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Human touch? NFL champs tend to have manly nicknames

The Baltimore Sun

The animals are toast. Humans rule.

If 41 years of Super Bowl history can be used as a gauge, the Patriots, Packers, Cowboys or Giants will beat the Colts, Seahawks or Jaguars in the season's ultimate game Feb. 3. Unless, of course, the Chargers upset all carbon-based life forms, not to mention Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Since the first Super Bowl in January 1967, teams with manly names have triumphed 31 times while teams named after animals have won nine.

The Green Bay Packers kicked off human dominance with back-to-back wins, beating two other virile teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. Machines won their only contest in the third Super Bowl, when the New York Jets whipped the poor Colts of Baltimore like a rented mule.

It wasn't until the fifth Super Bowl, in January 1971, that fans got their first P.T. Barnum-like man vs. animal contest. The Colts kicked the Dallas Cowboys aside before sneaking out of town to Indianapolis in 1984 and resurfacing as the winner of last season's game.

The Miami Dolphins won two Super Bowls in the mid-1970s before animals became endangered species, as the Rams, Eagles, Bengals and Dolphins fell to the Steelers, Raiders, 49ers and Redskins.

In January 1986, the Bears mauled the Patriots. Of course, Chicago got a huge boost from fierce defensive lineman Dan Hampton, who tried to have it both ways with his nickname, "Danimal."

The critters again fell on hard times as the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills took turns being sacrificial lambs. (Yes, we know the Buffalo team name is a play on the Wild West hero, but players wear a buffalo on their helmets.)

Finally came the matchup where the animals couldn't blow it: the Broncos vs. the Atlanta Falcons in January 1999. With John Elway holding the reins, Denver's team went to the winner's circle for the second consecutive time.

Animal magnetism continued when the St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans in January 2000 and the Ravens bested the New York Giants a year later.

In February 2002, the Patriots re-established "man-ifest" destiny with a three-point win over the Rams. Bill Belichick's team also knocked off the Panthers and Eagles before the Steelers beat the Seahawks two years ago.

Yet, now is not the time to give up on the animal kingdom. Over the past decade, animal parity enjoyed its golden years, with man and beast each winning five times.


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