venue/Atmosphere- 4: There was definitely a lot of buzz about this Super Bowl. Billy Joel sang the national anthem and the half-time was something called "Be Bop Bamboozled". Did I mention John Candy was there?

Personal Enjoyment- 5: Back in the days when Montana was king and I couldn't even point out San Francisco on a map, I loved watching this game. It is a sports contest that definitely sticks in my mind all these years later.

Cleet's Rating Index: 24

Where I Was: This is an interesting story. My friend from across the street, who was 8 years old like I was, stayed with our family for the big game. Why was he staying with us you ask? Because his parents were going to the game. Why were they going to the game? Because my friends Dad played football at USC and was teammates with Anthony Munoz, the Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle. So my friend was going for the Bengals and I was being a jerk by rubbing it in his face that the Niners had just come back to win the game at the end. This was despite the fact I had no affiliation to USC and he referred to Munoz as "Uncle Anthony". Kids can be so cruel.

What Happened in the World: Two days before the game George H.W. Bush was sworn in as the President. Bush for some, miniature American flags for others.

Record of Note: This was the first time a running back had over 100 yards receiving. The aforementioned Craig accomplished this.

Game MVP:
Jerry Rice caught a (now-tied) record 11 balls for a record 215 yards and a touchdown.

LVP: Bengals running back Stanley Wilson decided to due some blow the night before the game, not a wise choice. He was suspended for the game.

Most Memorable Play: John Taylor, always looked at as the "other" receiver during the Niners Super Bowl run aside from Rice. He made the big catch in this game though. A play that is burned in my memory and will probably fade out my brain when I go senile somewhere between the names of family members and my social security number.

NFL Fallout: The Bengals began their transformation into the Bungles after the devastating loss. They won one playoff game between this game and present day. The Niners repeated the next year by crushing the Broncos and added another one in 1994 before becoming the perennial also rans they are now.

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Super Bowl Countdown #3: Super Bowl XXXVIII

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

Sometimes the greatest contest come from great forces that are unknown. The Carolina Panthers are one of the least known entities in the NFL. People know they exist, but most of their knowledge comes from a stray highlight or what someone in the media blurbed about them. The Panthers have only been in existence for 15 years, but in that time they have reached the NFC Championship Game 3 times and the Super Bowl once. The Patriots entered the game winners of 14 straight and were now seen as the rising power in the NFL. Thus they were favored by a touchdown. Yet, on the biggest stage and for a brief moment in time the country knew the kind of heart, passion and drive the Panthers had. They fell short, but along with New England gave football one of it's most frantic, best Super Bowls ever. The Heater in Houston is at #3.

New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

Semi-Lame Nickname: "Raise the Retractable Roof"

Historical Significance- 4.5: While the Patriots were going for 2 in three years, the Panthers were 1-15 just two years ago. Their paths had crossed that year, in Charlotte. I got tickets from a friend and went to Bank of America Stadium(Then Ericsson Stadium). The Patriots were a surprise team with Brady as their QB. The Panthers put forth one of the worst performances I had ever seen. Chris Weinke could not throw the ball to save his life. Carolina won 38-6 and it led to the firing of George Seifert and the hiring of John Fox. Just two years later the Panthers were in the Super Bowl.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: The game was expected to be a defensive battle throughout. Early in the game neither team could score(first points came 26:55 into the game) and that included a missed and blocked field goal from Pats kicker Adam Vinatieri. The Patriots forced a fumble from Jake Delhomme and turned it into the first points of the game. That strike to Branch seemed to ignite the offensive weapons for both sides. The Panthers awoke all of a sudden and marched down the field for a TD to Steve Smith. The Patriots bounced it right back with a TD 89 seconds later. A botched squib kick and a big run by Stephen Davis set up a 51 yard field goal from John Kasay. 24 points in the final 3 minutes and 5 seconds in the half.

The third quarter reverted back to the defensive battle with each team going scoreless. The teams exploded in the 4th for 37 points in a back and forth battle that came down to the wire.

