The good news: your city is going to host the biggest game on Earth. The bad news: your team is going to suck.
Super Bowl week. Time for 20,000 stories about the big game. Make that 20,001. However, this story isn’t about the Giants or Pats or what kind of food is king in Indianapolis. No, this is about a curse. One almost as feared as the Madden Curse or Chunky Soup Curse. I’m talking about the Curse of the Super Bowl Host City.
You see not only has no team ever won a Super Bowl in its own stadium, no team has even played in the big game on its home field.
There are a couple of asterisks to the above statement. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto which is located a mere 27 miles from the Niners’ real home, Candlestick Park. And in 1979, the Los Angeles Rams lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, which was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a 17 mile drive through freeway madness from the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Pasadena and Stanford are the exceptions and most likely will never host again. While there is no official rule about playing the Super Bowl in non-NFL facilities, the stadium issue has gotten so complex these days the NFL is inclined to award the Super Bowl to a worthy football stadium with an NFL tenant..
But back to the curse.
Cities try their hardest to lure the Super Bowl. And why not, it brings millions to the local economy, not to mention the fact it’s the center of the sporting universe for a week. However, there is hidden cost. That cost is losing. So as the host city, you are happy for the cash but depressed that your team could very likely end up in toilet.
Think this curse is a crock? Take a look at these figures the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want to publicize:
The cumulative record of host cities’ teams during their Bowl-hosting season is 324-416-5 (including three seasons when Pasadena hosted and L.A. had two teams). That averages out to 6.6 wins against 8.4 losses a season. (If this math seems odd, you need to remember the NFL played a 14-game schedule until 1978.)
Only ten teams from the 46 years of the Super Bowl (plus three extra seasons for the second L.A. team) have qualified for the playoffs. That’s only about 20% of the time and it includes cities where the game wasn’t actually played in NFL stadiums (like the above-mentioned Pasadena and Palo Alto). Take those games out and it leaves you with only six teams that made it to playoffs in stadiums that hosted the big game that year.
Conversely, 12 teams from host cities finished last in their division. Four had the worst record in the league including this year’s host, Indianapolis. Another three were tied for second worst record. Two tied for third worst record.
You don’t to be an M.I.T. grad to figure out your team has a better chance of finishing last than making the playoffs if its city hosts the Super Bowl.
New Century, Bigger Curse
The curse has actually been a lot worse this century. No SB host city has made the postseason since Tampa Bay did it following the 2000 season. In recent years, the host team has been disaster. Just this past season the Colts, with a missing Peyton Manning, won just two games. Consequently the owner fired the entire front office and coaching staff. Of course now Indy can draft the much-heralded Andrew Luck but we need to wait five years before Colt fans decide whether hosting the Super Bowl and getting Luck was worth such a putrid display of football on the field.
In 2010, Jerry Jones thought his Cowboys would become the first team in Super Bowl history to ever play in their own new mega-stadium. Alas, QB Tony Romo and his teammates started out 1-5 before Romo was gone for the year. A 6-10 season was the conclusion and the Cowboy players had to watch the game on the giant obnoxious video screens that hang above the field.
In 2009, the host Dolphins lost their starting quarterback, Chad Pennington, for the season in week three. The Fins finished with a losing record. Miami also hosted three years earlier and that season was also a mess for the Dolphins. Picked by some as a preseason favorite to make the Super Bowl, the Dolphins ended up in the cellar with a 6-10 record. It was so bad head coach Nick Saban opted out of the high life of South Beach and moved to Alabama.
At one point in the 2008 season it looked like Tampa Bay had a real shot of playing the Super Bowl in its own stadium. The defending NFC South champs were rolling with a 9-3 record but then the season came crashing like a broken roller coaster train. The Bucs lost their last four including a humiliating loss in week 17 at home with the playoffs on the line. Tampa blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and a mediocre Raider team scored 17 unanswered points to win. Head coach Jon Gruden was given his walking papers which he happily threw in the recycling bin at his new ESPN office.
There’s some happiness to hosting the Super Bowl and a lot of misery. It’s sports bipolarity at its finest.
Being a Seahawks fan, I am not too worried about the Curse. The NFL doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to award the game to Seattle. I think it’s because the owners keep trying in vain to find Seattle on a map of South Alaska.
However, for you Saints fans: brace yourselves. Your cursed season could come next year. Giants and Jets the following season. Of course, Jets fans feel every year has been cursed for them since Namath left the Big Apple.