In case you've been living under a rock this past week, the U.S. Men's Hockey Team was in the Gold-Medal match of the Olympics yesterday against the pre-tournament favorites, the Canadians. USA had beaten Canada in the round-robin stage of the Olympics, and was undefeated going into the championship game, but Canada avenged their earlier loss by defeating the Americans 3-2 in an overtime thriller.
What does this have to do with football, you ask? Well, this was basically the Super Bowl of these Olympics, and before the game I thought about the fact that it was a rematch, which felt like a bad omen for USA -- I mean, doesn't it seem like every Super Bowl in recent memory involving two teams who had played before during the regular-season ended with the team that lost matchup #1 winning the rematch? More to the point, is this recent trend representative of the entire history of football?
Well, luckily, we have a database of every game in NFL/AFL history, so I looked up every Super Bowl & league championship game of the pre-Super Bowl era that featured two teams that had already faced off during the season. This happened 36 times, starting with the 1933 season:
|"*" = Neutral site|
In the Super Bowl era, this has happened 12 times, and the winner of matchup #1 has only gone on to win the championship 5 times. Before the Super Bowl era, we get into situations where the teams may have played multiple times before the championship game, but in cases where there was just one prior matchup, the winner of the initial game won 6 of the 13 rematches (excluding 1956, when the 1st game was a tie). In the 10 championships that were "double rematches", there were 6 cases where one team had won both of the initial matchups, and that team ended up winning the 3rd game 5 times (the only exception was the '34 Bears, who beat the Giants at home and on the road, but had to play the league championship in New York and lost 30-13). Among showdowns between teams who had split the season series, the winner of the first matchup won the title all 3 times. And in 1965, San Diego won their first game vs. Buffalo, tied the second, but lost the AFL title to the Bills in game #3.
All told, the team that prior head-to-head information told us "should" win won the championship 16 times in 32 tries, which seems pretty low given the fact that they had already beaten their opponent (and not lost to them) earlier that season. So while being in a championship game with an opponent you've beaten before isn't exactly a terrible omen, you're still no more likely to win the second time around than you would be if we knew nothing about your earlier performance.
This entry was posted on Monday, March 1st, 2010 at 11:15 am and is filed under History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.