Sunday, February 12, 2023

I have watched every Super Bowl, ever

Am I showing my age?  I remember every Super Bowl, from the Packers to whoever won the last one. 

Of course, it was not called the Super Bowl back then.  It was the NFL-AFL Championship game when Green Bay beat K.C. and then Oakland the next year.  I am not sure what they called it when the Jets beat the Colts in #3 or when K.C. beat Minnesota in #4.

Nevertheless, the game has been a part of my life, and I have some favorite Super Bowl memories.

Without question, the best game for me was #13, or Pittsburgh-Dallas in '79.  Around here, this is remembered as the day that Jackie Smith dropped a Staubach TD pass and kept the Cowboys from winning back-to-back titles.  Well, we don't know if that's true, but it sure felt that way back then.  I had a chance to see an ESPN Classic of this game, and it was great.  The Steelers and Cowboys were the two best teams of their era, and it showed on the field.

The Green Bay wins in I and II were fun because I was rooting for the Packers.  But they were not good games.  In fact, I remember that many purists were calling off the whole AFL vs. NFL because it was a gimmick or mismatch between a senior and junior league.  There were lots of empty seats, and school bands performed in the halftime show in those two.

The history of the Super Bowl really started with the Jets beating the Colts in January 1969.  I recall a sportscaster in Milwaukee predicting a 36-0 Colts victory.  He said that it was no contest.  Don't hold it against him, because most experts saw the Colts killing the Jets.

Like most people, I was stunned to see the Jets beat Baltimore.  Actually, I was hoping for an upset because most teens back then were impressed that Joe Namath was so popular with the girls.  Namath was cool.  "Broadway Joe" was a rock star playing QB in the NFL.

The Jets were perfect that day.  The Colts looked like a team that didn't take their opponent seriously.  Later that year, the baseball N.Y. Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.  Nineteen sixty-nine was a year for upstart N.Y. teams to beat favored veteran Baltimore teams!  Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in '69, so maybe it was a year for unexpected things.

The Dolphins vs. Redskins or #7 was curious because Miami finished a perfect season.  A funny thing happened in that game, as we see in this report from George Solomon:

Miami had a commanding 14-0 lead with 2:10 left when Garo Yepremian attempted a cake-frosting field goal from the Redskin 42. But Bill Brundige blocked the kick. The slight Yepremian picked it up and tried to pass. Brundige tipped it and Mike Bass plucked the ball out of the air and dashed 49 yards for the Redskins' only touchdown.

When Curt Knight added the extra point to slice Miami's lead to 14-7, there was still 2:07 left to play. A miracle was still possible, particularly after the Redskins forced a Miami punt and got the ball back with 1:14 left on their own 30.

But Bill Kilmer, enduring one of his most frustrating days as a Redskin, could generate nothing on his final four plays of the game.

Twice he threw incompletions; a swing pass to Larry Brown lost four yards; then on the last play of the season, Vern Den Herder and Bill Stanfill overwhelmed Kilmer, crushing him to the turf for a nine-yard loss.

It was perhaps fitting that the game should end with two Miami linemen sitting on top of the Washington quarterback. The Dolphins had similarly flattened the Redskins much of the game.

In other words, the Dolphins were two minutes away, and the field goal would have meant winning the game 17-0.  Amazing finish to their 17-0 season.  But the Gods of football had a different plan and made it interesting for the Redskins fans at the end.

Most of the games in the 1980s were pretty bad, or so I think.  The next decent game was in 1991, when the Giants beat the Bills in the last minute.  We were fighting in Iraq, and I recall the air of patriotism.  The Denver–Green Bay or #32 was interesting because the Broncos ended a long NFC streak.  The NFC won the Super Bowl from 1985 to 1998, something that is still hard to believe.  Of course, the NFC sent San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and Dallas to the Super Bowl.

In recent years, the game turned into The Tom Brady or the Manning Brothers Show.

The Super Bowl has not always lived up to its promotion, but it's not really about the game anymore.  It's about the food and tolerating the halftime show or commercials.  Let's hope today's game is good football and that the "virtue" ads stay away.

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