Monday, September 27, 2010

The 10 Best Super Bowls

By Tom Shefchik

The Super Bowl is the largest event of the year in the United States. Regardless of the teams playing and the location, it is always greatly anticipated, discussed and watched.

That doesn’t mean that they’ve all been great.

I have taken the 44 Super Bowls and whittled them down to what I believe were the ten best. Obviously, this is a wholly subjective exercise, but to help break ties and give it some structure, I created a points system. The quality of play of the entire game and the amount of drama in the decision are both worth ten points. The level of interest of the country entering the game, the combined coolness of the uniforms, and the significance of the game before and after are each worth five points each. I ignored the location of the game for these rankings. It absolutely mattered for everyone who went to or covered the game, but makes virtually no difference when watching from home. I also ignored the halftime shows because most of them suck, and I hate how much attention they get anyway. So in other words, a “perfect” game would yield 35 points.

It may surprise some that Super Bowl III didn’t make the cut. On a significance level it would be 15 out of five. The problem is the game frankly sucked, and I put more emphasis into the quality than what the games individually meant. Others that were close, but didn’t make the cut are the Patriots over the Eagles in SBXXXIX and the Dolphins completing the only perfect season ever by beating the Redskins 14-7 in SBVII. Alright, enough foreplay, let’s get it on!

10. Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams 23 Tennessee Titans 16

Quality: 7, Drama: 10 Interest: 3.5, Uniforms: 3.5, Significance: 3, Total: 27

After crunching the numbers, I am as surprised as anyone that this game didn’t finish higher than 10. There are a few things that held it back though. First, the game pretty much sucked for the first 3 quarters. Secondly, the lasting significance of the game isn’t high compared to others. The same Rams team made one more Super Bowl, which it lost. The Titans never made it back. The other thing that bugs me about this game is it reminds me of ABC showing the terrifying Brenda Warner roughly 621016540 times during the contest. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

9. Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Dallas Cowboys 17

Quality: 6, Drama: 8, Interest: 5, Uniforms: 5, Significance: 4, Total: 28

Any game that ends on a potential game-winning pass being intercepted in the end zone has to make this list. However, this was a game riddled with errors, including a missed extra point by Steelers kicker Roy Gerela. Also, it was an 11 point Pittsburgh lead with 3:02 remaining, but only got (very) interesting late. The most enduring image from the game was Lynn Swann’s acrobatic catch, which I have watched about a million times thanks to the NFL Films video my parents bought for me for Christmas 20 years ago. It was also significant in that it was Pittsburgh’s second straight world championship and it denied Dallas from winning their second.

8. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

Quality: 7, Drama 8, Interest: 4.5, Uniforms: 4, Significance: 5, Total: 28.5

The Golden Boy is born! Tom Brady, who in his rookie year as a 6th round draft pick, had taken the reigns from the Pro Bowl injured incumbent, Drew Bledsoe. The Rams had entered this game as 14 point favorites. New England’s defense was able to slow down the “Greatest Show on Turf”, and Adam Vinatieri booted a 48-yard field goal to win the championship. There are a few reasons this game doesn’t rank even higher on this list: First, the game winner was a field goal. Even though it was a long one, it wasn’t a dramatic touchdown as some of the other games on the list were. Second, there should’ve been 3 seconds still on the clock after the kick, leaving a sliver of hope for a “Music City Miracle” situation. Incidentally, they changed the rule after the game so that if there are 4 or more seconds on the clock, a made field goal cannot end the game (there were 7 seconds on the clock at the snap in this case). Finally, the “Spygate” tapes the Patriots secretly took of the Rams practicing leading up to the game takes some of the luster off of the championship as well. Regardless, it still holds up as one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.

7. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos 31 Green Bay Packers 24

Quality: 8, Drama: 8, Interest: 5, Uniforms: 3, Significance: 5, Total: 29

This game will forever be remembered as the game where John Elway finally broke through and won a championship, leaving Dan Marino as the undisputed “Greatest QB to Never Win a Super Bowl”. The most memorable play of the game is Elway’s helicopter run for a first down deep in Green Bay territory during the second half. What some people may not remember is that Terrell Davis won the MVP of the game, scoring 3 touchdowns and fighting off a migraine during the first half. I remember this game fondly, as the hated Packers were felled on the biggest stage. I must be objective though, and can’t rank it any higher than seventh.

6. Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Quality: 7, Drama: 9, Interest: 5, Uniforms: 4.5, Significance: 4, Total: 29.5

This game is the clear-cut best Super Bowl of the 1980s, which was chock-full of uninteresting blowouts. With their third championship, it is also the game which established the 49ers as the team of the decade, a mantle they were competing with the Washington Redskins to control. It was also a rematch of Super Bowl XVI. Even though it seems incredibly strange that the Bengals made 2 Super Bowls in 8 years, it is true. John Taylor caught the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left in the game. The coolest story from the game is Joe Montana talking to his team in the huddle right before the final drive of the game. Everyone was understandably tense, so to calm them down, he pointed out John Candy (RIP) in the stands. Seeing the literally and figuratively big star of the time relaxed everyone and they marched right down the field for the score. Honestly, if Uncle Buck doesn’t put you in the mindset to win, I don’t know what does. In all seriousness though, there’s a reason they call Montana “Joe Cool”.

