Forget NFC hype Bills have a shot

Phil Jackman

January 21, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Back when the Super Bowl got under way in 1967, the idea o a week's delay prior to the kingpins of the American and National Football leagues squaring off was for the purpose of hyping the event and selling tickets and ad time on television.

No one is quite sure what effect it had, because only about two-thirds of the Los Angeles Coliseum seats were filled for the "World Championship Game" at a measly $10 per ticket.

By the way, the conference-title games that year were staged on Jan. 1, the pros stealing New Year's Day away from the collegiate bowls because it was Sunday.

Anyway, perhaps a reason for the scrawny turnout is that few gave the upstart Kansas City Chiefs from the AFL much chance against Vince Lombardi's mighty Green Bay Packers.

They were right, the Pack cruising to a 35-10 victory after a competitive first half. Subsequently, over the last quarter-century, it's a good thing the prospects of a good or an exciting game haven't dictated the turnout because the series might have gone the way of the fabled Bluebonnet Bowl.

Instead -- and despite a $25 annual rise in the price of a ticket lately -- contest-winning car salesmen from Topeka, advertising executives from Chicago and second cousins of company presidents sponsoring the games on TV have flocked to the revival of Caesar's Circus Maximus.

And such would no doubt be the case if they loaded up the teams immediately after the conference championship games, gave them a travel day and held the game on a Tuesday at noon. Americans, truth be told, will clear the decks for a party at a micro-second's notice.

What then is the excuse for the week's delay when the original reason for it has long since vanished?

Of course! Instead of the unneeded, repetitive and all but ignored first-week hype, the time has been given over to team-bashing for about the last two decades. First the un-hype, then the hype, sort of like stripping away the old paint before a new coat goes on.

Ye of even reasonable vintage most certainly remember the '70s when the flamboyant AFC partied behind the Steelers, Dolphins and Raiders while winning eight of nine Super Bowls from those slow-moving and thinking clods from the NFC.

Sooner or later, one of Newton's Laws was bound to take effect and one did in the '80s when the NFC went on a tear, winning 10 of 11, including the last eight in a row.

Well aware of this trend, which somehow is linked to the political party affiliation of the man residing in the White House, oddsmakers have deemed the Dallas Cowboys a touchdown favorite over the Buffalo Bills come Jan. 31. Which means all of us in the opinion business are duty bound to savage the underdogs at least a dozen times.

You know the stuff:

Buffalo can become the first team to lose three straight Super Bowls. Horrors. Why, even the delirious Denver Broncos and meek Minnesota Vikings spread three of their record four losses over a four-year period.

Then, Buffalo can move out of the company of the Redskins and Bengals as two-time losers and join the Cowboys and Dolphins with a hat trick.

After beating the Eagles and 49ers and looking so solid doing it, it's reasonable to expect Dallas to keep on going. The Cowboys have been a picture of consistency while winning 15 of 18 games.

Contrast that to Buffalo's going through a recent stretch during which it was outscored by the Houston Oilers, 62-6, and one can only wonder what the Bills are doing here.

The AFC must be a real dog pound, many reason, because the inconsistent Bills have been able to overcome a 35-3 second-half deficit to beat Houston, then hammered Pittsburgh and Miami.

Take shots at Buffalo all you want, but even against Ivy League competition, outscoring the opposition 91-19 over the last 10 quarters suggests these guys aren't lambs being led to slaughter.

The Bills were 4-0 against the vaunted NFC during the regular season, including wins on the road against the 14-2 49ers and 12-4 Saints. And it's not though they were waxed by the Giants and Redskins in the last two Super Bowls, a la Denver.

In fact, Buffalo was the better team two years ago, blowing a field-goal attempt at the end to lose, and it has pretty much kept its cast intact for about four years.

But wait, we come not to praise the lads from the land where snowplows run eight months a year, but to predict they will end up under another NFC avalanche.

It's an assignment I undertake without relish. For the Bills, particularly if they come out and really go after the Cowboys as if it's a two-minute warning early, have an excellent chance of winning.

Take that, CBS!

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