High Profile Element-4.5: The Patriots had suffered some Super hangover in 2002 as they went 9-7 and lost on a tiebreaker for the playoffs. The two key additions to the Patriots that season were safety Rodney Harrison and big nose tackle Ted Washington. With the development of Brady and Belichick building the defense to where he wanted it, the Patriots ran the table the last 12 games of the regular season. Their final regular season game was a 31-0 win over the Bills, who had beaten them 31-0 in week 1.

The Panthers earned the nickname the "Cardiac Cats" in 2003. Jake Delhomme was not the turnover machine he was now when this season began. He was backing up Rodney Peete when the Panthers went down 17-0. Delhomme got subbed in and lead the Panthers to a 24-23 win. The Panthers went 11-5 and beat the Cowboys in the wild card round. They then defeated the Rams 29-23 in double overtime on a 69-yard touchdown. Carolina next went on the road to Philly and beat the Eagles 14-3. The Panthers gameplan was the same as it is today under Fox, run the football to set up play action and play hard-nosed defense. The Panthers also had Rod Smart as a special teamer, you may remember him as "He Hate Me" from the glorious XFL.

Venue/Atmosphere- 4.5: Reliant Stadium was the first retractable roof stadium to host the game. Beyonce sang the national anthem, yes sir. The halftime show became what people remember; Janet Jackson had her nipple exposed by Justin Timberlake. I assure you greater tragedies in life have happened. It erupted a huge controversy which led to the country wasting huge amounts of time and money on saying it was bad. You here that America, NIPPLES ARE BAD!

Personal Enjoyment- 5: This was my favorite Super Bowl. The Panthers are my 1-A team. I was a Pats fan before the Panthers existed, but I lived in Charlotte when Carolina came about. I root for them in every situation, except one: when they play the Patriots.

Cleet's Rating Index: 24

Where I Was: Some people graduate college and move straight to the desk job. I was fortunate enough to take a coaching job in Miami that allowed me to be on the water everyday and enjoy a little time to be a semi-bum. I went to a friend's house to watch the game on his big screen. It was great food, great drinks and a great game.

What Happened in the World: Two days after the game the CIA admitted there was no imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Record of Note: The 37 points in the 4th quarter were the most ever in any quarter in Super Bowl history.

Game MVP: Tom Brady set the record for completions with 32. He also had 354 yards passing with 3 TDs and 1 pick.

LVP: Anyone that says the kickoff out of bounds by John Kasay cost the Panthers the game. It certainly did not help to give the Patriots good field position, but the Patriots also got hit with an offensive pass interference penalty on the drive that set them back. The Patriots still had to drive the field and Vinatieri still had to make the kick.

Most Memorable Play: A moment that always sticks out for me was after Delhomme threw the record 85-yard TD pass to Muhammad. On his way back to the bench Rodney Harrison bumped into Jake. Delhomme went fiery Cajun on Harrison spouting some talk, I always love seeing that.

NFL Fallout: The Patriots would continue their run the next season, while the Panthers faltered. The Panthers did make it back to the NFC Championship game in 2005 but lost to Seattle. Delhomme led them to playoffs again last year but this season battled an injury and giving the other team the ball all the time. Matt Moore took over and lead the team to late season success. It appears Moore has ended the Delhomme era in Carolina.

90 not pictured

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Super Bowl Countdown #4: Super Bowl XLIII

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

Seems like only last Super Bowl this great game took place. Wait, what? This could easily be number 1 on a Super Bowl list and probably will be on some peoples. The game had its fair share of memorable plays, came down to one last drive and a catch for the ages. A Tantalizing Tampa Treat helps us wind down our countdown.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Semi-Lame Nickname: "The Recession Bowl"

Historical Significance- 5: The Cardinals were the latest and perhaps greatest example of teams with a horrid stretch in the NFL making a monumental turnaround. The Steelers secured their 6th Super Bowl title put them alone at the top of the list and made them...I refuse to use the phrase so I will say it made them a Burgh with 6 rings.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: There was a feeling that the Cardinals had little chance against the Steelers. They had been a 9-7 team during the regular season and their run was impressive, but seen as a fluke that would end when the Steelers exerted their will. Most of the people watching the game were pleasantly surprised.

