Quick, can anyone tell Judge Ryan Keefer how many days until the next John Madden football game comes to the stores?
It's now or never!
God bless NFL Films for the type of work they do and how far into the huddle they get when they cover a Super Bowl. From every angle and every possible sound bite, starting with I think Super Bowl V when Hank Stram's microphoned banter with players and officials was a bigger highlight of the game than the game itself. And from there, some coaches (like Chuck Noll) may not have enjoyed seeing that camera and microphone around, and others in recent years (like Dick Vermeil and Brian Billick) have a wireless microphone on to listen to any temper tantrums or words of wisdom. Mostly the tantrums.
But it's the memorable shots in these games that have made NFL Films a hallmark institution for sports photography. Lynn Swann's catch against the Rams that had him virtually run into your living room was replayed over and over again. The faces of jubilation and defeat run rampant through the winners and losers. And there I am…watching it on TV and fanatically replaying it to see if I can get a result like the game. First on my electric football set, then on John Madden football. What? You don't do the same thing? Liar.
Anyway, the layout on this set is similar to previous sets, with two Super Bowls on each disc, with five discs total. And for those who forget them, the big games were:
• Super Bowl XXXI
• Super Bowl XXXII
• Super Bowl XXXIII
• Super Bowl XXXIV
• Super Bowl XXXV
• Super Bowl XXXVI
• Super Bowl XXXVII
• Super Bowl XXXVIII
• Super Bowl XXXIX
• Super Bowl XL
Along with the films from the games, the pleasant surprise here is that the season films for each year are included. It's pretty cool, as in some of the earlier years, you see Elway in the Broncos orange jersey, or the Ravens in Memorial Stadium, and that's not even talking about some of the players. Touchdown runs by Barry Sanders should be required viewing for everybody. And the access to locker rooms that made NFL Films so famous is an even larger showcase. It also seems to help provide a jumping off point from the most recent collector's set, as perennial Super Bowl guest teams Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills get some love before things get down to the nitty-gritty. From that point, you get comprehensive looks at the seasons all the way through to the most recent one, some legends (like Dan Marino) fade away, and new ones (like Brady) are born. And the feature isn't without some individual highlights and some comedic moments. Jim Mora's "diddly poo" comment is given its full attention, for instance.
There are also separate features on some of the key figures from those winning teams, to add a little bit of depth, but nothing that a lot of people didn't already know. And that's not a fault of NFL films, but with two weeks between the Conference Championship and Super Bowl, there's nothing for anyone else to do but hype, plug some crucial figures for each team and develop stories. And no one remembers the stories years later, they remember the game, how good it was, how bad it was, whether so and so threw for 300 yards, whatever. That's the good part of history and time; it helps bring some distance from the hype.
Those who pick up this Super Bowl set are more than likely updating their previous gift set that carried the first 30 games, so that's a forgivable sin. As a standalone set, it's not too bad. This is something I'll be more prone to rewatch in a few weeks when training camps open up, or in February before the game airs. Approximately 14 hours to cover the last decade of Super Bowls and the games leading up to them makes for a phenomenal set, and this one is another in a great (and growing) group.
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