The Best and Worst of Past Super Bowls

IN its Super Bowl preview, Football Digest has compiled a long list of bests and worsts from the first 27 years of the game's history. At the top of Barry Wilner's ``best games'' is Super Bowl XIII (1979), in which Pittsburgh beat Dallas, 35-31. Not only was it a high-scoring and close affair, it was filled with dramatic twists, including a tragic dropped pass in the end zone by wide-open Cowboy receiver Jackie Smith.

Having covered the game for the Monitor, I would add one personal note: A torrential downpour preceded the kickoff, but obviously failed to prevent an exciting game. (In a heads-up, off-the-field play, reporters seated in the uncovered auxiliary press area were provided with huge beach towels.)

In the category of ``worst games,'' Wilner surprisingly ignores such lopsided recent affairs as San Francisco's 55-10 blowout of Denver four years ago, or Dallas's 52-17 rout of Buffalo last January. Instead he picks one of the closest Super Bowl games ever as the biggest dud: Super Bowl V (1971), in which Baltimore beat Dallas, 16-13, on the final play - a 32-yard Jim O'Brien field goal. It was the sloppiest of all Super era championship games, Wilner reasons.

Another surprise occurs in his selection of greatest single offensive play. He bypasses longer touchdown plays in selecting John Riggins's 43-yard, fourth-quarter TD jaunt that helped Washington seal a victory over Miami in Super Bowl XVII (1983).

Though not a scoring play, Lynn Swann's acrobatic catch for a 53-yard Pittsburgh gain in Super Bowl X (1976) stands out to this writer as more memorable. Swann later made a game-winning, 64-yard TD grab.

II be or not II be

The use of Roman numerals to designate Super Bowls may seem ostentatious. Mostly, though, numbering the National Football League's championship games makes it difficult to casually identify past contests. In baseball, people talk about the '57 Series or the '75 Series, but in football, can anyone sort out Super Bowl XVI from XXII?

The Roman numerals do provide a mechanism, though an awkward one, to avoid calendar confusion. For example, this year's Super Bowl - XXVIII in Atlanta Sunday - actually caps the 1993 regular season. So which is it: The '93 or the '94 Super Bowl?

Pattern of meanness mars football

Those within football may not see it as a big problem, but a conquest mentality increasingly seems to pollute the game at the professional and college level, and possibly at lower levels as well. Defensive backs may be the worst offenders, sometimes straddling their fallen prey after a jarring tackle. Other times you see tacklers give a yank to a ballcarrier's legs, almost rodeo fashion, at the end of a play.

Officials seem to ignore these little statements, which presumably are meant to intimidate, not harm. Their undisguised meanness, though, sends a bad signal that players consider personal conquests over their opponents a goal in and of itself. If this keeps up, trash talk and acts may soon spoil an honorable game.

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