Finally, Super Bowl Is History

LITTLE ROCK--Personally, the ultimate Super Bowl moment occurred at 8:45 p.m. when Chicago's Desmond Clark was popped by Matt Giordano on a fourth-down pass. Paraphrasing Roy Clark, "Thank God and Peyton it's done."

That perverse attitude about the most-watched television event in the United States can be blamed on a man who did a radio gig until the early-morning hours and backed out on a plan to join me for the drive to Fayetteville for Arkansas vs. Kentucky. For 13 days, I had avoided the bombardment of nitpicking, overdone, hyped-up rhetoric that attends the Super Bowl. Alone in the car Saturday evening, it was either introspection or outside entertainment. With the classic country station cranking something shy of poignant and the 1950s' Elvis C.D. set aside for foot-tapping inspiration from Plumerville on home, sports radio provided a stream of experts examining every conceivable matchup. Gorged from the drive north, I was unable to choke that down. That morning, the staple was Super Bowl remembrances from people too young to recall a hung-over Max McGee catching seven passes from Bart Starr when Green Bay beat Kansas City in the days of the NFL vs. AFL. After the experts had determined the impossible deficit for each team, and scrutinized the coaches, the wide receivers, and quarterbacks, I cracked and punched up AM. Shamelessly, I embraced the final few minutes of LSU-Mississippi State, two teams trying for 3-5 in the SEC. Counting down to 5:25 p.m. Sunday, the most popular storylines were the legacy of Peyton Manning and the fact that the head coaches were both black. In my mind, Manning's spot in the Hall of Fame was secure before he completed 25-of-38 against Chicago. Furious when somebody hung the "Can't-win-the-big-one" label on a player, radio man Jim Elder would respond with, "You can't play in a big game unless you win some big games." In the ultimate team game, that is particularly true. Through the years, it is impossible to determine how many times the Colts reached a particular point because of Manning and in spite of deficiencies on defense. As for the heritage of the coaches, next time it won't be such a big deal, and that will be progress. I'm not much for factoring a higher being into the outcome of an athletic contest, but I did appreciate Tony Dungy's big-picture quote during the post-game: "But, again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that." Dissecting Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17 is simple. A winning formula for years, the Colts had a running game, a wise and efficient quarterback, and a defense that settled things with a turnover for a touchdown. The Bears were clearly inferior — the same would have been said if the AFC representative had been New England or San Diego — but there was the chance Chicago would get a gift touchdown in the rain and take the lead until Kelvin Hayden's 56-yard interception return. Hayden's play was particularly appropriate considering the criticism of the Colts' defense prior to the postseason. How many know-it-alls perceived a run-soft defense, factored in a 3-4 finish to the regular season, and proclaimed the Colts one and done in the playoffs? Of all Manning's attributes, the most impressive was his patience. In the final three quarters, he never forced a pass or attempted to do too much. Fans love the 70-yard pass; Manning gave it to them in 10-yard chunks. Running back Joseph Addai caught 10 for 66, none longer than 12 yards, and almost every throw was an easy one. On the other hand, I felt sorry for Rex Grossman. Other teams have won a Super Bowl without a great quarterback — Baltimore and Trent Dilfer come to mind — but Grossman was in over his head. Immediately, there will be speculation about whether Indianapolis and Chicago can repeat as conference champions and that is at least more interesting than promoting the Pro Bowl. With Manning, it's yes for the Colts. Grossman or not, it's no for the Bears. Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. e-mail:

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