Daily Cavalcade: Were Super Bowl LI & CFP National Championship The Greatest Of All-Time?
Super Bowl LI was amazing, as was the College Football Playoff National Championship, but were they really among the greatest of all-time?
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It’s a good thing when we have to argue whether or not a game is the greatest of all-time, since that obviously means we all just witnessed something incredible.
The problem is when the argument loses all meaning and credibility by being used after every amazingly big sporting event.
Whether it was LeBron and the Cavs improbably coming down from 3-1 to beat Golden State (that series is up there), or the Cubs heart-exploding tension festival to win an epic seven games series (yeah, okay, good luck topping that), or a last-second walk-off shot to win the NCAA Tournament (no, because five people can name who hit it), or a terrific College Football Playoff National Championship, or an epic Super Bowl comeback, it’s been a phenomenal run of championship games. So, no, it’s not a “hot take” to try putting a great championship into the proper perspective.
However, it comes across forced and it’s too gushy when that instant analysis is wrong.
I’ve been trying to figure out why so many respected, normally-grounded, NFL heads who really, really know what they’re talking about were so quick to pronounce New England’s win Atlanta as the greatest game ever, when it clearly wasn’t. And then I realized something.
NFL people aren’t used to watching something that actually matters.
Think about it. There are always great NFL games, but when it comes to the ones that really, really, really matter, either it’s the Super Bowl, or it’s a big playoff game. That’s it, considering that there’s almost never such a thing as an NFL regular season games that means anything on a larger scale – because the great teams are going to be in the playoffs anyway, and the battles to get in are usually between okay teams scratching and clawing to save their lives. That limits the number of games that make a big difference, compared to college football or the NCAA Tournament.
And that leads to Step One when it comes to whether or not a game was the greatest of all-time – how meaningful was it?
This is the debate I got into with several media types in the spiffy hospitality area after Clemson’s win over Alabama for the College Football Playoff National Championship. Of course it was about as meaningful a win as it gets, as was winning Super Bowl LI – and of course both games pass that test.
Both games also pass Step Two in terms of the G.O.A.T. discussion – how was the ending?
It doesn’t get much better than the 2017 football championships in terms of comebacks and thrillers. There are better national championship finishes – Vince Young, Ohio State-Miami 2003 Fiesta, Nebraska-Miami 1984 Orange – even though you have to work to get there.
But good luck finding a better Super Bowl finish.
I’ll still fight the good fight that Buffalo-NY Giants XXV should be among any discussion of anything great when it comes to the Super Bowl, and Malcolm Butler, Montana-to-Taylor, Roethlisberger-to-Holmes, Vinatieri vs. Rams and/or Panthers are in the team photo, but nah – Brady’s OT drive will be the one everyone remembers first and foremost, and that leads to …
Step Three: There has to be an epic performance that’ll be referenced as long as sports are played.
Now, people will always point back to the Deshaun Watson Game, just like every college football fan knows what the Vince Young Game means. Just like43-of-62, 466 yards, two touchdowns, one pick-six, 25 points in the fourth quarter and OT makes LI the Tom Brady Game.
Step Four: Was the GAME great.
And here’s the problem.
As amazing as the finish and comeback were, LI sucked for three quarters. There’s also the problem of Atlanta choking/losing as much as Brady and New England winning it, with Matt Ryan and the Falcons playing horribly in the finishing kick. The CFP National Championship was also awful for the first half and a chunk of the third quarter, and the miserable play of Jalen Hurts and the Alabama passing game didn’t help the optics.
To be a Greatest Game of All-Time, the GAME has to be great.
1992 Duke-Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament is the gold standard for this. That was played at the highest of levels from tip-to-Laettner. USC vs. Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl wasn’t just amazing because of Young; it was epic because USC’s stars were great, too.
Obviously, though, it’s all subjective. For whatever reason, if someone says a game is his-or-her favorite/greatest/best, then yay – whatever gets it done.
And, in the end, don’t let pretentious jerkweeds like me tell you it’s not.