It’s easy to forget now, but the New England Patriots‘ first Super Bowl victory was far from a foregone conclusion. In Super Bowl 36, they faced the St. Louis Rams, the “Greatest Show on Turf.” The Patriots were two-touchdown underdogs. No one gave them a chance to come out on top…except future late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel.
What does Jimmy Kimmel have to do with any of this?
Today, he dominates late nights on ABC. But from 1999 to 2002, Kimmel hosted a segment on Fox’s NFL pregame show, Fox NFL Sunday. He filled the role that Frank Caliendo and Rob Riggle would fill in later years as the show’s prognosticator and funnyman.
After a comedy skit that typically lasted two to five minutes, Kimmel ran down his predictions for that week’s games in rapid-fire. These typically included one “upset special”.
On camera (but hopefully not off-camera), the hosts of Fox NFL Sunday — particularly Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long — were not very fond of Kimmel. After his Super Bowl skit, they took a “secret” vote on whether or not they wanted him back for 2002, which turned out to be a unanimous “no”. He did return, but only for one more season.
Kimmel makes the ultimate Upset Special
2001 was the only season of Kimmel’s time with Fox that the network held the rights to the Super Bowl. He took full disadvantage of the rare opportunity.
Television airtime is very expensive during the Super Bowl. They tell me it’s $2,000,000 for a 30-second spot. So join me now over the next two minutes as I waste $8,000,000 of Fox’s money.Jimmy Kimmel
He did exactly that, spending the next two minutes performing various hijinks around the city of New Orleans. This included drawing street caricatures with Joe Montana and drawing a curly mustache on Kurt Warner’s portrait.
Afterward, the scene shifted to the field of the Superdome, where Kimmel decided that this Super Bowl was the perfect time for another upset special. This meant he would do the unthinkable and choose the massive underdog Patriots over the favored Rams.
The Superdome scoreboard flashed, “SERIOUSLY?”
The Patriots prove Kimmel a prophet
The Superdome scoreboard had every reason to be skeptical of Kimmel’s pick. As mentioned above, the Patriots entered the game as 14-point underdogs. The St. Louis Rams already won a Super Bowl two years earlier and had just posted over 500 points in a season for the third year in a row. The Rams’ second championship in three years seemed inevitable.
Perhaps the comedian knew something that the rest of us didn’t. As we all know by now, Tom Brady and the Patriots emerged victorious, 20-17.
As for Kimmel, he left Fox Sports after the 2002 season to work on his late-night show for ABC. However, he stuck around with Fox long enough to gloat to Terry and Howie over his Super Bowl success.