High Profile Element-5: The Steelers had been taken over by Mike Tomlin and the team was still a powerful defensive force. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had the defense leading the league in points and yards. Defensive player of the year James Harrison had 16 sacks and safety Troy Polamalu had 7 interceptions. Big Ben had grown from shaky passer in 2005 when they last won the Super Bowl to a prolific passer that could elude rushers and create plays.

Ken Whisenhunt had been the offensive coordinator of the Steeler when they won their last Super Bowl. He was passed over for the Steeler job and took over a franchise that had not had a championship since the Truman administration. Kurt Warner had once again rose from the ashes to lead the passing game. Larry Fitzgerald had a superhuman playoff run that bested Jerry Rice. The Cardinals defense had taken a lot of flack but in the playoffs but pass rusher Darnell Dockett and defensive backs Adrian Wilson , Donminiuque Rodgers-Cromartie(all 3 of him) and Antrel Rolle sparked them to wins against Atlanta, at Carolina and held on against the Eagles.

Venue/Atmosphere- 4: A lot of elements to the game was toned down because of the economy going into the crapper last year. Sometimes though, less is more. Jennifer Hudson sang the national anthem. Bruce Springsteen and the E street band did the halftime show where Bruce thought it necessary to tea bag America.

Personal Enjoyment- 4.5: The game was the highest rated Super Bowl in terms of viewership to date. The game provided a chance for the Cardinals to pull off the biggest come from behind victory in Super Bowl hisotry(13 points). A great game that came up just short on the Cardinals end thanks to the feet of Santonio Holmes.

Cleet's Rating Index: 23.5

Where I Was: I was over at our friend XM's house to watch the game. We were all going against the Steelers. When Fitzgerald took the catch and ran 64 yards for the TD to give the Cardinals a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left, XM and Catfish were going crazy. However, I reminded them that there was a lot of time left that was met with a prompt STFU. Unfortunately it turned out to be true.

What Happened in the World:
On January 15th US Air Flight 1549 had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson. Before the game Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his crew were honored on the field. I dare you to watch Sully receiving thanks from family members of those that were on that flight and not get misty eyed.

Record of Note: The teams combined for the lowest rush attempts and yards (38 and 91) in Super Bowl history, the game hath changed.

Game MVP: Holmes had 9 catches for 131 yards, including 71 on the final drive.

LVP: All the bankers, investors and CEOs that got us into this economic mess, seriously screw you guys.

Most Memorable Play: Right before the half, James Harrison rumbled 100 yards for a TD after he intercepted Warner. Until someone eclipses this, it will be known as the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history.

NFL Fallout: Kurt Warner came back this year and got the Cardinals to the playoffs but they fell short. He has since retired and so begins the Matt Leinart era in Arizona. The Steelers came back strong in the first week, but after Polamalu went down with a knee injury, the defense lost a lot of edge and the team was unable to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh still has a lot of their pieces in place to make another run next year.

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Super Bowl Countdown #5: XXXVI

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

In a miraculous, improbable, and all together insane season, the Patriots pulled off an upset that only the Jets in '69 and the Giants in '08 against the Pats themselves would equal. As 14 point underdogs, not many were giving a team with a team full of no-names with a first-year QB a chance against the league's MVP at quarterback and the "Greatest Show on Turf". That's why they playing and that's when it was the time for a New Era Born in New Orleans.

New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

Semi-Lame Nickname: "Patriot's Day"


Historical Significance- 4: There had not been an underdog of New England's stature to pull the upset in the modern era. The Rams were striving to become known as one of the elite teams in league history. The offense is considered by many as among the best of all time, and they had improved on defense, which had cost them an early playoff exit the year before.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5:
Months after the attacks of 9/11, sports became an outlet for the country to enjoy common bonds of life. The World Series of November had been spectacular, so too was the Super Bowl.

