NORWALK, Conn. — It was a stunning come-from-behind victory for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI — and for Orange, the prognosticating harbor seal at Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium.
The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points Sunday night to defeat the Atlanta Falcons and score the come-from-behind win in the Super Bowl.
Equally shocking was the win by Orange, a 34-year-old harbor seal who last week picked the New England Patriots — by a nose — for the win.
It was the first correct prediction by a seal at the Maritime Aquarium after five incorrect guesses in the Super Bowl, proving that the sixth time is the charm.
Last Wednesday, trainer Ellen Riker said not to hold out too much hope for Orange's prediction.
"Considering the seals’ zero winning streak, I would advise you to bet against whoever Orange picks,” Riker said. “Although, there is a first time for everything.”
About 50 people watched last Wednesday as Orange “choose” her winning team in a special aquarium event.
Eyeing the lineup of pictures of helmets for both the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots posted on the windows of the exhibit, Orange swam over and held her nose against one for the Patriots.
Orange was trained for the event by holding her nose against objects – such as her trainer’s hand — and earning a fish as her reward.
Dave Sigworth, spokesman for the Maritime Aquarium, said he got the idea for the Super Bowl seal event from other zoos and aquariums that hold similar events with bears and other animals.
Over the years, Sigworth said the Super Bowl event has been staged in different and fun ways. “We’ve had the seal jump up to touch the helmet. We’ve also had the seal retrieve a team pennant that was thrown into the water," he said.
Sigworth said Orange got to make the pick this year because of her reliability.
“Orange was trained to put her nose to something three times a day whenever she has a feeding, and she has done a good job of this," he said.
“Orange putting her nose against something is her way of ensuring that she won’t try and take a fish that the trainers are trying to feed to another seal — it’s a way to control the seals," he said, explaining the behavior. The trainers work with seals every day to get them used to being touched, Sigworth said.
“With the Super Bowl pick, we are taking one of the behaviors that Orange does every day and having fun with it.”