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England Patriots 32 Carolina Panthers 29

Quality: 9, Drama: 9, Interest: 4, Uniforms: 3.5, Significance: 4.5, Total: 30

This is a game which will forever be remembered more for a rogue nipple than the game itself. That’s a shame though, because it was a damned good game. Entering the contest, the Pats were seeking their second championship in 3 seasons, while the Panthers were looking to win their first ever in their short existence. This game would rank even higher, but it was a bit of a dog until the unbelievable fourth quarter, where the teams combined to score 37 points. It was also a tale of 2 kickers: Vinatieri was once again Super Bowl hero, with a game-winning 41 yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining. Panthers’ kicker John Kasay was the goat. The Panthers scored a touchdown on a 12 yarder from Jake Delhomme to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 remaining in regulation. However, Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, setting the Pats up with a short field on their own 40 yard line, and the rest is history.

4. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants 20 Buffalo Bills 19

Quality: 8, Drama: 10, Interest: 4, Uniforms: 4.5, Significance: 4, Total 30.5

The Scott Norwood/Whitney Houston tilt. Compared to many games on my list, it certainly wasn’t high-scoring. The starting running backs Otis Anderson and Thurman Thomas were the stars of the game, both rushing for over 100 yards and each scoring a touchdown. It was a very clean game, the first of only two Super Bowls to be turnover-free. Of course, the moment everyone remembers is Scott Norwood narrowly missing a 47-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in the game, which would have won Buffalo the World Championship. He has been crucified for it ever since, but a 47-yarder on grass is no easy feat, especially with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

The most disturbing thing I’ve heard recently about the game are claims that Houston lip-synched the emotional National Anthem before kickoff. The game took place at the same time as the beginnings of the Gulf War, and her stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner was phenomenal. If it wasn’t all it seemed, Houston’s stock drops even further into the basement. When paired with other Whitney transgressions, most notably massive amounts of nose candy and hitching her wagon to one Bobby Brown, her lack of remaining redeeming qualities becomes even more glaring.

3. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 35 Dallas Cowboys 31

Quality: 8, Drama: 8, Interest: 5, Uniforms: 5, Significance: 5, Total: 31

Just as with #4 on our list, this is a Super Bowl remembered more for a gaffe than a great play. Hall of Fame Tight End Jackie Smith dropped a would-be game tying touchdown in the third quarter. The image of him flipping on his head is one of the most famous in NFL history. As a receiver from Duluth East High in 2003 who was immortalized by a picture in the local paper dropping a pass, I can’t even imagine living with that forever. Think Bill Buckner Lite.

The Cowboys settled for a field goal instead to make it 21-17 Steelers, and never quite made up all of the ground in the game. The victory also went a long way towards cementing the Steelers as the “Team of the 70s” over the Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins. The other historical fact of note is that the Cowboys are still the only team to score over 30 points in a Super Bowl and lose. Plus, what an awesome looking Super Bowl! Two of the sweetest unis in the NFL. I actually don’t care that much about stuff like that, but what the Hell, it breaks ties.

2. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Arizona Cardinals 23

Quality: 9, Drama: 10, Interest: 4.5, Uniforms: 4.5, Significance: 3.5, Total: 31.5

I wrestled with the top two on this list for a long time. Ulitmately, I decided SB43 was tremendous, but just fell short. Kurt Warner's last game, and third Super Bowl, left him falling just short in the ultimate game. On the other side of the field, Ben Roethlisberger won his second ring. His life has been extremely quiet and boring ever since.

The two signature plays were Larry Fitzgerald splitting the Steelers' D and flying in for a late TD, then the incredible catch by Santonio Holmes which ultimately won the game. One moment which sours this game Hail Mary pass wasn't reviewed for some reason, even it looked like an attempted pass. All the same, an awesome game.

The other remarkable thing about this game was that Brenda Warner looked kinda hot. I would have bet a billion dollars I never would have typed those words back in 1999. I don't know how it happened, but good for Kurt. He's earned it.

1. Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17 New England Patriots 14

Quality: 8, Drama: 10, Interest: 5, Uniforms: 4, Significance: 5, Total: 32

We've made it, all the way to what I consider to be the greatest Super Bowl ever played. There are two reasons I put this game above SB43. First, the Giants broke up what would have been the most dominant season in football history. The Partiots were minutes away from 19-0, and let it slip through (Asante Samuel's) their fingers. The other reason is no matter how great the Holmes catch was, nothing else comes close to the insane Eli Manning to David Tyree helmet catch. How in the sweet Christ did a nobody like Tyree make a catch like that? I still can't believe that play happened. I really dislike the Giants and wasn't thrilled withh the way that game turned out, but objectively, I have to call it the best ever played.

