Super Bowl TV ratings crack top 20 of all time


Small-market teams don’t necessarily hurt Super Bowl ratings — especially when the game goes down to the final play.

St. Louis’ stirring 23-16 victory over Tennessee on Sunday night drew a 43.2 television rating and a 62 share on ABC, up 7 percent from last year. That makes it the 19th-highest rated among the 34 Super Bowls.

Last year’s game, Denver’s 34-19 victory over Atlanta, received a 40.2 rating and 61 share, the lowest rating since the 1990 game registered a 39.0 rating.

ABC estimated 130,745,000 people watched the game, making it the fifth-most-watched telecast in U.S. history, trailing four other Super Bowls. Last year’s game, broadcast by Fox, was watched by 127.5 million.

The No. 1 program was the 1996 Super Bowl between Dallas and Pittsburgh, watched by 138.5 million. Sunday’s game pushed the final episode of “M*A*S*H,” broadcast by CBS on Feb. 28, 1983, and watched by 121.6 million, out of the top 10 list, which now includes nine Super Bowls and the women’s skating final of the 1994 Winter Olympics.

With two small-market teams, ABC said last week it hoped for a 42.0 rating, but the close game caused ratings to grow throughout the night.

Rams welcomed home: With coach Dick Vermeil riding a wagon pulled by the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, tens of thousands of fans lined the streets of downtown St. Louis on Monday evening for a parade honoring the Rams.

Players rode in trucks behind the wagon pulling Vermeil and his wife, Carol. Fans broke into a chant of “MVP” as the truck carrying quarterback Kurt Warner made its way through the throngs of people. Warner is only the sixth player in league history to win the regular-season and Super Bowl MVP awards.

Bishop recovering: Titans officials said strong safety Blaine Bishop, who lay motionless on the turf after a collision in the third quarter Sunday, should have a full recovery from his neck injury.

Bishop was knocked unconscious for about 30 seconds after a collision with Rams tight end Ernie Conwell. He was diagnosed with a strained neck and a concussion.

DeBartolo’s suspension ends: Exiled 49ers co-owner Eddie DeBartolo won’t return to the team any time soon despite the end of his NFL suspension today, a family spokesman said.

“It’s just not in the cards,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for controlling club owner Denise DeBartolo York, who with her husband, John York, assumed management of the team two years ago when her brother ran into legal problems.

Last March, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue suspended DeBartolo for the 1999 season because of his involvement in a Louisiana gambling fraud and extortion case and fined him $1 million.

Pro bowl extension: The NFL and Hawaii are close to an agreement to keep the Pro Bowl in the islands through 2005. The game has been played in Honolulu the past 20 years, and the current contract ends after the 2001 game.

Starr backs renovation: Saying his love for the Green Bay Packers goes “beyond words,” Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr said he is confident the team’s proposed $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field is the right decision.

“If you are going to preserve the franchise, what we have embarked on is the right course, a correct course and the thing to do at this time,” Starr told Wisconsin reporters in a television satellite hookup from his business office in Birmingham, Ala.

The event was part of the Packers’ campaign to rally public support for improvements that the team says must be made for the franchise to stay competitive.