I'm a sucker for the Super Bowl. I haven't missed watching one for the last 26 years. Many of those games were flat-out bad, but when they were good, wow.
I enjoy the spectacle of it all. It's football, but on a ridiculous level, grand and extravagant. The National Anthem, the Air Force flyover, the flashbulbs at kickoff, everything is amplified. It takes itself so seriously that it's almost funny. The Super Bowl is excess at its finest.
I vividly remember the first Super Bowl I ever watched, it was Super Bowl XXII Denver vs Washington, January 31, 1988. I was 10 years old and just started actually paying attention to the NFL in that 1987 season. As a young Saints fan it was the perfect year to start following football. The Saints went 12-3 and made the playoffs for the very first time that year. My family was so excited for the playoffs, then the Wild Card game actually started. So much for that.
Less than a month after Minnesota throttled the Saints, Louisiana native Doug Williams led the Redskins into the Super Bowl against the Broncos. Needless to say, I found my rooting interest in the big game right there. Local boy makes good? Sign me up for that. I loved it all, even then the game seemed bigger than any football game I had watched before. The Super Bowl as it was then is downright pedestrian compared to today's standards.
I always enjoyed the lead up to the Super Bowl. Media Day, the classic NFL Films specials, the ridiculously early pregame, it's all part of the Super Bowl experience. One thought always came to my mind during the Super Bowl and all of the spectacle that leads up to it: I wish the Saints were part of it. Would I ever see the day? Honestly, I hadn't seen anything in all of my years of watching football that would lead me to believe the Saints would figure out how to put a Super Bowl season together.
To see the Saints at media day, to see the fleur-de-lis next to the Super Bowl logo, to see a black and gold end zone with the word Saints proudly displayed in it. For most of my football watching life, I could only imagine. Waiting for the day that seemed like it would never actually come. The Saints in the Super Bowl? One could only hope, right?
Then, after years of simply hoping, the seemingly impossible happened. I got to see that black and gold end zone, that fleur-de-lis with the XLIV logo, the New Orleans Saints not only made the Super Bowl, they won it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my perspective on the Super Bowl would be changed from that moment forward. No longer would I have to wonder what it would be like if the Saints were in the Super Bowl.
Looking for storylines to root for, like Doug Williams, Rickey Jackson, or a Manning winning the Super Bowl were no longer necessary. The only storyline that matters is the Saints returning to the Super Bowl. Without the Saints in the game, the Super Bowl just seems to be lacking something. Knowing that at their best the Saints should be in the game has changed my perspective on the Super Bowl.
The game is still a blast to watch of course, but the last two Super Bowls since XLIV have left me thinking that the Saints could have won those games. The Saints are now a part of Super Bowl lore, one of the elite group of NFL franchises that have won the big game. I'll never again have to imagine what it would be like, just how it will be the next time it happens. Every Super Bowl that now passes without the Saints just seems like a placeholder until the Saints take their place back on the big stage as NFC Champions.
The Super Bowl remains the biggest spectacle in sports. A defacto national holiday and a party for all football fans whether your team is in the game or not. But once you've witnessed the ultimate success of a Super Bowl victory, all you want to see from that moment on is another victory. Another game with that fleur-de-lis on the field and that black and gold end zone. Another Lombardi trophy lifted in the end for the New Orleans Saints.
So I ask you Who Dat Nation, what are some of your early Super Bowl memories and how has your perspective of the Super Bowl changed since the Saints won it all?
** And don't miss CSC's wall-to-wall Super Bowl coverage throughout the day, including my predictions post and thread, a post featuring Dave's live twitterfeed from his extensive gameday experiences, pictures from HansDat's Mom and Dad's trip into the French Quarter on Friday, and finally the Open Thread for the game itself. **