Ben's Babbles: Super Bowl can make or break reputations

February 4, 2012

This Sunday when the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, I'm sure I will be doing what I've done for practically every Super Bowl I can recall: Eating a ridiculous amount of food and enjoying some good company.

And also watching for the one guys who will either get a major book deal, or see his career go down in flames based on one game.

As a Dallas Cowboys bandwago fan growing up, two distinct things stood out for me after I watched the Dallas Cowboys dismantle the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, and bear in mind I was still not fully developed as an intelligent sports fan yet.

My first thought was that Larry Brown must be really good to get so many interceptions off Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell.

As the Oakland Raiders found when they signed him to a ridiculously large contract the next season ... he really wasn't.

The second was that O'Donnell must have been pretty good if he got the Steelers to the Super Bowl. As I found out when I attempted to play as O'Donnell's new team, the New York Jets, in my very first copy of Madden football ... he really wasn't.

The "Big Game" has a way of skewing people's perception, for good or bad.

Adam Vineteri made his name as a clutch kicker through three games in two seasons when he first kicked the Patriots into a Super Bowl and won a pair of them on late field goals.

John Elway, despite being one of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks, was thought of as coming up short somehow until he won two Super Bowls in the final two years of his career.

Same went for Peyton Manning, who had broken nearly every record in the book, but was seemingly stuck with the curse of Dan Marino as really good, but not the greatest, until he won a title.

On the other end of the spectrum some players from the Super Bowl have never been able to live up the hype, or get their one shining moment.

Larry Brown, for instance, flamed out after all his interceptions.

Desmond Howard, a stud as a college player, had a mediocre NFL career ... at least until returning a punt for a touchdown to clinch the Packers' win over the Patriots in 1997.

David Tyree came up with "the catch" which set up the Giants' winning drive the last time the Giants and Patriots met in a Super Bowl. A year later, he was out of the NFL.

Eli Manning was thought of as being an inferior quarterback to older brother Peyton. Then he beat the Patriots four years ago.

If he beats them again this weekend, he may assume the mantle of greatest Manning to play in the NFL, despite playing horribly for large portions of the season and his team just sneaking into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

So while I'm chowing-down on bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese, or scarfing some bean dip, I'm going to be keeping an eye out for the hero (or goat) who comes out of nowhere - the person for whom one game will define a career.

Just don't expect me to try and start a Madden franchise with them next year.

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