TERRE HAUTE —
I’ve learned to take a Seinfeld approach to Super Bowls.
In a flash of clairvoyance, Jerry excitedly reminded buddy George Costanza that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
Anyone asking me to predict the winner of the Giants-Patriots clash this Sunday at Indianapolis should keep that in mind.
Super Bowl Sundays have rarely turned out as I’d hoped. In that event’s 45 years, the NFL teams I follow most closely have won …
Yes, when I was a kid, my beloved Minnesota Vikings — in the frozen-tundra era of Joe Kapp, Alan Page and Carl Eller — marched into Super Sunday four times. As a 9-year-old, I couldn’t wait to see the Vikes shut down the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. I started out watching the game on our living room TV. By halftime, with Minnesota getting smoked 16-0, I switched to the solitude of the laundry room to view the painful finish of a 23-7 loss on our tiny, spare television.
It was just the beginning of many not-so-Super memories.
The Vikings also lost Super Bowls to Miami (in 1974), Pittsburgh (1975) and Oakland (1977). They’re 0-for-4, and they’ve never been back.
I figured my chances might improve in the 1980s, when my second-favorite team turned into a championship contender. Surely the Cincinnati Bengals, with record-setting quarterbacks like Kenny Anderson and Boomer Esiason, could break through for me. Unfortunately, the opposing team in both of the Bengals’ Super Bowl appearances in 1982 and 1989, the San Francisco 49ers, had Joe Montana behind center. In ’82, Cincinnati outgained the 49ers in yardage but lost narrowly, 26-21. In the ’89 rematch, Montana ripped out the hearts of Bengals fans, erasing a three-point Cincinnati lead by passing for a touchdown with just 34 seconds left.
The Bengals, who were my dad’s favorite team, are 0-for-2, and they’ve never been within a light year of another Super Bowl berth.
For those of you scoring from home, I was a cumulative 0-for-6 going into Super Bowl XLI. Of course, that game featured neither the Vikings nor the Bengals.
However, the home-state Indianapolis Colts were making their first Super Sunday trip since the franchise came to Indiana in 1984. I’d never been a Colts fan, but in my former role as the Trib-Star sports editor, I got acquainted with the players, coaches and staffers while covering their Terre Haute summer training camps day after day for six years. Thus, I pulled on a blue-and-white ballcap and pulled for Indy when it faced the Bears on the first Sunday in February 2007.
This time, though, I was older and wiser than in the 1970s and ’80s. My Super Sunday optimism had long since been trampled like a stray Dorito into the carpet at a Super Bowl party, and replaced with sincere skepticism. My brain told me that Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Co. were far stronger than Rex Grossman and Chicago. My heart longed to see Tony Dungy hoist the Lombardi Trophy. But the voice of Jerry Seinfeld reminded me that the last thing I should do is walk into our friends’ Super Bowl celebration expecting the Colts to win.
As a result, my instinct was that the Bears would pull an upset. When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a Chicago touchdown, I was convinced of the doom ahead. Yet, true to form, the exact opposite outcome occurred. The Colts prevailed 29-17. Dazed and confused, I actually found myself able to cheer and high-five at the end of a Super Bowl.
The curse was apparently over.
Bubbling with confidence from that 2007 championship, I’d shed my old expect-the-worst-and-hope-for-the-best outlook when Indianapolis returned to the title game for Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010. The Colts were destined to win it all. They’d flirted with a perfect season, winning their first 14 games. Manning and the offense would be too much for the Saints, who had no Super Bowl experience. Doubt-free, I watched Indy surge to a quick 10-0 lead …
And then lose, 31-17.
So, for the sake of my hometown, I will steadfastly repress any hopes or inklings that Terre Haute native and New York Giants punter and holder Steve Weatherford will deliver a stunning fake-punt run, or a coffin-corner kick or a touchdown pass on a fake field goal to beat the widely reviled New England Patriots. I fully anticipate the exact opposite.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.