Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you John Elway hopes you roll over
and choke to death
Happy birthday to you.
TAMPA, Fla. — Here’s my point. Not everyone is crazy about the Super Bowl. Not every memory of Super Sunday is so great you want to see it over and over again, in slow motion, with music behind it. Ask Elway. He reached the Super Bowl three times in four years, and his personal highlight was hot water in the shower.
Tonight’s matchup between Buffalo and the New York Giants marks the 25th anniversary of the Big Game, which means every TV station and newspaper this side of Mozambique is running a special tribute: the “Silver Anniversary of the Super Bowl,” “A Quarter Century of Great Moments.” Now, don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of terrific memories. But personally, if I see Joe Namath walk off that field with his arm raised one more time, I’m going to throw up.
Which got me to thinking: We’ve seen the highlights, a million times. But how about an anniversary list of the Not- So-Super moments — the weird, the embarrassing, the trivial, the hysterical? I bet a friend I could come up with at least one good item per year, plus a list of crazy quotes that would certainly make Victor Kiam close the locker room. If he ever got to the Super Bowl. Which is not likely in our lifetime.
So here we go: the Not-So-Super 25. (By the way, rule No. 1 for this tribute is no Roman numerals when referring to Super Bowls. I don’t understand Roman numerals. I don’t know anyone who understands Roman numerals. The last Roman to play in the NFL was Gabriel. And I bet he couldn’t tell you which one Super Bowl XXIV was, either.) The Not-So-Super 25 * 1967. Bartender, I’ll have what he had. You thought the first Super Bowl was all power and glory? Ask Max McGee, a reserve receiver for the Green Bay Packers, who was so sure he wouldn’t play that he sneaked out the night before, had a few drinks, met a stewardess, and crawled back into his room before sunrise. During the game that afternoon, he nursed a hangover while sitting on the bench next to Paul Hornung. They were talking about a bachelor party for a teammate when Vince Lombardi, the Packers coach, screamed “McGEE!”
Max thought he was going to get chewed out for blowing curfew. Instead, Lombardi sent him in for an injured player. McGee, hangover and all, caught seven passes and scored two touchdowns as the Packers beat the Chiefs, 35-10.
All this, without aspirin.
* 1968. I can’t explain it, but I feel kinda tight. In the second Super Bowl, again won by Green Bay, Packers lineman Jerry Kramer was so excited he played the game with his shorts on backwards.
* 1969. Me? I thought you had it. After upsetting the Colts, 16-7, in the most important and most replayed game in Super Bowl history, Joe Namath and the New York Jets accidently left their championship trophy at the hotel.
* 1970. Hey, I was joking! Joe Kapp, quarterback for the Vikings, was so sure his team would beat the Chiefs in the fourth Super Bowl, that instead of splitting the money, he suggested a “winner take all” purse.
The Vikings lost, 23-7.
* 1971. Oh, yeah, how would he know? Dallas tight end Mike Ditka, who would later become coach of the Chicago Bears, had a running feud with Baltimore linebacker Mike Curtis in the 1971 Super Bowl. At one point, in the heat of battle, Ditka embarrassed Curtis with this remark: “You tackle like people make love.”
Hmmm. Time out for a few classic quotes: * Duane Thomas, Dallas running back, before the 1972 Super Bowl: “If this is the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?”
* George Allen, Washington coach, before the 1973 Super Bowl: “To win this game, I’d let you stick a knife in me and draw out all the blood.” Now, back to our anniversary list . . . * 1972. Isn’t there some hotel you have to bug? President Richard Nixon, a big football fan, thought he could contribute to a Miami victory by drawing up a secret play. He designed a down-and-in pass pattern for receiver Paul Warfield, then sent it to coach Don Shula. “I think Paul will be open,” Nixon said.
Shula, a good American, tried the play three times on Super Sunday against Dallas. It failed all three times. The Dolphins lost. Nixon resigned.
* 1973. Yes, now can I have my oxygen back, please? The most celebrated blunder in Super Bowl history came when Garo Yepremian, the diminutive Miami placekicker, took a blocked field goal attempt and tried to throw a pass. The ball floated like a punched balloon and was grabbed, mid-air, by Mike Bass of the Redskins, who returned it for a touchdown. Fortunately for Yepremian, that was the only Redskins score; Miami still won, 14-7.