The 10 Best Music Videos of All-Time

By Tom Shefchik

Ever since video murdered radio stars in cold blood, music videos have been an integral part of the music scene. They probably aren't as big as they were in the TRL days, or when "Music Television" actually played music, but they are still an important part of virtually every hit song. I am about to unveil my favorite ten videos of all-time. I have no discernable musical talent, nor have I been alive for the entire history of music videos, but hey, I know what I like.

Something important to keep in mind about this list is that it isn't my top ten favorite songs. Some of these songs are God-awful, but I have a method to my madness. Also, it's a bit long, so I chopped it into two parts, with Part Two coming tomorrow. Alright, enough jibber-jabber, let's get it on!

10. Korn, "Freak on a Leash"

As I recall, "Freak" was the first non-N'Sync/Backstreet Boys video to be #1 on TRL. I drink a lot, so I may be remembering that wrong, but it sounds right to me. Even though the graphics seem pretty run of the mill now, the bullet destroying everything was state of the art at the time. Plus, it serves as a reminder that Korn made good music at one point.

9. N'Sync, "Drive Myself Crazy"

I realize I am putting my manhood on the line by including this, but hear me out. This video came out years before Lance Bass did the same. Watching him pretend to like girls is HI-larious. I am almost certain the "she loves me, she loves me not" move he pulls in it was his idea. In a video where everything is pretty gay, he still stands out (not that there's anything wrong with that). Oh, and seeing Timberlake with the bleached hair is always entertaining.

8. Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me a River"

Back to back Timberlake! Anyway, this makes it because it is the anthem for any dude who has dated or, God-forbid, has been married to an unscrupulous woman. Guys always get a bad rap when it comes to relationships, but girls can suck pretty hard too, mostly because they are evil. Alright, time to recapture my masculinity.

7. Chris Brown, "Gimme That"

Before the horrible incident with Rihanna, Chris Brown was pegged to be the next Michael Jackson. He clearly has all the talent in the world, but it's almost impossible to believe he will ever be quite that popular again. Alright, enough with the serious stuff.

6. Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind"

Even though it's pretty overplayed, "Empire" is NYC's new anthem. The video almost makes me feel like I'm there, possibly getting mugged. Plus, like Jay, I will also be 'hood forever, so it seemed like a natural choice. Sure, Alicia Keys has looked much hotter, but who wants to pick nits?

5. Usher, "Yeah!"

My longtime, unrequited man-love for Usher is well known, so this should come as no surprise. It is his best video in my opinion, I always get a kick out of Ludacris calling him "Ursher" because it sounds so dumb, and more Lil Jon is always a plus. Speaking of Lil Jon, check out his high school grad pic if you feel like taking a ride in a ROFLcopter.

4. Britney Spears, "Oops, I Did it Again"; Christina Aguilera, "Dirrty" (tie)

Yes, having a tie is cheating and turns a Top Ten list into 11. It's my blog though, so I don't care. Both of these videos "touched" me in just the right way when they came out. When "Oops" came out, I thought Britney was the most perfect specimen I had ever seen. Clearly, she's had some hard times since, but it's nice to know that she can still dust off the Cheetos powder and look good when she feels like it.

Then, "Dirrty" came along a few years later. I was ready for a bad girl to come into my life (Virtually, of course. I did even worse with the ladies in high school than I do now, believe it or not.), and X-tina fit the bill. I actually like the song, too. Finally, it's nice to see Redman again, may he rest in peace. Wait, he's still alive? For sure? Hmm, who knew?

3. Kanye West ft. T-Pain, "Good Life"

If this was my favorite songs of all time, this would be number one. Alas, it will have to settle for number three. The song samples keys from Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T.", so all of the MJ references in the video are really cool. The other great part is whoever that girl is, she looks like an extremely fun carnival ride.

As an aside, life is rough when two of your favorite artists are Kanye and Chris Brown. I tell people that, and they stare at me as if I just called their mother a whore. It's not my fault they've done really stupid things, and it's not my fault they make great music. I will now hop off of my soapbox and finish up this countdown.

2. Tom Cochrane, "Life is a Highway"

Note: I can't embed this one due to request, so I will have to just link it here.

Everything about this song and video is awesome: The clothes and LEGO man haircut, the random odd people he meets, and the fact that it's a really good song. Clearly, the best part starts at the 3:16 mark though. When Cochrane whips the guitar on his back and does that weird leg shimmy thing, magic happens. As a man who can't dance whatsoever, even I can say it's brutal. The brutality is what makes it great though, so I am indebted to TC for life.

1. Michael Jackson, "Thriller"

I realize I don't win any unique points for calling "Thriller" the greatest music video of all time. Whatever though, just because it's not original doesn't make it wrong. This video was way ahead of its time, the song is awesome, and the story is actually interesting. Truth be told, I could have made half of this list MJ videos, but that wouldn't be any fun. The man lived a truly strange life, but he was supremely gifted and earned his place in history.