On Sunday evening, I had the fortunate (and subsequently painful) opportunity to attend Super Bowl XLVII. I had a chance to witness one of the greatest attempted comebacks in Super Bowl history. I had a chance to witness a 30-minute Superdome blackout delay. And I got to go through the agony of watching the other team celebrate in confetti as my team walked off the field without the Lombardi Trophy.
As much as the loss hurts, I don't think I'll ever forget the Superdome blackout early in the third quarter. At 7:38 p.m. local time, shortly after the Ravens had taken a 28-6 lead on the 49ers, the majority of the power went out in the Superdome. A ring of lights did remain on from what I imagine was an emergency generator, but otherwise there was no power in the Superdome. The power would remain out for approximately half an hour, coming back on at 8:08 p.m. local time.
The fans handled the blackout surprisingly well. Early on, we got plenty of "Let's Go Ravens!" and "Let's Go Niners" chants. That was followed by a wave that circled the dome a good five or six times. When it would slow down, a boo would go up and it would pick back up again. I am normally against the wave, but it is safe to say a blackout is the one acceptable circumstance for the wave.
As the blackout wore on, officials would huddle on the field discussing whatever it is they discuss when they don't know what is actually going on. After about 20 minutes, it appeared as though the game was ready to re-start. The 49ers offense and Ravens defense were brought back on the field. Two officials were pushing the 49ers and Ravens sidelines back off the field. All seemed well.
And then two jacketed NFL officials came on the field, and we ended up waiting ten more minutes. This was a pretty smart crowd, as the appearance of jacketed officials brought down a shower of boos. The highlight of the last ten minutes had to be Ed Reed waving his arms encouraging the crowd as they were booing.
I had every intention of tweeting out the events of the blackout, as people around America apparently were just a little bit interested. Early overnight television ratings indicate a monster 46.5 rating during the delay. For comparison's sake, the game peaked at 52.9 during the close of the game. Unfortunately, the loss of power got everybody on their cell phone, slowing down the network considerably. My 4G dropped to 3G at first, and then quickly fell to 1X, meaning my tweeting and texting power was limited. It was all part of a bewildering situation.
The other drawback to the blackout that won't be mentioned on television anytime soon was the loss of water to the bathrooms. I'm not really sure how the set-up is at the Superdome, but it was a problem. While the PA announcer was telling people to remain seated, plenty of people got up to wander around and go to the bathroom. Unfortunately there was no flushing happening for a solid 20 minutes. Whoops.
While people will talk about this game for years to come, it will be interesting to see how the blackout plays into that narrative. A few plays prior to the blackout, Jacoby Jones had run back a kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Ravens a 28-6 lead. The rout appeared to be on with that play, and then the power went out.
Following the power outage, the 49ers stormed back with 17-straight points to cut the Ravens lead to 28-23. The comeback would come up short, but one has to wonder how the blackout impacted this comeback. Both teams felt the impact of it, but the Ravens did have all the momentum up to that point. Both teams could use the time to game-plan and figure some things out, or if you would prefer, both teams had to deal with potential injuries from cooling down after the post-halftime warm up. However, only one team benefited from the break in momentum.
Momentum may be intangible, but it always seems to crop up in some form or fashion. It is entirely possible the 49ers could have made a big comeback without the blackout, but we will never know. All we know is the Ravens were incredibly hot, and then had to sit and wait for 30 minutes. It will remain a counter-factual to consider for years to come.