Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Halves

Until this day 25 years ago, Bill Parcells had never coached a team to a Super Bowl — let alone a Super Bowl victory.

He had been in the playoffs a few times, but he had never made it to the Super Bowl — thus, he was one of several NFL coaches who were considered good but not great.

That perception changed in 1986, when he guided the New York Giants to the NFC championship and their first Super Bowl berth. The Giants went on to win their first Super Bowl, too.

But, whereas many of the previous Super Bowls were effectively over by halftime, the score at the intermission of Super Bowl XXI offered no clue as to which team would eventually win.

The Denver Broncos won the first half, 10–9. It was the narrowest halftime lead any team had ever enjoyed in a Super Bowl. The Giants scored 23 unanswered points in the second half, building a 32–10 lead before the Broncos added a 28–yard field goal by Rich Karlis.

The Giants added another TD, and the Broncos answered with another touchdown, producing the final score (39–20) that falsely implied the game had been well in hand all along.

It wasn't as lopsided as it appeared, although New York quarterback Phil Simms completed 88% of his passes (22 of 25) and won the MVP award.

When the outcome was no longer in doubt, head coach Bill Parcells experienced the first Gatorade shower in Super Bowl history.

Over the years, the scene has become football's equivalent of "the fat lady singing" in opera. Until you see it happen, the outcome is still uncertain.

And, in the last quarter of a century, it hasn't been limited to championship games, either. I've seen coaches get Gatorade showers when their teams ended losing streaks or set new records of just about any kind.

But, on this day in 1987, it was brand new. It was the birth of a new ritual.

I saw it happen, but I've got to admit I didn't realize the significance of what I saw. We were only a year removed from the Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle," and I guess I figured I was witnessing the latest fad — sure to be replaced a year later by whatever the next Super Bowl champion would do.

But the Gatorade shower has had staying power. Who knew?

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