Allegany Communications Sports
Who’s the best team to lose a Super Bowl? Who cares? Nobody remembers them anyway. When you lose the Super Bowl, before the MVP of the game even says “Disneyland,” the great season it took to get there disappears. It matters not.
To a lesser degree, the same holds true for most of the winners. There have been 58 of these, after all, and with a handful of notable exceptions — the 1966-67 Packers, the ’72 Dolphins, the ’74-75 Steelers, the ’83 Raiders, the ‘85 Bears, the 2000 Ravens — the winners, other than in their respective cities, simply fall on to another line in the Sports Almanac as well.
As the great but misunderstood Duane Thomas famously said during Super Bowl 6 media day, “If this is the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?”
To that point, the best team Don Shula, who would coach a team to a perfect 17-0 season, ever coached lost the Super Bowl. That team was so great that the greatest quarterback of all time missed most of the season to injury and his replacement would step in to become the MVP of the league — then infamously flop in the Super Bowl.
As the good fans of San Francisco are already finding out, when a team loses the Super Bowl its city and its fans enter a collective mourning. The worst day to have to go to work or to school is the Monday after your favorite team has lost the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 3 remains the worst of all time, as it continues to haunt the city of Baltimore and old Colts fans to this day. The result of that game changed everything — the course of the National Football League, beginning with the completion of the merger with the AFL and the first of what has been many gargantuan television contracts; and it directly led to the fate of the winningest coach in NFL history and, ultimately, the relocation of a beloved team, which just 10 years previously had made the NFL the game and the industry it has become and remains today.
The 15-1 season that put the Colts into the Super Bowl was out the window with the wash. Shula lasted just one more season in Baltimore under owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who had lost a pile of money to gamblers on the outcome of the game and blamed Shula for it.
Three years after Super Bowl 3, Rosenbloom traded the Colts (yes, the entire franchise) for the Los Angeles Rams (yes, the entire franchise) to a devil incarnate (his own mother’s words) by the name of Robert Irsay. Shula, who had fled Baltimore for the safety of, of all places, Miami, finally won the big one, directing the Dolphins to the NFL’s only undefeated season.
On March 28, 1984, Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis, with the first domino for it all having fallen on January 12, 1969 when Earl Morrall missed a wide open Jimmy Orr in the end zone.
The 1983 NFL season that had just been completed saw the Washington Redskins dominate the way few teams had since the 1968 Baltimore Colts. The highest scoring team in league history, the Redskins were being regarded as the greatest team ever assembled. That was, of course, until the Los Angeles Raiders disassembled them in the Super Bowl in every conceivable fashion to very much look like the greatest team ever assembled themselves.
On the ride home from the party that night, we sat at a traffic light and noticed the looks of the people in the cars around us. There was nothing behind eyes. Nobody was moving; nobody was saying a word — only glassy-eyed stares into nothingness.
The shock, the quiet, the despair would permeate the city for weeks. You wouldn’t understand it unless you have lived in the district, but the fate of the Redskins in those days dictated the spirit and the mood of the entire nation’s capital — rich, poor, powerful and weak. The football team was the one thing that unified the most powerful city in the world — on both sides of the aisle.
Washington, D.C. was a community — a village — through its football team only.
Now the Super Bowl is played in Las Vegas. There are professional sports teams in Las Vegas. Gambling sponsors all of the professional sports leagues. The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NHL, all of them, are in bed with gambling. Yes, Hollywood has always known. We currently find ourselves living in Back to the Future Part II and Biff is in possession of the Sports Almanac.
I love sports, but the Super Bowl has become a spectacle. The game itself has been lost amidst the hours of eye candy. It is the season finale for a show about nothing.
Just give me a beer and a ballgame. A seat in the upper deck, if you please.
Just 45 days to go.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT