The Definitive Subjective Super Bowl Rankings

Yesterday’s Super Bowl was pretty good, which got me thinking about how the rest of the Super Bowl’s of my life have turned out. But this won’t be a game ranking, no this is definitively a subjective take on the overall Super Bowl experience. The Super Bowl isn’t just a game, it of course is a cultural phenomenon, a whole day cut out to eat, socialize, watch sports, and celebrate commercialism.

I’ve trimmed down the day into four categories, mostly focusing on the game itself, but also taking into account the Super Bowl party and my personal feelings. Here are the four categories:

Excitement: This is how good the game itself is from a pure football level. The Super Bowl has been known to be strangely close and competitive year after year, making the day all that more exciting.

Interest: This is how based in how interesting the teams were to me at the time. Everyone knows sports is much more thrilling when you have a dog in the fight–the Super Bowl is no exception. If I don’t care about the winner, naturally the game will mean less.

Party: How much fun was the party itself? Were the people under-ly enthusiastic or overtly enthusiastic (especially when cheering for a team you don’t really care about). Was the food good? These are important details.

Result: Who won the game and how was I able to emotionally cope with this?

These rankings will only be the Super Bowls that I remember being a part of, this is from 1997 to the present day; 19 Super Bowls in all.


19. 1996: Green Bay over New England

The first Super Bowl I remember has the distinction of being the worst. I was at my friend’s house and remember the game being on in the background, but I think my friend and I ditched it in order to play with our toys. I guess my devotion to the NFL hadn’t quite begun yet.

Excitment: 2 Interest: .5 Party: .5 Result: 1 Overall: 4


18. 2011: Green Bay over Pittsburgh

We put together a last minute Super Bowl party, which was pretty cool. There were only four of us there and at various points every guest that came over fell asleep; it was quite the party. I didn’t like the Steelers or the Packers either so I don’t think I ever cared about a Super Bowl less.

Excitment: 3 Interest: .5 Party: 1.5 Result: 1 Overall: 6


17. 2014: Seattle over Denver

The Super Bowl party was pretty low key, which would have been fine if the Seahawks hadn’t stomped all over the Broncos. It was a blowout where the team I wanted to win, didn’t.

Excitment: .5 Interest: 3 Party: 3.5 Result: 1 Overall: 8


16. 2006: Pittsburgh over Seattle

These next three are nearly indistinguishable for me, I was 13-15 and I think I had just discovered third wave emo counter culture, so the Super Bowl wasn’t the coolest thing around at this point.

Excitment: 2.5 Interest: 2 Party: 2 Result: 2 Overall: 8.5


15. 2005: New England over Philadelphia

The Patriots weren’t nearly as exciting, but their games came so close every year, which is remarkable.

Excitment: 3 Interest: 2 Party: 2 Result: 2 Overall: 9


14. 2004: New England over Carolina

Literally the only thing that separates this from the one that came after it is that one thing Janet Jackson did, yeah.

Excitment: 3 Interest: 2 Party: 2 Result: 2 Overall: 9


13. 1999: Denver over Atlanta

This game was surprisingly disappointing–Atlanta had eliminated the 49ers early and I loved the Broncos–I guess watching Elway and company do it twice just wasn’t as exciting, especially when the game wasn’t close. The lackluster game probably made the party less fun as well.

Excitment: 1.5 Interest: 3.5 Party: 3 Result: 4 Overall: 12


12. 2001: Baltimore over New York Giants

I really really liked Baltimore, they had Trent Dilfer–the ultimate game manager–and one of the best defenses ever. Then they absolutely crushed the Giants, which was fun, but didn’t make for a very good Super Bowl party, because we all went and played video games in the middle of the third quarter.

Excitment: 2 Interest: 4 Party: 2.5 Result: 4 Overall: 12.5


11. 2007: Indianapolis over Chicago

The opening kickoff touchdown was cool and it was nice to see Manning win one, but other than that my memories of a party or any sort of feeling, I remember the party being pretty fun.

Excitment: 2.5 Interest: 3 Party: 3.5 Result: 3.5 Overall: 12.5


10. 2010: New Orleans over Indianapolis

We went over to our friends house for this one and had great food as well as fun betting sort of games. The game itself wasn’t overly exciting and I probably would have liked to see Manning beat New Orleans, but it was fun overall.

Excitment: 3 Interest: 3.5 Party: 4 Result: 3 Overall: 13.5


9. 2008: New York Giants over New England

Things were still hazy with this game, I think I was at my small group leader’s house, but I don’t really remember. I have vague memories of being the only person cheering for the Patriots undefeated season to be completed, but that could be wrong. Another intense game, but it was disappointing because I always wanted to see an undefeated season and that chance was taken from us.

Excitment: 4.5 Interest: 4 Party: 3.5 Result: 2 Overall: 14


8. 2012: New York Giants over New England

This year featured the party I probably put the most effort into, it featured prop bets for prizes, homemade mini-pizzas, and a root beer keg (it was a mostly under-21 crowd). I was reeling off of a 49ers loss to the Giants, so it was a little depressing to see the Giants win again, but at least the game was exciting.

Excitment: 4.5 Interest: 3.5 Party: 5 Result: 2 Overall: 15


7. 2015: New England over Seattle

This year was fun, we got to see Richard Sherman do this, we saw an amazingly lucky catch followed by a game saving interception at the one yard line, and Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl ring. Our party was great, lots of good food and drinks.

Excitment: 4 Interest: 3.5 Party: 4 Result: 4 Overall: 15.5


6. 2013: Baltimore over San Francisco

One of the toughest to rank. On one end it is perhaps the most special of the Super Bowls, the only one–in my memory–in which the 49ers participated. On the other end, it was the most miserable day because, well, yeah. At least the 49ers made it close, coming within yards of winning their sixth championship. The blackout made it memorable, though it increased the stress I was feeling at the time. The party was a lot of fun, though nobody cared near as much as I did–this was probably a good thing, because it would have made the moment so much sadder. *Sigh*

Excitment: 5 Interest: 5 Party: 5 Result: .5 Overall: 15.5


5. 2002: New England over St. Louis

I talked previously about why I like New England so much and this is one of the reasons. Those Rams were so dominant and to watch a young Brady show them up was pretty miraculous at the time. I must have had people over to my house that year, but I don’t really remember the party.

Excitment: 4 Interest: 4.5 Party: 4 Result: 4.5 Overall: 17


4. 2003: Tampa Bay over Oakland

This one feels special because I was really into Tampa Bay that year. I’ve always been a fan of strong defenses and the Warren Sapp lead Bucs were one of my favs. Not to mention they beat the Raiders, the local rival to the 49ers, stomping them pretty miserably. The party was at a family friend’s house and I remembered we played football at halftime.

Excitment: 4 Interest: 4.5 Party: 4 Result: 4.5 Overall: 17


3. 2009: Pittsburgh over Arizona

This was a very unique Super Bowl, for starters I hadn’t really kept up with the NFL season–probably the only year of my life–I was in the middle of doing YWAM and didn’t have access to a television. One of my team members had been keeping up and he was a huge Cardinals fan. He had followed along with every game and had gotten quite a few others on the Cards bandwagon. As the playoffs started, we left to go to China and later Thailand. The day before we left China for Thailand we stayed up watching the Cardinals beat the Eagles in our Chinese hostel. For the Super Bowl, my friend and I got up in the wee hours of the morning and one by one we were joined, huddled together around his computer to cheer on Arizona against Pittsburgh. I ended up having to miss the end–an exciting finish–to go do ministry at a prison, but the memory lives on.

Excitment: 4.5 Interest: 4.5 Party: 5 Result: 3 Overall: 17


2. 2000: St. Louis over Tennessee

I was only nine and again had a bunch of my friends over to watch the game. These early years’ Super Bowl parties are so special to my memory that even though I didn’t enjoy the results to this game–I hated the Warner-lead Rams who were the 49ers division rivals–I loved this experience. The Titans were a great team to cheer for–Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Kevin Dyson, their cool uniforms, and having been part of one of the greatest moments in playoff history–and their run was so close to clinching it all. The last second Dyson stretch to the end zone was a moment that is only found in the movies. My friends and I were cheering so hard for Dyson to make it in and though they didn’t make it, it was an incredible moment to experience.

Excitment: 5 Interest: 4.5 Party: 5 Result: 2.5 Overall: 17


1. 1998: Denver over Green Bay

The first Super Bowl party that I ever hosted, likely spawning warm nostalgic feelings that will make me excited for any Super Bowl. My friends all came over and we ate food, watching and cheering on John Elway who I desperately wanted to avenge my beloved 49ers and the Brett Favre whom I despised. The Mile High Saluting Broncos were such a fun team to watch and Terrell Davis’ dominant performance was one for the ages. We also can’t forget Elway’s “Helicopter” run, which somehow sticks into my mind vividly to today. Being seven years old, throwing my first party, and having it be a team that I liked so much beat a team that I despised absolutely is my favorite Super Bowl.

