by John Furgele
Super Bowl 43 was much better than expected. The stars played well as Ben Roethlisberger showed that he is an elite quarterback and Kurt Warner showed that he does indeed belong in the Hall of Fame. In football, compiling is not required for HOF enshrinement, dominance and playing big on the big stage is. Both Roethlisberger and Warner proved that the big stage is something not to fear.
Unfortunately, the real star of the game was referee Terry McCauley and his crew. Yes, you have to call penalties like holding and the like, but is there a point where some things can be let go? Too many personal fouls for my liking, and even though it seemed that most of the calls went against Arizona, even the unsportsmanlike conduct against Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Turner seemed to be a bit rough.
At one point, it felt like the refs were trying to win the game for Pittsburgh, but the calls did seem to even up a bit at the end. I didn’t like the running into the holder call against Arizona cornerback Adrian Wilson and the late “lovetap” on Roethlisberger was atrocious. Several times during the game, I found myself yelling, “this is the Super Bowl, let the players determine the outcome of the game.”
In the end, I was puzzled why the Kurt Warner fumble with five seconds left was not reviewed. It should have been because a case can be made that Warner’s arm was in motion and the play could have been ruled an incomplete pass. Like most, I would have liked to see the Cardinals get one more play and try a Hail Mary to Larry Fitzgerald.
In the end, Arizona blew the game. When you’re up 23-20 with 2:48 to play, you can’t really ask for anything more. All Arizona had to do was stop the Steeler defense, but they couldn’t. Roethlisberger should have erased all doubts that he isn’t a big game quarterback, because he is. Critics bring up his 10 of 21 performance in Super Bowl 40, but they forget that he was brilliant in road wins at Cincinnati, at Indianapolis and at Denver. Without those performaances, there is no Super Bowl 40 appearance for the Steelers.
The experts were wrong again. All week, they touted that Pittsburgh’s defense and Arizona’ offense would be the key battle. Those who really know football (like me), knew that the exact opposite was true. The game came down to the Pittsburgh offense and the Arizona defense, and when it was time to make plays, the Pittsburgh offense made them and the Arizona defense did not. The two week gap between the conference championships and the Super Bowl has not affected play; in fact that last two games have been beauties. The problem with the two weeks is that it gives the media gasbags too much time to contradict themselves, and gives way too much time to people who think they are football royalty like Peter King, who really thinks highly of himself, but wants to be heard so much that the facts don’t really mean anything.
In the broadcast booth, Al Michaels and John Madden did a nice job. Though he is balleyhooed beyond reason, Madden was sharp as a tack last night, and the best comment of the night was when he said that the Super Bowl winner/runner-up is “the widest gap in professional sports.” That couldn’t be more true. The Super Bowl winner is immortalized, while the runner-up is cast aside and often treated like they are the worst team in pro sports.
In baseball, you can lose the World Series and still get points for being valiant. The 2001 Yankees come to mind, as do the 1975 Red Sox and the 1991 Atlanta Braves. But, in football, you get casted and it sticks. The Buffalo Bills won four straight AFC Championships, but can never be considered a great team because they couldn’t win the Lombardi Trophy.
As for the Arizona Cardinals, I get the feeling that it may take another decade or two to reach a second Super Bowl. Look at the Bills. After losing the 1993 Super Bowl, they haven’t come close to getting back. After losing a classic Super Bowl to New England in the 2003 season, the Carolina Panthers have reached an NFC Championship Game, but no more. The 1999 Tennesee Titans came within one yard of forcing overtime in the Super Bowl, but have not sniffed a Super Bowl since. And, the Philadelphia Eagles keep finding ways to the NFC Championship Game, but after they lost the 2004 Super Bowl, have not been back since.
Madden’s words ring very true. His Oakland Raiders went to one Super Bowl and they won it, and because of it, he is immortalized and people forget that Madden was just 1-6 in AFL/AFC Championship Games. In fact, people now refer to those Raider teams which lost in the AFL/AFC Championship Games as great teams. They don’t get that moniker if they would have lost to Minnesota in Super Bowl 11. The Philadelphia Eagles won’t get accolades for losing the NFC Championship Game until they win the NFL Championship Game, aka the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, because of its one game format, there is no glory in being the runner-up. We saw that yesterday. A great game, between two evenly matched teams, but in the end, a wide gap exists.