Every year, on usually the last Sunday of January, or the first of February, hundreds of millions of people cook feasts fit for a king and huddle around televisions to experience the spectacle that is the Super Bowl.
While I’ve personally only witnessed half of the games that are viewed by more people than the state of the union plus every other President Obama speech combined, it got me thinking: which of them was the most memorable to me, and why?
Before I get into my reasoning behind my top choice, I wanted to recount the lasting images I have from other Super Bowls because I have a tendency to recall the past with overflowing nostalgia.
From the least memorable to the most, here are the three that were just beaten out by my No. 1 pick.
Breastgate, XXXVIII 2004
The game between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots was a good one, but it took a backseat to the most controversial halftime show in the history of the NFL.
Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson were on the stage performing JT’s “Rock Your Body,” when at the conclusion of the catchy tune, Timberlake decided to capture everyone’s attention (and criticism) by removing the part of Jackson’s getup that protected her right breast from the chilly air and the audience’s unsuspecting eyes.
Yet, the actual contest on the field was super entertaining, as well. Two failed Panthers’ two-point conversions and a successful one by their counterpart lifted the Patriots to a 32-29 win, still one of the top-10 highest scoring Super Bowls of all-time.
The game decided by one yard, XXXIV 1999
On the very last play of the game, Steve “Air” McNair lined the Tennessee Titans up on the St. Louis Rams 10-yard line and hit Logan, and University of Utah, native Kevin Dyson on a nine-yard slant. Dyson reached toward the endzone as he was tackled, but the ball was one-yard short from breaking the plane.
I loved a great deal about 1999, and was enamored by the NFL Playoffs that year. We got “The Music City Miracle,” which enabled the Titans to reach the final game, and were mesmerized by “The Greatest Show on Turf” – a high-powered air attack that hadn’t been seen in decades, which was led by a grocery store employee turned MVP.
“This one’s for John,” XXXII 1998
Perhaps my obsession with clinging to the ‘90s forced my hand here, but I had recently been transplanted in Colorado when the great John Elway was finally able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
What made the game even more special was that it pitted two of the best to ever hurl a tight spiral – Brett Favre and Elway – in a game for the ages. The teams traded blows like a two heavyweights in a prizefight, and “TD” Terrell Davis still had a functioning knee that could sustain his calculated cuts in between defenders.
I left off others that were special to me, and my top Super Bowl involved my team, so I’m following my sentimental nature rather than my logic here, but without further ado:
The final championship chapter in the “triplets” dynasty, XXX 1996
I’ve suffered 18 excruciating years since America’s team was last great, so before the Dallas Cowboys haters dismiss my pick as “homerism,” allow me to explain myself.
In one corner you have the aforementioned darlings of the ‘90s: Troy “strong arm” Aikman, “the playmaker” Michael Irvin, the league’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith and “primetime” Deion Sanders. On the opposite end is arguably the best franchise in any professional sport, and the only team to have won six Super Bowls presently.
The game wasn’t all that great, as were most contests in which a lesser opponent tried to matchup with the greatest team ever assembled on paper. Regardless, it capped the third, by my count, NFL dynasty and cemented the men with the star on their helmets as one, at least, the top five best teams ever. It was also the then-second most watched program in the history of television. Only the final episode of “M*A*S*H” was seen by more people.
If I had avoided my bias, I might’ve had the Favre-Elway battle at the top, but during my lifetime there aren’t many more jubilant days I can remember than the one during a January afternoon in the Spencer household.