Back before late night TV was purely a leftwing political platform, there used to be guys in suits and gals in dresses interacting, conversing, even drinking and smoking! These were the ‘conservative’ 20th century days when Carson had more pull than just about anyone else in the country. I’ve been learning a lot watching old tonight show reruns for the past 3 months, one of which is Super Bowl ratings. Back then monologues were about more than the GOP potus, there were sports, entertainment, and plenty of bipartisan political cracks.
In a 1990 ep shortly after SB XXIV, Carson lamented that this year’s ratings were the worst in a decade and concerns were growing at NBC about the plunging value of the ad time they had to sell by next year’s game. I was shocked! Wasn’t the NFL soaring in popularity at this time? Technically the 81 SB was worse, but that one involved Philadelphia so let’s just call it an outlier since both their appearances produced a dip in ratings. So if I wasn’t watching a 29yo Tonight Show rerun on antenna TV, I would have never looked it up and realized a fact that goes against the common historical narrative of 80s NFL; people were sick and damn tired of the Niners by their 4th SB! Or were the 80s Broncos a 90s Bills predecessor? Let’s take a closer look.
The Broncos produced strong ratings in both 87 and 88, but far less than the 10 year record held by the 85 Bears SB. It’s understandable that the Bears, with their mainstream popularity and greatest team ever consideration, held the ratings record until the Boys’ 3rd 90s SB appearance, the one with Deion and without Jimmy Johnson. But the Broncos went up against the NY Giants and Washington Redskins in 87 and 88, and they were both top tier teams in terms of national loathing and I-95 popularity. Even though ratings did dip from 87 to 88, it is hard to blame the Broncos since that was a strike shortened season that bittered many fans worldwide. True, maybe by the 3rd SB in 4 years the Donkey faithful may have had doubts, but Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott ‘the team of the 80s’ had lost national appeal by 90? Hard to believe but it appears to be true.
I always considered the 1990 NFC championship an abomination since the moment I saw the Marshall hit and the subsequent Craig fumble live, but were the networks and Tampa area ecstatic with the rest of New York? Was everyone outside of the bay rooting against the record 3 SB’s in a row? Were the west coast Niners poor draws? Not from what I recall, they were on MNF several times a year back then, they were endlessly hyped as the greatest dynasty ever, trumping the 70s Steelers thanks to the first Golden Boy qb, an unorthodox mad genius head coach, and an organization that kept drafting stars. The 95 SB’s dip in ratings adds to the evidence. SB ratings continued to soar post 2006 with the proliferation of internet streams and global market growth except a small dip in SB 47, the 6th and final appearance for the then Harbaugh led gold and red.
I had no idea the home of Ric-a-roni was so hated nationally! That contradicts 4 decades of being told other wise, but it had to change somewhere for some reason, but where and why? 85 SB had strong ratings and people now tout that pre Rice, Taylor, Craig, Rathman, Hailey, Romanowski team as the greatest ever in online comment boards. In my opinion, that team was nowhere near the 89 team or the 85 Bears team that also went 15-1 on the road to Super Sunday immortality. Please comment below, tell me when the Niners became so unpopular and what your explanation is for the peaks and valleys over the past 53 years.