by Robert Ferringo - 01/31/2006
Anyone who knows me or has spent any considerable amount of time with me understands that I love to rant and postulate random theories. Well, now it's your turn. But believe me, it's something you're going to want to think about before you drop some coin on the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Have you ever wondered why experience matters so much in big games? This great, unexplained Intangible is often sited but never specifically qualified by those who analyze sports.
Clearly there's a benefit to familiarity with a certain situation. But how does that carry over into the execution or preparation of someone who is going to be thrust into a pressure-packed situation? Regardless, the mystery that is Experience can be a tremendous equalizer in a Big Game.
If we agree on this initial premise, my Big Game-Big Program Theory is an extension of it. The idea is that if you have two teams, schools, programs, whatever, meeting on a large stage for a Big Game, the school-program-team that is more familiar with those types of pressure-packed experiences is going to beat the one that isn't.
Doesn't seem too mind-bending, right? But consider this: my theory has nothing to do with the actual "experience" of the personnel. Instead, I contest that organization-franchise-city that is most accustomed to winning in this situations will usually come out on top.
This theory has proven itself repeatedly in the Super Bowl. Think back to the random teams that have made cameo appearances in this spotlight over the last dozen years. Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta and San Diego were each a virgin franchise that ran up against a team with a taste for titles. Needless to say, the first-timers were 0-4.
I understand the retort. In the last 20 years, Chicago, Tampa Bay and the Baltimore Ravens each won world championships in their first appearances. But what do they all have in common? All three had a classic, dominating defense. That apparently neutralizes the Big Game-Big Program Theory.
However, Chicago was facing another Super Bowl rookie (New England), so somebody was going to pick up its first Lombardi Trophy. And I would say that the Ravens don't count as a true "newbie" since Baltimore won the trophy with the Colts back in 1971.
If you're still not convinced, consider that in 40 years of Super Bowl history, franchises making their first appearance are just 7-18. That record includes the first five years of the event, in which seven of the 10 combatants were making their first appearance because the game was brand-spanking new.
The first seven Super Bowls were lost by teams making their first appearance.
On the flip side, teams making their second trip to the Super Bowl won 10 of 16 times. Those same organizations are 7-5 in their third appearance and 6-5 in their fourth. Any franchise that's been in the Super Bowl five or more times is 8-3 in those games.
So why do you care about my hypothesis? Well, if Indiana is the Basketball Capital of The World, Pennsylvania could be considered the Football Capital of The World. When you factor in the passion of the fans, the history and success of the franchises, and the level of talent that has come out of the Keystone State, you can make a very strong argument.
Therefore, if there's any truth to my theory this could be Pittsburgh's year. The Steelers will be making their sixth trip to the Big Game. That total ties them for the second-most all-time with Denver, and leaves them two behind Dallas' eight.
The Steelers are 4-1 in the Super Bowl, but haven't won a championship since 1980. The popular rallying cry in the Steel City since then has been "One For the Thumb", and they feel that this could be the team that restores them to their former glory.
Both the Broncos and the Cowboys were victorious in their sixth trip to the Super Bowl.
Conversely, Seattle has exactly zero championships to boast about. Before this season they hadn't won a playoff game since 1984. The Seahawks are 5-7 all-time in the postseason, with two of those wins obtained this season.
In fact, the city of Seattle has witnessed only one major sports championship it its history. The SuperSonics won the NBA title back in 1979.
My future father-in-law always tells me that, "You get out of life what you expect out of it." I think he has a point. And I think that it's not only true for me, but also for the fans of sports teams across the globe.
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