THE WRITERS' BLOC WEIGHS IN WITH THEIR FAVORITE SUPER BOWL MEMORIES.
Cover boy | From Steve Wulf
Both of my fondest Super Bowl memories come from Super Bowl XV in New Orleans, the Raiders-Eagles extravaganza. I was working for Sports Illustrated at the time, and on the Thursday or Friday before the game -- I couldn't have told you what day it was back then, either -- I was in the Old Absinthe House, nursing a beer and looking down at my loafers, the tassels of which had been torn off earlier in the evening by Bill Murray.
When I looked up, I saw John Matuszak standing in the vestibule, way past curfew. And the Tooz spotted me. He motioned for me and two sportswriter buddies to come over, and we complied. The behemouth then wrapped us in his arms and asked, "Did you see me here?" Thinking quickly, I replied, "No, Mr. Plunkett, we did not." With that, he laughed and released us. (He was later fined for breaking curfew, anyway.)
The second memory was from right after the game. I was assigned to do the sidebar off Dr. Z's main story, but with the game winding down, nobody in New York could tell me what that sidebar would be. I had suggested Rod Martin, the Raiders linebacker who had two interceptions at the time, but New York couldn't give me a definiite answer, so I went down to the field and watched Martin intercept Ron Jaworski for a third time. So Martin obviously became the sidebar -- and the most sought-after interview.
The crowd surrounding him in the interview room was five thick, and believe me, sportswriters are thick. And now, security was escorting him to the locker room. I sprinted ahead of his police escort, turned on my heels and walked right up to Martin, offered my hand and identified myself, upon which Martin said, "Steve, let's talk." He then proceeded to take me into the trainer's room and give it up: his life story, the Raider playbook, sharp anecdotes leading up to the game, quotes, everything. At one point, I felt like saying, "Rod, I only have 500 words."
In the meantime, I could hear officials outside, pleading for the whereabouts of Martin. Seems the network wanted him. But back on Jan. 25, 1981, Rod Martin, bless his heart, thought Sports Illustrated could get him the best exposure. (And he did get the cover.)
$190 | From Ralph Wiley
Backing up Wulfie's story -- Rod Martin was the most normal, convivial, trustworthy football-playing USC graduate in history. '81 was also the year yours truly, as Oakland Turbine columnist, won SI maven Dr. Z's big press football pool. It was around $190 bucks at the time, I think it was -- a buck per participant. As I recall, I spent it at -- I don't remember ...
Up close with Mr. Lombardi | From Robert Lipsyte
Back when Super Bowls were not yet officially called Super Bowls, the most fun (in retrospect) was the easy access to players and coaches. Joe Namath was tough to interview before III because of all the little kids and old ladies who insisted on joining us at the hotel pool. I met Vince Lombardi for the first time before II, at a fairly intimate cocktail party one day after practice.
He was holding forth at great length and amazing detail on the impact of the weather on a football game. Awed, I blurted something silly about how he sounded like a man raised as a sailor. He flashed that mirthless grin, all picket-fence teeth, and guffawed, "Brooklyn's on the water, kid, where you from? Where do you think Brooklyn is? He thinks Brooklyn's on the Great Plains, it's on the water" until someone diverted him. A day later, no longer so awed, I asked him to comment on Jerry Kramer's statement that the Packers had been a little flat this season because a new league alignment had brought them less challenging competition.
"Kramer who?" snapped Lombardi.
"Your guard," I said.
Lombardi glared at me. "He didn't say that."
"But I heard him on the radio."
"Don't come in here and tell me things like that," he snarled. Once he saw my mouth snap shut, he started grinning and guffawing and telling a story.
Within a few years after that, Super Bowls seemed to be all about corporate parties, packaged media days and players usually at such distance they might as well have been Japanese anime characters. I became grateful for being in the mob and hearing Lawrence Taylor talk about the joy of hitting someone so hard his snot flew. And then I became grateful for being in the audience at home with my dinosaur dreams.
