EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For 11 years, with two notable exceptions, the Super Bowl was terrible.
This is a strange thing, if you have not reached a certain age, to consider. We have become spoiled by terrific Super Bowls. Since the clock turned to Y2K, we've had that half-a-yard-short Rams-Titans game in 2000, the emotionally stirring Patriots-Rams tilt in 2002, that sneaky-great Patriots-Panthers game in 2004, the McNabb Vomit Bowl of Patriots-Eagles in 2005, the wild fourth quarter of Steelers-Cardinals in 2009, the NOLA street party of Saints-Colts in 2010, the Eli Manning ascendance of Giants-Patriots II in 2012, the blackout lunacy of Ravens-49ers in 2013 and, best of all, the sticky-helmet gasping wonder of Giants-Patriots I in 2008. Those are nine games that would have been considered breathtaking if they happened in the regular season; to see them in the Super Bowl made them immortal. The Super Bowl has been a yearly Hellzapoppin' of glorious indulgence, worthy of all we demand of it.
But that's not what it was like from 1984 through '95. During those years -- during which your humble narrator was in his impressionable youth -- it was a rather safe bet that you'd be turning the game off by halftime (unless you wanted to stick around to find out how the Bud Bowl turned out). The poor Bills got wiped out for three straight years in the wake of Scott Norwood. The Broncos lost by 19, 32 and 45. The Patriots lost by 36. The Chargers lost by 23. The Dolphins lost by 22. Washington lost by 29. You used to be able to get a good night's sleep on Super Bowl Sunday. You could count on it.
So consider Sunday night a throwback, a reminder of a time when the only thing worth hanging on for past 8:30 was the commercials. The final score was Seattle 43, Denver 8 … and it wasn't that close. The Seahawks dominated the Broncos in every single aspect of every single thing, from offense to defense to special teams to coaching to Tetris to scrapbooking to 18th century French-literature trivia. The Broncos gave up a kick return for a touchdown, they let the Seahawks dominate the time of possession, and most of all, their offense was nothing but a series of impotent little four-yard passes from Peyton Manning, occasionally punctuated by a turnover or a punt. The Broncos were so discouraged by everything that was happening to them that, down 29-0 in the second half and facing a fourth-and-11 in Seahawks territory, they punted. They were just ready for this to be over. "Not in the face, OK?"
It was like this from the very beginning, too. Denver ran eight plays in the first quarter. Here are how those eight plays went:
1. Snap over Manning's head, resulting in a Seattle safety.
2. Knowshown Moreno four-yard run.
3. Manning two-yard pass.
4. Manning three-yard pass.
6. Manning five-yard pass.
7. Moreno fumble, recovered by Denver.
8. Peyton Manning interception.
Seattle outgained Denver 148-11. Denver turned the ball over twice. Denver held the ball for only 3:19 more than you did. The Broncos' first first down of the game, at the 10:25 mark of the second quarter, was greeted by Denver fans with that unique sarcastic, snickering Bronx cheer that comes when everything has been falling apart, and you're just relieved that it might not get worse. But it did. It kept getting worse. It kept getting much worse.
This is just what happens in the NFL sometimes, and one can't help but wonder if the unparalleled ratings growth of the Super Bowl over the last half-decade has been in large part because we all forgot that sometimes, football games are blowouts -- that sometimes, they're dull as dirt. It can be bad for business. If you weren't from Seattle, you probably didn't make it to the fourth quarter.
But if you were …
Five years ago, as was dutifully chronicled by Jim Caple at the time, Seattle sports existed to be kicked in the face. Washington football lost 12 games. The Mariners lost 100 and fired two managers. The Sonics left town, never to return. And the Seahawks -- the team the city has always loved most of all -- lost 12 games and got rid of the Super Bowl-winning coach (somewhere else of course) who'd been coaching them for a decade.
These sort of monstrous years land on an unsuspecting sports populace every once in a while (unless it's in Cleveland, where it's more of a monstrous half-century). But in Seattle's case, it felt semi-permanent. The Mariners were a mismanaged disaster. The Washington Huskies were starting over, completely. The Sonics were gone.
And now here they are. Five years later, the Seahawks just eviscerated an inner-tier Hall of Famer looking for a valediction, like it was nothing. They are the best team in the NFL, and they're also one of the youngest. They look like they are on the verge of something as close to a dynasty as the NFL allows anymore. You never know, anything, ever. But they look like they might just do this again.
It can change so quickly. Seattle won its first championship since 1979 on Sunday night, and that last one was won by a team that has already left town. They will celebrate like there is no tomorrow. But there is. It's almost enough to give hope to Cleveland, and to Buffalo, and to the Cubs, and to everyone else who thinks it'll never get better. Sometimes it does. Right now, Seattle fans aren't thinking about 2008. They aren't thinking about the 2005 Super Bowl or any of the pain of Seattle's sports past. They're too busy screaming.