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Super Bowl week column

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by RubberSoul1979, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. RubberSoul1979

    RubberSoul1979 Active Member

    I'm an assistant editor for a <15,000 circ daily; Feel free to make any suggestions, changes, etc.

    Forgive everyone for not at first seeing the greater importance of the last Super Bowl played in Miami.

    Eight years ago, the talk of Super Bowl XXXIII centered around John Elway facing the coach with whom he lost three Super Bowls. The Hall of Fame quarterback ended his career with a victory over Atlanta and Dan Reeves. But the Falcons' only NFC title to date signaled something more long-term than a Hollywood ending in South Florida.

    It marked the beginning of a new era.

    Before January of 1999, just seven teams had made their first Super Bowl appearance over the 17 previous seasons. Atlanta is one of six to do so since. A pair of others - Kurt Warner's St. Louis Rams and this year's Colts - made return trips long after relocating to new cities. Several factors are to thank (or blame, depending whose side you're on).

    The '90s gave the NFL two expansion teams and one revolutionary addition in the salary cap. The results began to take clear shape by the end of the decade. Players' mobility increased. Teams' ability to keep their core players decreased. "Parity" became part of the NFL lexicon, and formerly browbeaten teams could suddenly come to the forefront.

    Squads like the Atlanta Falcons.

    The 1998 "Dirty Birds" are remembered more for their trademark end zone dance than anything. Atlanta hadn't even hosted a playoff game since the 1980 season until the 49ers - 15 postseason appearances over the previous 16 years in toe - visited the Georgia Dome in January of 1999. The Falcons prevailed in Steve Young and Jerry Rice's playoff farewells as 49ers.

    Within a year, the dam broke. The new rich rocked while establishment dropped. Neither San Francisco nor Dallas reached the playoffs in 1999. But Tampa came within a game of the Super Bowl. St. Louis won the whole thing. At the AFC championship, once the domain of Shula, Marcus Allen, Kelly and Bradshaw's Steelers, a team from Jacksonville hosted a team from Nashville.

    "Yeesh," commented Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. "How did Hooterville, Dogpatch and Bugtussle miss the cut?"

    The NFL's era of parity is showing no signs of slowing. The lone dynasty of these times is fittingly New England, a franchise void of much star power. In the '80s and '90s, the Patriots lost a lot more than they won.

    Teams rise and crumble with each passing year. The Steelers win a Super Bowl one year but don't make the playoffs the next. In the season of their first playoff win in 12 years, the Bears ascend to the Super Bowl. Teal and black rises. Silver and Black fades. Anything can happen each Sunday, critics and traditionistas be damned.
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