Like most NFL fans, especially those who root for perennially mismanaged franchises, I have to decide prior to nearly every Super Bowl which of the conference champions to root for. While I’m old enough to have watched nearly all of them live, I’ve had a local team to root for fewer than ten times. Even if I include Super Bowl III which, while I don’t remember watching live, I have viewed many times on tape and would have had a clear favorite, I can cite at most nine Super Bowls in which I felt a strong pre-game stake in the outcome: 1 Jets, 3 Seahawks, and 5 Giants.
When I don’t have one of those teams to root for, I usually pick based on a combination of the following: Which team has won the fewest Super Bowls, hasn’t won for the longest time, or is the underdog. For example, this year it was easy to root for Kansas City based on the first two criteria, and for a long time it has been easy to root against New England. (My most recent exception to these guidelines is Super Bowl 50, when I chose Denver over Carolina based on what I correctly assumed would be Peyton Manning’s final game.) Based on these and my memories of having rooted for a lot of losing teams in Super Bowl blow-outs (hello, Buffalo), I would have guessed that my preferred team has lost far more often than it has won. But I had never gone back and counted, until now.
So I reviewed the list of Super Bowls and reconstructed which ones I watched and for which teams I was rooting. The results were somewhat surprising to me.
Before sharing the results, I should emphasize two points:
- I haven’t considered which teams I predicted would win. I’m much more interested in who I wanted to win. (Hello again, Buffalo.)
- I’ve tracked who I was rooting for to win at that time, which definitely isn’t always who I would root for based on current knowledge or if the teams played today. For example, I rooted for Washington three times in the 1980s (they went 2-1 in those games), but in retrospect I wouldn’t have rooted for them then given how I feel about the team now. And I rooted for New England in their first four Super Bowls (the two pre-Brady and the first two with Brady), but haven’t rooted for them since.
Of the 54 Super Bowls to date, there are seven that I either didn’t watch or have no memory of watching. Super Bowl V is the first one I have a clear memory of watching live, and starting with Super Bowl VIII I’ve watched all of them with the exception of XVI (the first Cincinnati-San Francisco game). Adding the Jets game as a special case means I’ve watched 48 Super Bowls. In those games, I have a 22-26 record. This is somewhat better than I expected.
As interesting to me as the total record are the recent and the longest streaks. Starting with Super Bowl XLVIII, i.e. the past seven games, there haven’t been two consecutive years in which I’ve ended up on the same side of the desired outcome (largely due to New England’s recent appearances). Super Bowl XLVIII was also the end of my longest streak of successful picks, at five, which started with New Orleans’ win (XLIV). My longest streak of unsuccessful picks is six in the 1990s, starting with Buffalo’s second of four straight Super Bowl losses (XXVI) and continuing through Green Bay’s victory over New England (XXXI). (Those six coincided with the end of the NFC’s record streak of 13 consecutive Super Bowl victories.) I’ve also noticed that in the first eight Super Bowls I watched consecutively as a youth (VIII through XV), I was 1-7, which probably explains why I have stronger memories of rooting for the losing teams.
Here is the full list. (Due to most browsers’ table rendering, you might need to scroll side-to-side to view all of the columns.) For further reference, consult Wikipedia’s list of Super Bowl champions.
|I||1966||Kansas City||Green Bay||Green Bay|
|II||1967||Raiders||Green Bay||Green Bay|
|IV||1969||Kansas City||Minnesota||Kansas City|
|XVI||1981||Cincinnati||San Francisco||San Francisco|
|XIX||1984||Miami||San Francisco||San Francisco||🏆 San Francisco|
|XX||1985||New England||Chicago||New England||Chicago|
|XXIII||1988||Cincinnati||San Francisco||Cincinnati||San Francisco|
|XXIV||1989||Denver||San Francisco||Denver||San Francisco|
|XXIX||1994||Chargers||San Francisco||Chargers||San Francisco|
|XXXI||1996||New England||Green Bay||New England||Green Bay|
|XXXII||1997||Denver||Green Bay||Denver||🏆 Denver|
|XXXVI||2001||New England||Rams||New England||🏆 New England|
|XXXVII||2002||Raiders||Tampa Bay||Raiders||Tampa Bay|
|XXXVIII||2003||New England||Carolina||New England||🏆 New England|
|XXXIX||2004||New England||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||New England|
|XLII||2007||New England||Giants||Giants||🏆 Giants|
|XLIV||2009||Colts||New Orleans||New Orleans||🏆 New Orleans|
|XLV||2010||Pittsburgh||Green Bay||Green Bay||🏆 Green Bay|
|XLVI||2011||New England||Giants||Giants||🏆 Giants|
|XLVII||2012||Ravens||San Francisco||Ravens||🏆 Ravens|
|XLIX||2014||New England||Seattle||Seattle||New England|
|LI||2016||New England||Atlanta||Atlanta||New England|
|LII||2017||New England||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||🏆 Philadelphia|
|LIII||2018||New England||Rams||Rams||New England|
|LIV||2019||Kansas City||San Francisco||Kansas City||🏆 Kansas City|