High Profile Element-4: The Rams offense was well known by this point. Warner, Faulk, Bruce, Holt. The defense was led on the line by Leonard Little(get off the road) and Grant Wistrom. London Fletcher led the way on at linebacker and Aeneas Williams, Dexter McClendon, and Dre Bly were a formidable secondary.

The Patriots season and history was forever changed on September 23, 2001. Jets linebacker Mo Lewis sheered a blood vessel in Drew Bledsoe's chest, leading the Pats to turn to their backup Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick in 2000. Brady lost that game to New York, but he lead them to a divisional title. In the playoffs, the Patriots tucked their way passed the Raiders in the Snow Bowl(by the rules, pick up a rulebook Al Davis!) and then beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. In that AFC Championship game, Brady went down with an ankle injury and Drew Bledsoe came in and led the Patriots to victory. While Brady got to play in the Super Bowl, Bledsoe will always have that piece of the championship.

Venue/Atmosphere- 5: Since 9/11 many different feeling,thoughts, and reflections have been made. The country was still as united as it has or had been for those few months. It made for quite a scene in the pre-game ceremonies. Mariah Carey sang the anthem and U2 performed at halftime. This was also the last game that Pat Summerall and John Madden announced together.

Personal Enjoyment- 5: The Patriots came out with a gameplan that was not forged in any secret video tape. The Patriots had played and lost to the Rams during the regular season which provided a firsthand for Bill Belichick. With his gameplan for Super Bowl 25 in the Hall of Fame, Belichick would again have to develop a tactic to slow down the league's most prolific offense. While many tried to stop the Rams with pressure on Kurt Warner, Belichick provided many DBs, sometimes up to 7, on the field to stop the Rams. He keyed in on hitting their speedy players hard and often. The plan worked until the 4th quarter when the Rams caught fire, but by then they only need one drive to win the game and Brady gave it to them.

Cleet's Rating Index: 23

Where I Was: I went to an apartment belonging to a few of my teammates to watch the game. Everyone treated it as a party, but for me and my fellow Patriot fan roommate, it was serious business. We parked ourselves in front of the TV and did not move until the game was over.

What Happened in the World: Sixteen days after the game NASA's Odyssey probe began mapping the surface of Mars. It eventually found 7 Wal-Marts.

Record of Note: Adam Vinatieri's FG to win the game was the first time the game was won by a score on the final play.

Game MVP: Tom Brady had game manager numbers as MVP(145 pass yards, 1 TD, no picks, and a game winning drive), but it got the job done in what was essentially his rookie year at QB.

LVP: Rams' turnover margin. Warner threw two picks and the Rams lost a fumble. The Patriots converted those picks into 17 points.

Most Memorable Play: This occurred before the game. Before this game, teams introduced their offensive or defensive starters as the game started. When the league asked Belichick which side of the ball he wanted announced, he said he wanted the whole team announced as one. At first the league refused, but eventually relented when Belichick would not budge. The Rams were the visitors and were announced their offense first. Then Pat Summerall, who was doing the public address announcing, stated, "And now ladies and gentlemen, choosing to be announced as a team the American Football Conference Champions, the New England Patriots." You can see the video here, with the Pats intro at 4:45.

NFL Fallout: The two franchises drifted in opposite directions; the Rams replaced Warner and the pieces dropped off while the Patriots began their rise to the top of the NFL throughout the decade.

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Super Bowl Countdown #6: Super Bowl XXV

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

With all the aspects of the game of American football that have evolved over the past couple decades, there remains one truth for all teams: your entire season can rest on one kick. This Super Bowl in Tampa was regarded by many as the best chance for the Buffalo Bills to capture a championship. They were favored by 7 points but standing in their way was Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. The Giants concocted a gameplan that limited the effectiveness of the Bills superior offense and were able to survive a last second kick to to take the Tampa Timestopper.

New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

Semi-lame Nickname: "The Patriotic Bowl"

Historical Significance- 4: This was the last title ride of Parcells in New York. The Giants were the epitome of power football, with a strong running game and punishing defense. The Bills K-Gun offense was a force on the offensive side of the football. Ted Marchibroda introduced the offense with the no-huddle concentration this year and it became very effective.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: When you include the patriotic association with the game, the underdog story of the Giants, and the exciting conclusion of the game, many consider this game to be one of the top Super Bowls we have seen.

