PASADENA, Calif. — Just before this Super Bowl began, Garth Brooks, the country singer, and Marlee Matlin, the actress, emerged from a large wooden box to perform the national anthem. And when it was finished, they waved good- bye, and crawled back into the box.

My only question is why the Buffalo Bills didn’t go with them.

While they had a chance.

Really, guys. If you’re so intent on self-torture, why not listen to talk radio for a month? Or do your taxes by yourself? Why keep taking the pie in the face, Super Bowl after Super Bowl, in front of millions of people? Is it an exhibitionist thing?

Whatever. That’s it. You are locked out. No more Super Bowls. The doors have been barred. Your credentials have been lifted. Three tries is enough. Now all Sundays in January are officially off-limits. This, Bills, is for your own good. We don’t want you walking the streets one day in tattered clothes, drooling and mumbling, “Aikman . . . Smith . . . kill . . . kill . .
. “

How bad a loss was Super Bowl XXVII? Well — oops, Dallas just scored another touchdown — it was really — look out, Dallas scored again — one of the worst — uh-oh, Dallas in for another — losses in Super Bowl history. What was the score? 52-17? The Dallas defense scored as many touchdowns as the Buffalo offense. They were running out of footballs for souvenirs. By the end, the Cowboys were playing guys that even the Dallas Morning News hadn’t profiled.

Nine turnovers? The Bills committed nine turnovers? Five fumbles and four interceptions? Hey. Guys. I know Buffalo is called “The City Of Good Neighbors.” That doesn’t mean you give away all your furniture, does it?

“I can’t put my finger on it,” said bewildered coach Marv Levy, whose team has lost three Super Bowls in a row, each one worse than the last. “I felt our preparation was good, our intention was good, our motivation was good.”

Right. Just your game stunk.

Didn’t they learn anything?

Wait, Buffalo. Here’s some good news: Thurman Thomas remembered his helmet. Here’s the bad news: He forgot the football. Thomas’ fumble late in the second quarter — which was quickly turned into yet another Dallas touchdown, which one, I lost count — was typical of the complete collapse of the Buffalo “stars.” For their third try at this thing, they sure didn’t seem to learn from past mistakes.

For example:

Jim Kelly, star quarterback, lasted less than a half before leaving with an injury. In that time, he managed to almost single-handedly bury his team. First he threw an awful interception. Then he was sacked, and fumbled into the arms of Cowboy Jimmie Jones, who stepped in for a Dallas touchdown. Then, on the next series, he threw another interception on fourth-and-goal, to smother the Bills’ best chance at tying the game.

I don’t mean to be blunt here, but the brightest moment for Buffalo was when Kelly went down with a knee injury. You could almost hear Bills fans going, “Well, at least now we have a chance.”

But don’t blame Kelly alone. Thomas was not much better. The man who is fond of saying how unappreciated he is, on Sunday gained — are you ready? — 19 yards on 11 carries. Combine that with his last Super Bowl (13 yards on 10 carries) and Thomas, on Super Sunday, is averaging fewer yards per carry than the hot dog guy.

And then there’s Bruce Smith.

Where’s Bruce Smith?

Did he even play Sunday?

So much for impact.

And so much for the Bills. Bye-bye, fellas. We haven’t had this much fun since Denver. Now get out. And stay out. And make room for . . .

Two-way terrors

The Dallas Cowboys. Guess who’s back, folks? You could almost hear the cash registers ringing with America’s Team merchandise as the ‘Boys racked up one touchdown after another. The youngest team in the NFL did virtually everything right except win the coin toss — coach Jimmy Johnson is working on that this morning — and it is hard to think of next year and not envision these guys right back in the championship. The Cowboys were so good, they played for both teams. Having done what they needed to do to win, they then did what Buffalo needed to do: namely, pressure the quarterback. Hound the receivers. Stuff the running back.

And score, score, score.

“Everyone played outstanding” said Troy Aikman, the quarterback who played better than outstanding. He won the MVP award with four touchdowns and only eight incompletions all afternoon.

But that’s mostly because you have to pick a winner for those things. The candidates were endless. Running back Emmitt Smith had 108 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Michael Irvin caught two touchdowns in 18 seconds, which is fast, even for a guy who has a picture that says “C ‘Ya” in his locker.

“They talk about us coming back next year?” Irvin yelled. “That’s fine! But tell you the truth, if it all ended today, I’d be a happy man!”

Same goes for the Dallas defense. What a game! They forced fumbles, then picked them up. They pressured passes, then picked them off. The most symbolic play came early in the second quarter, when Buffalo’s Kenneth Davis took a third-and- goal handoff, saw the end zone, and then — pow! Suddenly, all he could see was the grunting face of Ken Norton Jr., who wrapped him up and closed him out. The game was pretty much over then.

“People should know there’s a NEW WORLD CHAMPION!” Norton yelled after the game, sounding more like one of his father’s boxing peers than a football player. “There’s a NEW WORLD CHAMPION!”

Well. All right. We can live with that. As long as there’s no old challenger. Congratulations to the Cowboys, who are so young and fresh-scrubbed, I’m not sure if they were celebrating a Super Bowl or a bar mitzvah.

They’ll be back. They’ll be welcome.

As for Buffalo? Sorry, fellows. We enjoyed your three attempts, even if your combined Super Bowl score is now: Opponents 109, Bills 60. But that’s it. Enough is enough. If you show up next year, we have no choice but to put you in Garth Brooks’ box.

We do have a nice parting gift for you, however. As you know, Michael Jackson’s halftime program this year was “Heal the World.”

He is now working on a sequel, “Heal the Bills.”

Donations are being accepted.

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