Twenty years after Super Bowl 1 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rose Bowl hosted it's fourth NFL Championship game. In yet another connection between Los Angeles and today's big game, Super Bowl XXI turned out to be the first Super Bowl in New York Giants history. It was the Giants' fifth NFL Championship, but the first time they'd been the NFC representative in the Super Bowl since the merger.
From the perspective of Pasadena, the story begins in 1984. The Rose Bowl had just hosted it's third Rose Bowl in 1983, where 103,667 people packed into the stadium. Eager for another big boost to the local economy, the city of Pasadena submitted their name as a future host site at the '84 owners meetings, along with Anaheim, San Diego, and many of the usual suspects. Pasadena was selected to host the '87 Super Bowl, and San Diego would host it's first Super Bowl in '88.
Pasadena was considered the favorite to host the game, but faced opposition in an Eastern block. In this cold war story, cold weather cities like Philadelphia and New York were tired of not qualifying to host Super Bowl games. The cold weather voting block kept Pasadena from getting the required 21 votes, forcing the NFL to go to majority rules in order to move forward. The NFL had held one cold weather Super Bowl at the Pontiac Silverdome, but it won't be until 2014 that the NFL hosts a cold weather outdoor Super Bowl.
The Giants were not the super power the Green Bay Packers were, but between 1933 and 1946 they faced off against the Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship game four times, winning two. Unlike the Packers who've had their own stadium for most of their history, the Giants were nomads playing at the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, and Shea Stadium before finally moving into a place of their own in 1976.
The Giants were led by 1986 MVP Lawrence Taylor, and 1987 Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms. LT was drafted with the second pick in the 1981 NFL draft, after the Giants had gone 4-12. Taylor was a Pro Bowl selection every year for a decade. Phil Simms was selected with the seventh pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, another year the Giants finished last in the NFC East.
Those two draft picks turned the team's fortunes around, and in 1986 this meant going 14-2 on the season which tied them with the defending Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears for best regular season record. After the Washington Redskins upset the Bears at Soldier Field in the Divisional round, it was a NFC East rematch to decide who would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Giants defense was dominant all year, although the offense depended on the legs of running back Joe Morris and the combination of Simms throwing to occasionally injured Lionel Manuel.
While Pasadena was certainly excited to be hosting another Super Bowl, LA sports fans were a bit fed up with America's first and second cities. The Chicago Bears had won the '86 Super Bowl, the New York Mets won the '86 World Series, and now here were the New York Giants going for the NFL title. The LA Rams had lost to the Bears in the '85-86 playoffs, the Angels lost to the Red Sox in the 86 ALCS.
So while the cold weather cities may not have won the right to host the Big Game, they were certainly the dominant force in Sports teams. The Giants' opponent in the Super Bowl would be the John Elway led Denver Broncos in their second Super Bowl appearance.
While this would be the Giants' first Super Bowl, it'd be one of the Rose Bowl's last as there were fears for the safety of the 104,000 fans who would pack the bowl. A Daily News report revealed that city inspectors conceded the stadium does not meet current fire and safety codes. Not surprising for a stadium built in 1924, but there were fears of what the concrete structure would do in the event of an earthquake.
If Super Bowl 1 was a humble affair, this time around LA and Orange County were going all out. At the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel, drinks were named for Giants players, and Waitresses donned Broncos jerseys. The Anaheim Marriott was transformed into NFL offices west. Pasadena set up a hotline for travelers looking to be guided around the city. Millions of dollars in revenue were expected to be generated by this tourism boom.
The score went back and forth in the first half of the game. The game featured the first use of instant replay in a Super Bowl, as an incomplete pass was reviewed by the booth. The Giants were able to build a 23 point lead in the second half, and that was all she wrote.
The New York Giants won their first NFL Championship in 30 years. Today they'll play in their fifth Super Bowl, their second in four years against the New England Patriots. Fans in New York certainly hope this will also be their fourth Super Bowl title.