The AFC championship game produced both good news and bad news. The good news is that the thugs who follow the Oakland Raiders Americas duplicate of the British soccer hooligans wont be on hand for Super Bowl XXXV
The bad news is that Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, the conniving carpetbagger who stiffed the fans in Cleveland after they loyally supported his team through the years, has a chance to capture footballs Holy Grail.
But that wont happen. It borders on the preposterous to believe that a team with the shopworn Trent Dilfer at quarterback can win a Super Bowl. Theres no doubt that the Ravens defense is outstanding, particularly the quick and aggressive linebacking corps spearheaded by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis. But you have to score points to win games and the Ravens defense will not be able to compensate for the teams popgun offense, whose chief asset is rookie running back Jamal Lewis.
And if defense is the name of the game, the Giants can play it, too. In the NFC championship game, the Giants defense pitched a shutout against a truly dynamic offense, limiting Minnesotas great receiving duo of Chris Carter and Randy Moss to a combined five catches for 42 yards and holding the NFCs leading rusher, Robert Smith, to just 44 yards.
Admittedly, the Giants offense is not as good as it looked against the Vikings, whose defense was really deplorable. But its more versatile than that of the Ravens.
The opening line had the Ravens as 2 Â½-point favorites. Both conference championship games resulted in victory for the underdogs. And thats just whats going to happen this Sunday. The Giants will win this game straight up. Whatever points you can get is pure gravy.
The Money Game
Two places where the telecast of Sundays game will be viewed with unusually great interest are corporate boardrooms and offices of advertising agencies. Thats because the Super Bowl is the biggest advertising vehicle of the year. Its expected to be viewed by 130 million people in the United States and 800 million worldwide.
CBS is charging $2.3 million for a 30-second spot during the game. It anticipates a $150 million bonanza from advertising that includes pre-game and post-game shows.
The ads are a game within the game on the field. Corporations use the Super Bowl to promote new products and new concepts. The effectiveness of the ads depends to a large extent as to how theyre viewed by critics and the public around office water coolers the next day.
There will be both winners and losers. The 800-pound gorilla of advertisers is Anheuser-Busch. The St. Louis-based brewing colossus has bought four minutes of commercial time that will be used in 30- and 60-second spots, including the highly prized opening kickoff. A-B will be the exclusive beer advertiser on the telecast.
Volkswagon, entering the Super Bowl ad sweepstakes for the first time, has purchased two minutes and has paid to be the exclusive auto advertiser. Other corporate heavyweights include Pepsi-Cola, with three minutes of commercial time; Mastercard, Visa and Federal Express. Accenture bought two minutes to let the world know it has changed its name from Andersen Consulting.
The entertainment industry is taking advantage of the huge Super Bowl audience. Youll see ads from MGM, Sony Pictures, Universal and Warner Brothers.
Future Super Bowls
Out of consideration for the colleges, the NFL never has scheduled playoff games on New Years Day. So last year, to maintain this relationship, the league moved the start of its regular season from its normal Labor Day weekend to the following weekend. The result was a marked increase in early-season attendance and TV ratings, so much so that the NFL made the delayed start permanent.
But with Super Bowl dates already set through 2003, there will be only one week between the conference championship games in 2002 and 2003. However, the NFL wants the traditional two-week buildup for the Super Bowl. So beginning in 2004, it will be played in early February, rather than late January as has been the case.