Volume 91, Issue 58

Tuesday, January 13, 1998

fun dipped



Lopsided football

When Super Bowl Sunday rolls around in two weeks, the world will once again realize the game is simply a waste of time. In reality, the Green Bay Packers became national champions on Sunday after a heart pounding 23-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football Conference championship game.

A game that was once hailed as one of the greatest sporting events of the year, the Super Bowl now means little to the average fan. In fact, the commercials are becoming far more interesting than the game itself.

If the history of the last 15 years holds true, the NFC will walk all over the American Football Conference representative – this year's goat, the Denver Broncos – and fly home with the Super Bowl trophy to show their folks. The week before the big game parallels the last class in grade school before the bully shows up to take your lunch money. The wait is painful and the nerd never wins – neither does the AFC.

Favoured by 13 points with Las Vegas odds-makers, the Packers are expected to do just as NFC teams have done in the past – not allow the AFC a chance. San Francisco 49, San Diego 26 in 1995. Dallas 52, Buffalo 17 in 1993. San Francisco 55, Denver 10 in 1989. Not exactly your nail-biting, suspense-filled entertainment. In fact, between 1986 and 1996, the NFC has out-scored the AFC 371 to 172.

This long-standing lack of balance between leagues is unheard of in professional sports. The National Basketball Association has been consistent with the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons from the East and the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers sharing the chore of housing the league's title trophy, while Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have both followed similar patterns.

Basically, the AFC is a second-rate league in comparison to its dominating counterpart, the NFC. Names like Buffalo's Jim Kelly and Denver's John Elway will be remembered in memories and history books for choking in the big game, while the same games have made heroes out of Dallas' Troy Aikman and San Francisco's Joe Montana, who both own championship rings.

A three-time runner-up to the national title, Elway will return to the pinnacle of professional football for the fourth time on Sunday afternoon, hoping to overturn the pathetic reputation he and his conference hold. Unfortunately, there are few that believe Elway can recover from the conference's tail-spin and pull his league back to respectability. However, many critics admit this year's game is probably the best chance the AFC has had to win since Bill's kicker Scott Norwood set up for a last-minute field goal in Super Bowl XXV. The Broncos hope to have the same opportunity, but this time put it through the uprights.

Will they be enough to dispel the tradition of NFC dominance? It's Doubtful. The true formula is unclear and unknown, although part of the solution must lie with time. Even if the Denver Broncos prove the bookies wrong and find themselves pouring champagne over their heads on Jan. 25, few will conclude that the AFC is back. After 15 seasons, it is going to take much more to convince fans and critics that the Super Bowl is a match-up of equals. It will be put down as a fluke.

The truth is that it will take years of competitive competition in the Super Bowl before critics are convinced that the champions from both conferences are playing on a level playing field. Whether the Broncos will take the first step towards this goal will be decided in two weeks.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998