High Profile Element-4: The Giants lost Phil Simms in a 17-13 loss to the Bills during the regular season. Jeff Hostetler came in and thrived however with his ability to scramble make few mistakes. Any discussion of the Giants defense starts with Lawrence Taylor, perhaps one of the greatest ever to play defense in NFL history. The defense was first in points allowed.

The Bills had 9 pro-bowlers on their roster, including Bruce Smith who recorded 19 sacks. The offense included the usual cast of characters with Kelly, Thomas, Reed, and lest we forget tight end Keith McKellar for whom the K-gun is named.

Venue/Atmosphere- 5: There was a lot security(for that time) in Tampa and a lot of flag-waiving due to the conflict that had erupted in the middle-east. The national anthem as sung by Whitney Houston is among the most heralded of all versions of the song. It reached number 20 in the Billboard charts.

Damn, that woman can blow, when she isn't snorting it.

The Halftime show was again taken over by Disney, damn you ABC! New Kids On the Block performed, and don't lie, in 1991 you thought they were damn cool.

Personal Enjoyment- 4.5: The game was a great contest of wills, and despite the Giants executing a great gameplan the Bills had a final drive to win the game. Did they get close enough? In hindsight you could say no but the Bills did the best they could to get in position.

Cleet's Rating Index: 22.5

Where I Was: Quick note on Desert Storm. As a family we started a pen pal program with a soldier stationed over in Iraq. I don't know if we gave him any aid but I hope it helped just one iota.

What Happened in the World: Ten days after the game a Michigan court barred Dr. Jack Kevorkian from performing any more assisted suicides. Bad news for Bills fans after the game.

Record of Note: The Giants time of possession for the game was 40:33.

Game MVP: Otis Anderson captured the MVP with 102 yards and a TD on the ground.

LVP/Most Memorable Play:
I'll let Alec Baldwin narrate this:

NFL Fallout: The Bills would get 3 more shots at the big game, but as captured in this countdown already, they were denied each time. The game was the last one for Parcells as Giants head coach and ended a successful era for the franchise. By 1993, Simms and Taylor retired and the Giants would not achieve playoff success again until 2000.

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Saturday, February 6

Super Bowl Countdown #7: Super Bowl XXXIV

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

Enter the game of inches cliche here. Super Bowl 34 came down to 36 of them. Many hold this Super Bowl at the top of their lists, but despite the crazy ending I do not think it warrants the tag. It is my #7 though and a terrific game out of what many thought were "non-sexy" franchises. Kurt Warner, who has recently announced his retirement, made an improbable rise to stardom for leading his team to the title. Georgia is on my 1-yard line next.

St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

Semi-Lame Nickname: "The Tackle"

Historical Significance- 4: The Rams had turned around what had previously been a habit of losing into a 13-3 season. They went 4-12 the previous season but with Dick Vermeil at the helm and a trade for Marshall Faulk with Indy, the team turned around. The Titans arrived as the new incarnation of the Houston Oilers that were recently the Tennessee Oilers when they played in Memphis.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: The game is looked back on as an all-time great yet most people can only recall the final play.

High Profile Element-4: Most of the focus was on Kurt Warner who was a few years earlier bagging groceries. However, the offense that Vermeil and offensive coordinator Mike Martz implemented became known as the "Greatest Show on Turf". Marshall Faulk gained over 2,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Isaac Bruce was in his prime, complemented by rookie Torry Holt and Az Hakim. Orlando Pace was a recent number 1 pick on the offensive line and the Rams acquired Adam Timmerman from the Packers. Not to be overlooked was the Rams defense that allowed just 242 points while the team scored 526.

