Is this is greatest Super Bowl mismatch ever?
If you go by what bettors think, the answer is no. (And if you put much stake into what a pool of such paranoid people think, seek help immediately.) The Rams are favored Sunday by 14 1/2 points, which is the third-highest spread in Super Bowl history. The largest spread ever was 19 points, which the favored 49ers covered in their 49-26 Super Bowl XXIX win over the Chargers. Efforts to officially rename that game as The Greatest Buzzkill of All Time have been rejected by the NFL. Back in Super Bowl III, the underdog Jets not only covered the second-largest spread in Super Bowl history (18 points against the Colts), they won the darn game, 16-7. And we think someone may have even guaranteed it.
Who has most at stake in the Super Bowl?
Forget Rams coach Mike Martz or Pats counterpart Bill Belichick, each of whom has never won a Super Bowl as head coach. The guy with the most riding on this game is Frankie Muniz, the star of FOX's TV comedy "Malcolm in the Middle." That's the show the network will air directly following the game, meaning Malcolm and his family will benefit from the same flood of extra viewers that helped CBS' "Survivor II: The Australian Outback" become the most popular entertainment program of 2001. With the stakes so high, "Malcolm" features cameo appearances from Heidi Klum, Magic Johnson and extra-special guest Susan Sarandon, who partakes in a mud-wrestling match.
Is there any better place to host the Super Bowl than New Orleans?
Not if you're a Rams fan. Remember, the Superdome is the same place where the hated NFC West rival Saints play. So it's a little like the Jets playing a Super Bowl in Miami or the Redskins playing for all the marbles in Dallas, right under Jerry Jones' nose. The Rams season-ticket holders will do their best peacock impressions, showing their colors for all the locals to see. Don't be surprised if those famous Bourbon Street 3-for-1 specials turn into 6-for-1's for anyone donning Patriots gear.
What are my halftime options?
Most people will stick with FOX for the extended break, to see a performance by U2, perhaps the world's most popular band. NBC hopes to sway viewers, at least temporarily, with a specially timed "Fear Factor," during which six Playboy Playmates will battle. Call it a reality show with fake breasts. A third option is to run to the store for more of those cocktail franks that are always gone within the first three minutes of the first quarter.
This is the third Super Bowl for the Pats since 1986. When are they going to get some respect as a franchise?
Probably when they stop having seasons with one win (1990), two wins (1992) and five wins (1993, 2000). But New England has made more Super Bowl appearances in the last 17 years than the Steelers, Dolphins and Raiders combined (1). It brings up an interesting debate: Would you rather be a fan of a consistent playoff contender that ultimately disappoints or a team that makes a few Super Bowls in between taking a few seasons off, effectively ruining the entire stretch of time between September and January?
Be honest, is this game gonna stink?
Well, it's the Super Bowl, so we're assuming the most suspenseful thing going on during the fourth quarter is the painting of the guy who drank too much and passed out on the couch. But someone owes us a favor for the Ravens-Giants Super Dud of a year ago, so maybe the football gods will be kind in 2002. The most promising aspect of the game is contained in this fact: The Patriots just took down a Raiders team that flawlessly routed the Jets and a beat a very physical Steelers squad in an unfriendly environment. They're the best the AFC has to offer, and if you don't think they've got a chance, we'll try to dig up Joe Namath's phone number for you.