Why is it that the AFC is/has been the designated home side in odd-numbered seasons and even-numbered Super Bowls, and the NFC vice-versa? What I mean is, for example, the 1979 and '81 seasons had Pittsburgh and Cincinnati of the AFC as the home sides in Nos. 14 and 16, and the 1980 and '82 seasons had Philly and Washington of the NFC as the home sides in Nos. 15 and 17.
Are you asking why the strictly alternate AFC/NFC, rather than some other method?
My speculation: In football, if the game is played at a neutral site (as the Super Bowl is), then the “home team” designation is pretty much meaningless. It affects (as far as I know) the following things:[ol]
[li]The “home” team gets to choose whether to wear white or dark jerseys (the “visiting” team must then wear the opposite); and[/li][li]The “visiting” team gets to call the pre-game coin toss.[/li][/ol]Neither of those things provides any competitive advantage or disadvantage to either team. If the playing venue is truly neutral (which they try to do, but since the site is chosen years in advance they can’t be certain that it won’t geographically favor one participant over the other), then the home/visitor distinction in football becomes purely cosmetic. As a consequence there’s no real incentive to do anything more complicated than just alternate years.
This is in stark contrast to, say, baseball or hockey:[ul]
[li]In baseball, somebody (the designated visitor) has to bat first, and this affects strategy.[/li][li]In hockey, I believe substitutions during stoppages are structured such that the home team gets to make theirs last - potentially an advantage.[/li][/ul]Both of those examples are things that benefit one team over the other, with no real way to “turn them off” if one desires a neutral environment - unlike football.
Do you have a different scheme in mind for naming the nominal “home” team in Super Bowls?
I believe the “home” team gets to use the stadium’s home locker room, which is usually a bit nicer than the visitors’. It’s not much, but it is something of an advantage, maybe.
The reason for not changing it to something else could also be as simple as “tradition”; the first four Super Bowls were the only games (other than pre-season) where an NFL team played an AFL team, so you couldn’t really go by “best record” or “better league’s record in head-to-head games” or “whoever won the Pro Bowl” (especially as the Pro Bowl was NFC West against NFC East, and the AFL had its own all-star game). Even after the merger, it took a few years for the “better record is the home team in playoff games” system to develop; IIRC, the season Miami went undefeated, they had a playoff game at Pittsburgh.
Remember, home field advantage in the World Series alternated between the leagues for about 100 years (another throwback to a time when there were no regular season games between teams of different leagues), before they decided to make the all-star game mean something by linking World Series home field advantage to it. (Personally, I think they should go with whichever league has the better overall record in games between teams of different leagues, with the all-star game as a tiebreaker.)
I think personally that this response best encapsulates what I was looking for. Kudos!