Niners Play for History, Chargers for Respect

Super Bowl may look anticlimactic on paper, but remember the 1969 Jets

FOR those who prefer chitchat to intense viewing at Super Bowl parties, this year's game may suit them to a T. Many experts predict that the San Francisco 49ers will win a landslide victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Jan. 29, turning ABC's game telecast into white noise for the social set.

Their evidence? Exhibit A is the result of the Dec. 11 regular-season matchup of these teams. San Francisco won easily, 38-15, after jumping out to a 21-0 lead on San Diego's home turf.

This outcome, despite a good effort by Chargers quarterback Stan Humphries, could raise doubts in any National Football League team, and its impact on the Chargers - pro or con - may manifest itself on Super Bowl Sunday in Miami.

Any one game can paint a false picture, but the season-long numbers posted by the 49ers and Chargers confirm the sizable differences between these teams.

What they don't show is that San Diego was a mere .500 team a year ago, although a division champion, and was a 4-12 cellar-dweller not long before that.

The 49ers, by contrast, have become a perennial blue-chip franchise, with 11 playoff appearances in the last 12 seasons.

Now, despite cries that the Super Bowl will be ``anticlimactic,'' the 49ers have plenty of incentive to win. For one, payday is greener for winners - $42,000, versus $26,000 for each loser. Maybe more important, the Niners will be playing for a place in history as the first five-time NFL champion.

The underdog's role suited the Chargers well in the playoffs, and they surely will be happy to bring their Rodney Dangerfield I-don't-get-no-respect attitude to the game. Sometimes it helps to wear a chip on one's shoulder pads, as it did for the New York Jets, whose upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III still serves as a beacon of hope for any underdog.

Many people are just happy to see a new team in the Super Bowl, and welcome the Chargers. History, however, is not been kind to first-time participants.

Only two franchises new to the game have ever beaten teams with previous experience: the Pittsburgh Steelers (over Minnesota in 1975) and the New York Giants (over the Denver Broncos in 1987).

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