Did Quantum Leap Correctly Predict Super Bowl XXX?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: An episode of Quantum Leap correctly predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers would play in Super Bowl XXX.

One of the more common areas for potential urban legends is stories about films and television series set in the future that have seemingly predicted real life events (coincidentally, of course). Sporting events seem to be particularly common examples of this phenomena. They almost always turn out to be bogus. I personally have debunked legends involving Seaquest supposedly predicting the Marlins winning the 2003 World Series and Back to the Future II allegedly predicting the 2015 existence of Ken Griffey III. So it did not surprise me when a reader wrote in to ask whether it was true that a 1990 episode of Quantum Leap correctly predicted 1996′s Super Bowl XXX.

What was surprising was the truth about the episode. Read on to find out more!

The concept behind Quantum Leap was that scientist Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula) developed a device known as the “Quantum Leap Accelerator” that would allow a person to travel back in time within their own lifetime. It was a government-funded project and Rear Admiral Al Calavicci (played by Dean Stockwell) was the senior officer on the project. When Al discovers that the government plans on pulling their funding of the project, Sam decides to prove the project worked by entering the Quantum Leap accelerator himself. Sam ended up traveling through time, taking the place of people at various points in history (while it would be Sam in the actual flesh, he would appear to everyone around him as if he was still the person whose place he took). He would only be able to “leap” to another point in time by “fixing” something in that time period that had gone “wrong” the first time around (this led Sam to theorize that something divine was guiding his trips through time). Al was the only one who could communicate with Sam, appearing to him as a hologram that only Sam could see and hear. The series ran from 1989-1993. Sam “leaped” back in time at some unnamed point in the near future, but it seems pretty clear that it was 1995 when he first went back in time. So while Sam is traveling through time, for Al and the other Quantum Leap project workers, it is the years 1995-1999.

So in the second season of the series, Al would be in the year 1996. This is born out in the second season episode “All-Americans” (which aired on January 17, 1990), where Sam “leaps” into a high school football star in the year 1962.

Here is a link to buy the episode.

Sam is there to convince one of his teammates to not throw the championship game (and thereby avoid ruining his chances for a college scholarship). Al disappeared from the episode for a while and then returns to Sam late in the championship game. Sam asks him where he had been and Al notes that he was busy watching a different game, Super Bowl XXX, where Pittsburgh was trailing by 3 points.

And sure enough, six years later, when Super Bowl XXX actually took place in Tempe, Arizona, the match-up was the Dallas Cowboys against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the dramatic game saw the Steelers (who trailed 13-0 at one point) cut their deficit to 3 points, 20-17 and had the ball back with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter.

Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell then threw his second interception of the game (leading to Dallas cornerback Larry Brown, who made both interceptions, becoming the first cornerback to be Super Bowl MVP) and the Cowboys held on to a 27-17 victory.

Now, obviously, the writers of the episode, Paul Brown and Donald P. Bellisario, did not ACTUALLY predict the game. It is just an amusing coincidence. Still, it is an interesting coincidence! I have occasionally seen arguments suggesting that the prediction was especially impressive considering that the Steelers had missed four of the last five postseasons at that point. While that’s accurate, it is a bit misleading, since the one season in the last five that they had made the playoffs was the most recent season, the 1989 season. So if you were going to pick a team in 1989 to be in the Super Bowl in 1996, the Steelers were not a crazy choice.

A secondary legend I have seen is that Quantum Leap also predicted the Pittsburgh/Seattle match-up in Super Bowl XLII. That is not true.

As for the legend at hand, though, the legend is…

STATUS: Essentially True

Thanks to reader George for e-mailing me the suggestion! The rest of your readers, feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

One Response to “Did Quantum Leap Correctly Predict Super Bowl XXX?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on July 4th, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Now, obviously, the writers of the episode, Paul Brown and Donald P. Bellisario, did not ACTUALLY predict the game.

    Considering how nearly every other Bellisario project deals with far more realistic scenarios (well, relatively speaking), and usually revolves around either the military or military involvement, I’m half-convinced that Project Quantum Leap did/does/will actually exist, and Bellisario was in on the secret. Clearly, they were only able to predict both the team and the score because someone from the future actually told them about it, and they wrote it into the script for that episode.

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