This Sunday, the Giants will face the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Everyone will watch or care about the game for different reasons: there’s Madonna at the halftime show, the gambler who wants to cover the spread, the nonchalant fan, the ones in it for the commercials, and of course, the die-hard fans of the Giants and the Pats.
But Ken Jennings (the 74-time Jeopardy! champion and the author of books Maphead and Brainiac) argues that no one appreciates the Super Bowl as a whole the way a trivia buff does. So he compiled a top ten list of best Super Bowls in trivia history:
10. Super Bowl XIX
In beating the Dolphins, the 49ers became the only team ever to win the Super Bowl at home (sort of — Stanford Stadium is less than 30 miles from Candlestick). But this game is mostly of note to fans of movie trivia, since a fictional San Francisco-Miami championship was a major plot point in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Any Given Sunday. Oh, and Teri Hatcher was a 49ers cheerleader in 1985, and got almost as many ABC-TV close-ups during this game as she did during the third season of Desperate Housewives.
9. Super Bowl XLV
In 20 years, will anyone remember that the Packers won Super Bowl XLV? I doubt it. But will they remember Christina Aguilera mangling the national anthem by singing “What so proudly we watched, at the twilight’s last reaming”? Absolutely. Will they remember Lindsay Lohan’s $100 million lawsuit of E*Trade, for featuring a substance-abusing baby named Lindsay in one of their ads? I hope so. Will they remember Bryan Bulaga, the 21-year-old Green Bay lineman who became the youngest starter in Super Bowl history? Okay, probably not.
8. Super Bowl XXIX
This was the highest-scoring Super Bowl in history (49ers over Chargers 49-26) and a record fifth-straight Super Bowl for one player: backup Chargers QB Gale Gilbert, who had been signed from the Bills during the offseason. It’s also the game that Jerry was forced to attend with his nemesis Newman in the Seinfeld episode “The Label Maker.” But the highlight for me was the bizarre Disney synergy exercise of a halftime show, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye,” in which an Indy look-alike (Harrison Ford refused to participate) rescued the stolen Vince Lombardi Trophy from a jungle lair whose dangers included frenzied temple worshipers, the evil Eye of Mara, and Patti LaBelle singing “New Attitude.”
7. Super Bowl IV
The first Super Bowls weren’t quite ready for prime time. (Even literally! Super Bowl XII was the first evening game.) In the very first AFL-NFL championship, for example, the first touchdown was scored by a hastily suited-up (and hungover) Packers reserve named Max McGee, and the second-half kickoff had to be rekicked because the TV cameras had missed it. Super Bowl IV’s halftime show was the first one headlined by a big celebrity: Miss Carol Channing. The on-field accomplishments were just as dubious: This was the game that marked the beginning of the Minnesota Vikings’ 0-4 Super Bowl record that, amazingly, still doesn’t include a single first-half score.
6. Super Bowl XXXVIII
This Patriots-Panthers showdown been called the greatest Super Bowl of all time, and you probably remember it as a classic quarterback duel. Tom Brady’s 32 completions are still a Super Bowl record, as is Jake Delhomme’s 85-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad. But only trivia fans remember the record scoreless 27 minutes that opened the first half. And the British streaker who tried to crash the second-half kickoff in a G-string but got clobbered by linebacker Matt Chatham. And a terrible Bud Light commercial about a farting horse. With all that going on, the “wardrobe malfunction” seems like almost an afterthought.
5. Super Bowl XXIII
The first Bud Bowl! And a halftime show that was a stadium-wide 3-D card trick performed by a magician named — I wish I were making this up — “Elvis Presto.” For me the trivia MVPs of the game were Mike Cofer, the 49ers kicker who made a 41-yard field goal only to miss a 19-yarder (!) on the next drive, and legendary Canadian comedian John Candy. As the story goes, with the 49ers down three with three minutes to go, Montana calmed down a nervous huddle by pointing into the crowd and asking, “Isn’t that John Candy?” Then he proceeded to march the team 92 yards downfield for the game-winning touchdown to John Taylor. Cool customer.
For the trivia and sports fan in you, the complete list is worth reading.