The Titans were led by Steve McNair(RIP) and running back Eddie George. A workhorse running back, George had over 1,700 all-purpose yards. Kevin Dyson was their number 1 receiver and Frank Wycheck was the reliable tight end. The defense constructed by Jeff Fisher was the trademark of the team though. Jevon Kearse was truly in freak form with 14.5 sacks in his rookie season and helped the Titans to a 13-3 record. However, the Jaguars bested the Titans in their own division with a record of 14-2 with their only losses to the Titans. Therefore Tennessee entered the playoffs as a wildcard team. In their first round game they pulled off one of the most miraculous plays in NFL history. There are still NO FLAGS ON THE FIELD:

Venue/Atmosphere- 4: The game was the second Super Bowl to be played in the Georgia Dome. Faith Hill sang the anthem,and I know she is still a vision, but 1999-2000 Faith Hill...oh my. The Halftime show was interesting, I'll just list the performers and let you draw your own conclusions: Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton with the show narrated by Edward James Olmos.

Personal Enjoyment- 5: From going to a game where you were just waiting for St. Louis to break it open to a pulse-pounding finish, the game's 4th quarter is among the very best.

Cleet's Rating Index: 22

Where I Was:
I was a freshman in college for this one. Ironically, or sadly I watched it by myself in my dorm room. I did make the Grande Meal Run though. When I was in college and I could eat whatever I wanted I used to go down to Taco Bell 2 or 3 times a month and order a Grande Meal, 5 soft and 5 crunchy tacos. Add fire sauce, eat all ten tacos quickly, and then lean back and kiss the sky.

What Happened in the World: This game took place on January 30th, 2000. Remember all the Y2k panic? That was some bullshit.

Record of Note: Kurt Warner threw for 414 passing yards and 45 pass attempts without an interception.

Game MVP: Warner had an incredible game passing and now holds the record for passing yards in the Super Bowl. His 73-yard pass to Isaac Bruce for a TD in the 4th quarter proved to be the game winner, and it was a pass he made in the face of pressure.

LVP: The ABC Network. Not only did you roll out a lame ass Disney-themed halftime show, you kept showing Brenda Warner in the crowd after every play of the 4th quarter. Not one dramatic moment could go by without getting a reaction from Mrs. Warner in the stands, unbearable.

Most Memorable Play I can't go with the tackle here, it is too obvious. McNair's 3rd and 5 scramble with less than 30 seconds, escaping two rushers and getting the ball to Dyson would be one of the most heroic plays if the Titans had been able to convert on the final play. While the tackle is what is identified with this Super Bowl, I always recall that mad scramble from McNair.

NFL Fallout: The Titans would go on to have success under Fisher, who is now the league's longest tenured coach. However, they have not been able to make it back to big game. The Rams continued their prolific offense and made it back to the Super Bowl two years after this game but fell to the Patriots. After that, Warner lost the starting job and Faulk retired. The team was never the same and currently went 1-15 the past season.

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Super Bowl Countdown #8: Super Bowl XLII

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

It is time to take my medicine. This Super Bowl was the worst I have ever had to endure. While I can say that I live a blessed life when I can say that this February day was one of the worst I have ever seen, it just plain sucked to be a Pats fan for a long time after this game. I understand the incredible joy and release other fans had for this game but it was Super Bowl I would like to forget although I never will. As a disclaimer, this will not be a Simmons type of post where I complain about officiating or blame the loss on extraneous factors. The Giants deserve the win and it belongs to them. The Phoenix Pounding out of Perfection is next.

New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

Semi-Lame Nickname: "Who Wants It More?"

Historical Significance- 5: While the biggest focus was on the Patriots trying to become the first team to go 19-0, the Giants had history oftheir own right. This was the Giants' 4th Super Bowl, all with a different QB and they became the first NFC Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl, winning each playoff game on the road. The Patriots completed the first ever 16-0 regular season. The team was mired in controversy after the Jets complained to the league about the videotaping on the field of a Patriots assistant in week 2. After that the Patriots made their mission to go Cobra Kai on the league, showing no mercy as they won every game en route to the playoffs. The two teams played each other in the final week of the season, with the Pats escaping 38-35 as Brady and Moss broke the record for TDs at their respective positions on the clinching TD.

Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: All fans united against the Patriots, it was like nothing the league had ever seen. After the Spygate business and the arrogance of the Pats, fans were fervent in hoping for someone to stop their march to perfection. The story came to dominate the NFL during the season. When the Patriots failed to win the Super Bowl, it was more than the '72 Dolphins rejoicing, it was a legion of fans realizing they never had to deal with Patriot fans using this season to attempt to trump any sports argument from now until eternity.

High Profile Element-4.5: The Patriots had lost the 2006 AFC Championship to the Colts, largely because Tom Brady had receivers make critical errors on key plays. The bug-eyed drops that prevented them from clinching that game so the Patriots dealt a 24th round pick for Randy Moss(LOL Al Davis) and 2nd and 7th round pick for Wes Welker. The addition of Dante Stallworth as a 3rd receiver and Adalius Thomas at linebacker finished the best personnel the Patriots had produced. Early on in the season New England was in the zone; they beat the Chargers at home, Dallas and Indy on the road and blew out weaker opponents. Toward the end of the season the Patriots had to hold on in games against the Eagles, Ravens, and Giants but still prevailed. They ultimately failed but when you take a step back the team was incredible:

The Giants on the other hand began the season in turmoil, losing their first two games. Eli Manning's leadership came into question, but the Giants were able to bounce back and win 10 games. After dispatching Tampa in the Wild Card round, they upset Dallas and Green Bay in overtime. The strength of the team was in their defensive line, with Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck.

Venue/Atmosphere- 5: The scene at the Super Bowl was crazy. Both teams had fans that travel well and the element of the undefeated season provided extra excitement. Glendale provided a great backdrop and stadium for the event. Even Joe Buck seemed a little excited for the game. Jordan Sparks performed the national anthem. Tom Petty sang the halftime show. At this point the game was 7-3 so there was much left in doubt. Musical taste is extremely personal in taste but I will say I am a huge Tom Petty fan so I thought the choice was a huge home run.

Personal Enjoyment- 2: It was pretty hard for me not to put a "1" in the column for this game. It goes without saying that I did not enjoy this game, but the historic nature of it allowed me to (sort of) put it in perspective.

Cleet's Rating Index: 21.5

Where I Was: I was in my final semester of grad school when this game took place. I was toughing it out by living at home and working the graveyard shift stocking shelves at the local store to pay my bills. I had to work the night of the Super Bowl and it took near begging to let him allow me to come into work an hour late so I could watch the full game. I made a deal that I would stay later into the morning.

My parents came into the room to watch the 2nd half while I paced the floor after the Giants took a 10-7 lead. When Brady went to Moss with 2:42 left I thought it was in the bag, but it was not to be. On the play when Manning hit Burress for the winning TD my Mom saw the play unfold before the pass even came close to Plaxico. She saw Plaxico had Hobbs beat and screamed out "Oh no!" That was the worst night of work I ever had. Aside from being in a bad mood, the store was in a mess and the trucks had not been unloaded properly so I was there until after 8 am. I had plenty of time to relive the game instantly in my mind.

What Happened in the World: A day after the game Iran launched a rocket into space after it opened its first space center. I'm a believer making your country economically feasible before you try to enter space but maybe that's just me.

Record of Note: The 3 lead changes in the 4th quarter were a Super Bowl record which brought the excitement to an otherwise dull, sloppy, defensive battle.

Game MVP: Eli Manning's two 4th quarter touchdowns earned him the MVP. For all the scrutiny that was piled on ELi throughout the year, he played lights out in the playoffs that year.

Most Memorable Play: No quips, no comments, no complaining of holding or dissertation on lucky catches, this play will be replayed even after I am long gone.

NFL Fallout: After a wedding Catfish and I attended for our friend K-man this past summer we went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. In the modern wing of the building they had an area set-up with this Super Bowl on replay. I will never escape this game, because it was a great Super Bowl and provides a chance for people to always throw out the 18-1 tag and there is nothing I can do. It is what it is. The Patriots were a great team, the team of the decade, but when it was their time to make history, they failed.

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