Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Long It's Been: A Team Won Back-to-Back Super Bowls (And the New England Patriots Won a Super Bowl)


In a way, it's a disappointment that the San Francisco 49ers didn't make it to Super Bowl XLIX -- just for the sake of the number.

Instead, it will be the defending World Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, against the New England Patriots, the team that has defined the 21st Century in the National Football League.

In the immortal words of Dick Smothers, That was not a compliment.

At first, with their victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, the Pats were a wonderful underdog/upset story. Then, with their victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII (which will remain the longest Roman number for the Super Bowl until LXXXVIII in 2054), they were a 2-time winner, all flukes dispelled, a true team for the ages.

But when they won again the next year, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowls XXXIX, they began to get a new aura. Of arrogance. And people began to get sick of them. Maybe it was because the Boston Red Sox had just won the World Series, and the idea of Boston (or, more likely, New Englanders) having the World Championships of both sports at once was a little much.

Their arrogance knew no end in the 2007 season, as they got caught cheating -- and, unlike a single soul in the Red Sox organization, head coach Bill Belichick came right out and admitted it. Essentially, he told the world, "Yeah, I did it. Whattaya gonna do about it, huh?"

And then they went on that march to an undefeated 19-0 season, with the commemorative book all set to go on Super Bowl Sunday. Except the New York Giants did what no one had been able to do all season, and which the Rams, Panthers and Eagles had been unable to do: Get in Tom Brady's smug face, knock him on his ass, get their own offense going, and win.

There is an intersection near where I live: U.S. Route 1 and New Jersey Route 18. Historically, it is known as the Brunswick Circle. I prefer to call it Patriot Circle, because it's 18 and 1.

It took the Pats 4 years to get into another Super Bowl -- and the Giants did the same thing, in almost exactly the same way.

And, suddenly, people began to say, "You know, the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since they got exposed in Spygate."

Now, they have a chance to erase that, and claim their 4th title.

Except that the Seahawks are defending champions, and they're a better team than the Giants were in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.

The Seahawks are trying to become the 1st team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since that last Patriots title. Here are the NFL's back-to-back Championships:

1922-24 Canton Bulldogs (3)
1929-31 Green Bay Packers (3)
1932-33 Chicago Bears
1940-41 Chicago Bears
1948-49 Philadelphia Eagles
1952-53 Detroit Lions
1954-55 Cleveland Browns
1958-59 Baltimore Colts
1961-62 Green Bay Packers
1965-67 Green Bay Packers (3)
1972-73 Miami Dolphins
1974-75 Pittsburgh Steelers
1978-79 Pittsburgh Steelers
1988-89 San Francisco 49ers
1992-93 Dallas Cowboys
1997-98 Denver Broncos
2003-04 New England Patriots

Some teams came close, but lost the Championship Game the next season: The 1933-34 Bears, 1934-35 Giants, 1938-39 Giants, 1941-42 Bears, 1947-48 Chicago Cardinals, 1953-54 Lions, 1977-78 Cowboys, 1982-83 Washington Redskins, 1996-97 Packers.

So it's been done 17 times, by 13 different teams, 12 of whom are still around today. This does not count current NFL teams that did it in other leagues: The 1946-49 AAFC Champion Browns, the 1960-61 AFL Champion Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), and the 1964-65 AFL Champion Buffalo Bills.

In baseball, it's been done 22 times, by 11 different franchises, including 8 that still exist in the same city. The last time was in 1998-2000, by the Yankees.

In the NBA, it's been done 11 times, by 5 different franchises. The last time was in 2012-13, by the Miami Heat.

In the NHL, it's been done 16 times, by 9 different franchises, including 8 that still exist in the same city. The last time was in 1997-98, by the Detroit Red Wings.

So the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl, or any team won back-to-back Super Bowls, was on February 6, 2005, in Super Bowl XXXIX, at what's now named EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Come the day of Super Bowl XLIX, it'll be 5 days short of 10 years. How long has that been?

*

As I said, the Patriots and the Red Sox were the defending World Champions. The others were the Detroit Pistons and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The NHL players were locked out, so the Lightning remained Stanley Cup holders until June 2006, but no one calls them "back-to-back Stanley Cup winners." They held it for 2 years, but they didn't win it a 2nd time (and still haven't).

The Heavyweight Champion of the World? It was already fractured. The champs were: WBC, Vitali Klitschko; WBA, John Ruiz; IBF, Chris Byrd; WBO, Lamon Brewster. If not for the fact that Klitschko was an enormous Ukrainian, and his brother Wladimir also was and was also a partial heavyweight champ, and that, unlike tennis' Williams sisters, they refused to face each other to really decide a title, all 4 of those names might leave you saying, "Who?" (Currently, American boxer Deontay Wilder, undefeated at 33-0, all but his last, title-winning bout, by knockout, is recognized as champion by the WBC; while Wladimir Klitschko holds the other belts.)