Excitment: 5 Interest: 4.5 Party: 5 Result: 4.5 Overall: 19


In Defense of the Patriots

belichick brady

Casual sports conversations typically devolve in three ways: The first is the fan bro-down, in which two fans of the same team talk about “our” struggles as a franchise, complain about certain players, and riot at coaching decisions. If it turns out, there is no overlapping fandom the conversation then turns to the big event, revolving around a discussion of which team will win. After this, who will win changes into who we want to win as we present our criteria for who we like and why that story is what we are pushing for.

This NFL season–for those of us without a home team to cheer for (*sob*)–those teams whom people believe to be deserving have been the Broncos–with non-controversial QB god Peyton Manning–and the Colts–with heir to the non-controversial QB god Andrew Luck. The Seahawks have gotten a lot of hate, but the team that seems to have the ire of the people that I regularly converse with is the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady lead New England Patriots.

The Patriots are in the middle of a couple of familiar things right now. They are entering into their sixth Super Bowl in the last 13 years and are in the middle of another fairly large cheating scandal. These two things lead to acceptable reasoning for not liking the Pats. Continued success is just the worst for an outsider, and I would probably cheer for the Yankees to lose every game even if they had lost every game for five straight years, just because I perceive them to have won so much. The cheating things are also unacceptable, but there are too many unknown details to truly have any strong opinion on this. These are enticing reasons to hate the Pats, but I feel like the dislike is strangely directed at Belichick/Brady.

This is where I must put forth my opinion, because I, 49ers faithful that I am, find myself constantly cheering for the Patriots in non-49ers related scenarios. Part of this likely harkens back to that first 2002 Super Bowl, in which Brady miraculously leads the underdog Patriots to a victory over the “greatest show on turf” St. Louis Rams. These underdog charms may still be in some part of my heart even as Bellichick/Brady have gone from rebels to brazen kings.

But I don’t think that’s it entirely. There is something about seeing the best be able to be the best and to do it over and over. Unlike the aforementioned Yankees franchise, the Pats don’t have unlimited wealth and have risen to the top despite very flawed teams. Their continuous success is instead based in the brilliance in Belichick’s work as a head coach. He finds ways to exploit other teams, avoiding convention to instead do what he thinks will work and his success at doing this is undeniable. Brady too has turned subpar receivers into record breaking All-Pros with his amazing ability. There is something inspiring to seeing this approach work over and over again.

We must address their personalities as well, because there is no denying they come off as cocky. Brady is dating a supermodel and seems to boss around his teammates, the portrait of the jock Homecoming King everyone hates in all the movies. Belichick looks like a slob and his social graces are lacking at best. Both are flawed characters in the story lines we make up in choosing who to cheer for.

And I think this is exactly why I like them. Instead of plastering himself in all sorts of annoying commercials about State Farm and Papa John’s, Brady is only seen in ads where he is made to look like a model. Sure this is absolutely ridiculous, but at least Brady isn’t feigning to be anybody else. So many sports stars are treated like celebrities and they try to live up to this, creating these marketing campaigns to make themselves look good. Brady is good at what he does, he’s rich, and he doesn’t want to feign that this isn’t true–he doesn’t want to hang out with us commoners. Good for him, he doesn’t have to, his foremost responsibility is to perform and I like to watch him do it.

I’ve heard others complain about the Belichick press conferences, his short worded answers to the media are hardly insightful and don’t have the candor and charm of other personnel. That is great, in fact it helps his image as this man who was just on a completely different level than everyone else and would be one of the greatest coaches of all time. If anything Belichick is hilarious in his response to the media, who tend to be more annoying than the sports stars themselves.

I’ve written this before, but I still believe it–sports stars do not have to live up to our strangely moral expectations–they are people who are doing a job that is for some reason the most watched piece of entertainment in America. Sure I’d like it if Belichick/Brady were super nice people; I’d also like it if you gave half of your money away to support charities who work amongst the poor.

You don’t have to cheer for the Patriots this upcoming Super Bowl, but I would suggest doing so, because those Seahawks are a bunch of jerks!