Thank you, Riggo | From Eric Neel
My favorite memory is pool-related, too. Super Bowl XVII coincided with my grandfather's 75th birthday. My mom arranged a big bash and we put together a total-points pool while we ate burgers and guac and watched the pregame show. Late in the afternoon, the kids at the party were tired of sitting around the TV so we went outside to play two-hand-touch in the street. The light was long and warm, we ran button-hooks and fly patterns, and we always got two feet down just inside the curb.
The game inside fed the game outside. We were young and in love with all things football. I remembering coming inside to watch the fourth quarter and I remembering thinking, With this sweat on my skin, with these chips in my hand, and with this game on ... life is so good. Then Riggins went for 43 on fourth-and-1, and life got even better. Seems I had 44 in the pool. The Super Bowl's never been so sweet as it was then ... John and I basking in the glow of the spotlight, counting our winnings, feeling young and in love with all things football.
Love lesson | From Melanie Jackson
Parachute pants and Izod shirts were hip. Ryan Johnston wore both. And I was fully immersed in fifth-grade infatuation.
Our teacher put together a Super Bowl pool. We got to predict the winner and score. It was Raiders vs. Redskins, and though Al Davis had already bid adieu to the Bay Area (my home at the time), Silver and Black was still my favorite color scheme.
But when the time came to write down my prediction, I faltered. Ryan had just picked the Redskins. I don't know if I was naïve enough to actually think it would make an impact on him if I liked the same team he did, but for some reason -- adolescent hormones of some sort, I'm guessing -- I was all of a sudden rooting for the Redskins.
Of course, when kickoff arrived and I was safe and sound in my own home, the Raiders -- an underdog in the game -- went back to being the true love of my life. And the game was fantastic.
The Raiders won in what was, at the time, the most lopsided victory in Super Bowl history. The 38-9 rout was Washington's worst loss in five years and prevented the Redskins from winning back-to-back NFL championships.
Marcus Allen rushed for a Super Bowl-record 191 yards on 20 carries, including a 74-yard TD run and Joe Theismann was sacked six times and threw two interceptions, including the oh-so memorable one that Jack Squirek returned 5 yards for a touchdown.
The defense held John Riggins, the previous year's Super Bowl MVP who had topped 100 yards in six consecutive postseason games, to just 64 yards on 26 carries.
I even found myself cheering Jim Plunkett -- by far not my favorite Raider quarterback.
The win was special because my favorite team added another Super Bowl to its trophy case. And because my favorite team put on such a show.
But Super Bowl XVIII also remains my favorite because it taught me, at a young age, one very memorable lesson: Never -- no matter who you're trying to impress -- abandon your team. I gotta think Ryan would have been more impressed had I stuck to my senses and won the whole damn pool … because I was naïve enough to give the Raiders a three-touchdown edge.
Cheering for the home team | From Dan Shanoff
I'm no Patriots fan, but I was in Cambridge, Mass. the night the Pats upset the Rams, and it was pure postgame bedlam in the streets -- every-car-honking, high-fiving-strangers, good-night-to-get-lucky-with-a-random-hottie bedlam.
I'm no Patriots fan, but I believe in a universal "fairweather-fan exemption" to celebrate like a local if you are in the city where a major sports championship is won.
So I did.
The Diehard | From David Schoenfield
A Super Bowl story that shows how big the Super Bowl really is:
I went to college in Montana. A friend of mine, an exchange student from Japan, was a huge Denver Broncos fan. Now, mind you, he had been in the U.S. only a couple years, so his devoted passion to the orange was still quite young. His favorite player was Sammy Winder.
The Broncos were playing the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. The Broncos had lost two of three previous Super Bowls, but my friend was sure this would finally be Denver's year.
The 49ers scored first. The Broncos kicked a field goal. And then the Niners scored again ... and again ... and again. It was 27-3 by halftime and my friend was in tears.
A Japanese college student sitting in a dorm room in Montana, crying because his team -- a team he had known nothing about three years before -- was losing the Super Bowl.
I wonder how Hisashi celebrated on Jan. 25, 1998 -- Broncos 31, Packers 24.
Fingers crossed | From Patrick Hruby
I'll be, um, "covering" the Lingere Bowl for Page 2. So with any luck, my favorite Super Bowl memory is yet to come.