At the time of Super Bowl XXXIX, the Seahawks had never played in a Super Bowl. Nor had the Arizona Cardinals, the New Orleans Saints, or the Colts as an Indianapolis team. The Hawks, Saints and Indianapolis Colts hadn't yet won one. Those facts have all changed.

The only players on the current Patriots roster who were on the one for Super Bowl XXXIX are Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork. The only player on the current Seahawks roster who was in the NFL at the time is Kevin Williams, and he was with the Minnesota Vikings at the time.

Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Rob Gronkowski, Justin Houston, Mark Sanchez and Ray Rice were in high school. Aaron Rodgers, Darrelle Revis and Adrian Peterson were in college. Eli Manning was a rookie with the Giants. Drew Brees was a San Diego Charger.

The Olympic Games have since been held in Italy, China, Canada, Britain and Russia. The World Cup has since been held in Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was George W. Bush. Barack Obama had just been sworn in as a U.S. Senator. Gerald Ford, his wife Betty, and Lady Bird Johnson were still alive.

The Governor of the State of New York was George Pataki, and the Mayor of the City of New York was Michael Bloomberg. The Governor of New Jersey was Richard Codey, filling out the term of the recently resigned Jim McGreevey. In the States in question, the Governor of Massachusetts, and failing badly at it, was Mitt Romney; the Mayor of Boston was Tom Menino, who died last last year after refusing to extend his record tenure in the job due to the illness that took his life; the Governor of the State of Washington was the newly-inaugurated Christine Gregoire, who had won the office by only 133 votes; and the Mayor of Seattle was Greg Nickels.
The Prime Minister of Canada was Paul Martin. The monarch of Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- and the Prime Minister was Tony Blair. Manchester United were the holders of the FA Cup (but haven't won it since), and had recently ended the streak of defending Premier League Champions Arsenal, 49 straight games unbeaten, a record for England's top flight.

Stephenie Meyer was about to publish the first novel in the Twilight series. Coach Carter, Elektra and March of the Penguins were in theaters, while Constantine and Because of Winn-Dixie were about to be. Medium, Numb3rs and the new version of Battlestar Galactica had just debuted on TV. American Dad debuted the next night.

Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad was still on Malcolm in the Middle, Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead was best known for appearing in Love, Actually, Nathan Fillion had recently finished filming the Firefly wrapup film Serenity, and his future Castle co-star Stana Katic was making one-shot appearances in shows like Alias, The Shield and JAG. Sasha Alexander had yet to leave her role as Special Agent Caitlin Todd on NCIS. The CW was still 2 separate networks: The WB and UPN. There was still a Star Trek series on the air, UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise, in its final season.

The Number 1 song in America was "Let Me Love You," by Mario Barrett, who uses just his first name professionally. American Idiot by Green Day was the dominant album of early 2005. Few people outside their families had ever heard of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, James Blunt, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Leona Lewis, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Adele, Taylor Swift, Macklemore, Lorde, Iggy Azalea or Meghan Trainor.

Pretty much everybody already had Internet access, but Facebook was still mainly a website for college students to connect with each other, and it had just crossed the one million users barrier. YouTube was founded 8 days after the Super Bowl. There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no Tumblr, no Vine.

In the days immediately preceding and immediately following Super Bowl XXXIX, George W. Bush was sworn in for his 2nd term as President, and North Korea announced it had nuclear weapons (it didn't have them before Bush provoked them with the incorrect "Axis of Evil" line in his 2002 State of the Union address). A stampede killed over 250 people during a religious pilgrimage in India, a fire in a mosque killed 59 people in Iran, the Basque separatist group ETA injured 42 people (but no one died) with a car bomb in Madrid, and former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri of Lebanon and 16 others were killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut.

Johnny Carson, and Max Schmeling, and Shirley Chisholm died. Aside from royal children, no one yet famous was born.

February 6, 2005: The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, and back-to-back Super Bowl wins was completed. Neither has happened since.

Now, the Patriots will try to pull off the former, and the Seattle Seahawks will try to achieve the latter.

It's worth noting that, until the Hawks won last year's Super Bowl, in its entire history, Seattle had won just 2 World Championships: The Metropolitans won the 1917 Stanley Cup, and the SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA Championship. The Metros went out of business in 1926, and the Sonics moved in 2008. Just 2 titles in 100 years -- as many as Boston won in a little over 4 months in 2004-05.

But then, the Seahawks are the defending champions, and any Pats fan who thinks this is going to e easy is deluding himself.

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