In the immediate aftermath of Super Bowl XLVIII, there was a lot of chatter about how bad the game was and how no one wants to see a blowout. Why are blowouts getting such a bad rap? I like blowouts, and so do you.
You just don’t like them when your team is on the wrong end of one. However, if you look back over the history of sports, people have always been captivated by dominant performances. Blowouts confirm or reveal greatness in some cases and expose frauds in others.
I enjoy buzzer beaters, last second drives, comebacks and upsets as much as anyone. There’s room for all of them in the sporting world. Just like there’s room for blowouts.
I’m not talking about sporting events like Georgia Tech vs Cumberland (222-0) where one side is just hopelessly overmatched and never belonged on the field with their opponent. Those are wrong. I’m talking about fair competition between two supposedly evenly matched foes where one team exceeds even our wildest expectations and just runs away from the opposition. Those are fun.
What happened in the Super Bowl catapulted the Seahawks defense from a discussion of being the best in the NFL this season to being possibly executing the most dominant defensive performance ever in a Super Bowl. Would that question have been raised if Seattle won 27-20? Absolutely not, but for four quarters you got to watch an intelligent, physical and highly skilled defensive unit systematically eliminate every option that the Broncos offense, one hailed as the greatest of all time, had at their disposal.
For those who lamented the loss of hitting in pro football, you certainly got to see plenty of that. The Seahawks beat Denver at the line of scrimmage without blitzing, their linebackers held running backs and receivers to minimal gains anytime they got near them and the secondary was just brutal. That’s football at its best. The more aggressive team won, and it didn’t settle for just winning. It played for history.
Excuse me while I activate the Way-back Machine in my mind and think about the blowouts that made me remember where I was when they happened.
Think about Mike Tyson destroying Michael Spinks in 91 seconds (blowouts are not limited to team sports). I don’t remember seeing that fight and regretting that it didn’t last longer. That might have been the greatest minute and a half I’ve ever witnessed. The combination of the build up towards the fight, the aura of Tyson, the look of abject fear on the face of Spinks and the fury/impunity that Tyson exhibited provided me with an amazing rush. You know you felt it too.
Think about Reggie Jackson singlehandedly beating the Los Angeles Dodgers with three home runs on three swings in the 1977 World Series. That one game took Reggie from star to legend. He went from a member of three World Championship teams with the Oakland A’s to “Mr. October” and proved that whether he said it or not, he was “the straw that stirred the drink”.
Who can forget the 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels? The team of supposed outlaws with the renegade coach faced off against “America’s Team”, Duke. After the opening tip UNLV put on a full court display that provided the largest margin of victory (103-73) in NCAA Championship history. They ran, they dunked, they shot from distance, they played the passing lanes and they entertained every step of the way. No matter what Duke tried, nothing worked. That win placed UNLV on the short list of greatest college basketball teams ever.
I watched Tiger Woods mow down the field at Pebble Beach in 2000. The tournament was over for all intents and purposes after the second day. Did people stop watching? No. They watched because history was being made and we hadn’t seen golf played like that. We might not again; at least not from Tiger anyway. We were witnesses to an artist painting a masterpiece. Wasn’t that drama enough? I think it was.
There are so many other examples. The Bears staking their claim as the greatest defense of all time in blowing out the Patriots in Super Bowl XX…Doug Williams throwing 4 touchdown passes in leading Washington over Denver two years later…Roger Clemens striking out 20 batters. Twice…Kerry Wood doing the same thing as a ROOKIE…the “Fo,fo,fo” Philadelphia 76ers in 1983…the 72-10 Chicago Bulls…the San Francisco 49ers destroying the Broncos and the Chargers…Alabama over Notre Dame…Secretariat against the field…”Down goes Frazier”…the “Dream Team”…Graf vs. Zvereva in the 1988 French Open Final…Usain Bolt at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics…and on and on and on. Each one of those events were moments where you could not believe what you were seeing as they unfolded. The other team or athletes were giving their absolute best, but they were dwarfed by the supreme talent across from them.
The reason it’s called greatness in the first place is because it doesn’t show itself very often. It is a rare and beautiful thing. When it does, embrace it however it reveals itself to you; unless, of course your team is taking that beating or you had money on the game. Then you have my sympathy.