Neither Patriots nor Giants will have home-field advantage

Technically, the New England Patriots are the home team in Super Bowl XLVI. That means the Pats get to wear their home blue uniforms while the New York Giants will wear their road white.

That's probably all it means, too. Alone among the major American team sports, football plays its championship game on a neutral field, with the same number of tickets allotted to each side. This makes the Super Bowl a strange animal, neither a home game nor a road game for either team in any traditional sense.

There is a tremendous travel burden, but it's the same for both teams, especially in this case, when both arrive by way of the northeast. The media grind and long hotel stays do not favor either side. Because these teams each have some key players remaining from the last time they battled in the Super Bowl four years ago, one wouldn't expect nerves or stage fright to be a factor.

No team has ever played on its home field in a Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Rams came closest in Super Bowl XIX in 1980, playing the Steelers in the Rose Bowl (the Rams played their home games in the Coliseum back then). The home cooking and supportive vibe in the record crowd of 103,985 seemed to give the underdog Rams a boost for a while, as they took a 19-17 lead in the fourth quarter. But they ultimately became another victim of Chuck Noll's Steel Curtain, falling 31-19.

The San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XIX at Palo Alto's Stanford Stadium in 1985. Then again, Joe Montana's 49ers were 4-0 in the Big Game during the 1980s, so they won everywhere.

For what it's worth, the Patriots were the designated home team in Super Bowl XLII too, when the Giants upset them, 17-14. And although both teams are coming in hot, New England has the longer winning streak at 10 games. The last team to beat them? Uh, the Giants. In New England.

And what of the fact that Sunday's Super Bowl will be played in the home of one of the Patriots' chief AFC rivals during the last decade? Can Bill Belichick's club expect a cold shoulder from the Indy crowd? Unlikely, since very few of the fans will actually be locals. But should the Giants start moving the ball up and down the field behind a red-hot quarterback named Manning, it certainly might feel like a road game to the Patriots -- and a long one at that.

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