The play, as you know, made Garo famous. But years later, Bass, who now owns a resort in the Caribbean, was scuba diving when a man swam past and frantically waved for him to surface. Thinking the man was in trouble, Bass followed. When they reached the top, the man pulled off his mask and blurted,
“Aren’t you the guy who caught Garo’s pass?”
Some plays are just too good to forget.
* 1974. Hut . . . hut . . . hut? Fans were impressed with Miami’s second consecutive Super Bowl win, a 24-7 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings. Still, the play of the game had to be in the second quarter, with the ball near the Minnesota goal line. Miami quarterback Bob Griese came to the line — and forgot the snap count. He blanked. Too embarrassed to call time-out, and afraid that asking his center would give it away, Griese spun around to running back Larry Csonka.
“What’s it on, Zonk?”
“Two,” said Csonka.
“No, it’s on one,” said halfback Jim Kiick.
“Two,” said Csonka.
“One,” said Kiick.
Griese went with two. It was one. He bobbled the ball, pushed it into Csonka’s chest, and Csonka scored a touchdown anyhow.
Maybe it was three.
* 1975. A bombastic, iconoclastic act of jocularity. This was the year the Pittsburgh Steelers finally won it all. And Minnesota lost again. Still, maybe the best moment came when several Vikings — fulfilling many an American dream
— stood on the balcony of a New Orleans hotel, and dumped a bucket of water on Howard Cosell’s head, soaking his hairpiece.
It is not known whether Guillermo Hernandez was in the room.
* 1976. We’ll check storage and see if we have any. During Super Bowl week between the Steelers and the Cowboys, a reporter asked running back Franco Harris what type of women he liked.
“I like 35-24-35 millionaire nymphomaniacs,” he answered.
Hmmm. Time out for a few more classic quotes: * Cincinnati linebacker Reggie Williams, after the Bengals lost to the 49ers in the 1982 Super Bowl: “We’re just like the other 27 teams in the league now. We’re losers.”
* Denver coach Dan Reeves, before his Broncos lost to San Francisco, 55-10:
“We could pull off the second greatest upset in sports here.” Now, back to our list: * 1977. No wonder he got elected. After Minnesota lost to Oakland, All-Pro lineman Alan Page accused Raiders guard Gene Upshaw of holding on every play. “He’ll go into the Hall of Fame for holding,” said Page. “If you want to get around him, you have to go all the way to East Los Angeles.”
Upshaw went on to become head of the the NFL Players Union.
* 1978. Yuck. In the fourth quarter of this Dallas-Denver showdown, fullback Robert Newhouse was called upon to throw a pass. Only his hands were coated with stickum. “I was shocked,” he recalled. “I began licking my fingers. I’d never eaten that much stickum in my life.”
He threw the pass. For a touchdown.
* 1979. And if we spot you the d-u-m? Dallas linebacker Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson made headlines by saying Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw “is so dumb, he couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a.’ “
Pittsburgh won. Bradshaw threw four touchdowns and won the MVP.
Henderson would later wind up in jail.
* 1980. Now when was the last time that happened? The Los Angeles Rams reached the Super Bowl by defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC championship game. Time out for quotes: * Patriots kicker Tony Franklin, when asked about his ultimate Super Bowl fantasy: “Three seconds to go, I kick the winning field goal, I rush into the locker room and there, waiting to greet me, is Heather Thomas in a bikini, holding a bottle of Dom Perignon.”
* Raiders defensive back Lester Hayes, on the victory in 1984: “Obi-Wan Kenobe
(from “Star Wars”) came to me in the middle of the night and said the Silver and Black would score 40 points. I said ‘Gee, Obi-Wan, that’s a lot.’ He said, ‘Think positively, my son, think positively.’ ” Now, back to our list: * 1981. Gosh, we feel safe now. Upon arriving in New Orleans for the Super Bowl against the Eagles, Raiders lineman John Matuszak announced he was in charge of curfew enforcement. “Any young players want to stray, they’ll have to go through old Tooz.”
The next night, Tooz was seen dancing in a bar at 3 a.m.
* 1982. Thanks, we’ll get off here. In their first-ever Super Bowl appearance, the San Francisco 49ers got stuck in traffic on the way to the Super Bowl in the Silverdome. Coach Bill Walsh tried to calm his players by saying, “I’m listening to the radio. We’re winning, 7-0.”
* 1983. Oh, how fun! Washington’s John Riggins, who would win the MVP award, was the life of this Super Bowl week, doing a press conference in battle fatigues, doing the owner’s party in white tie and tails, and telling a reporter that his greatest thrill prior to playing football “was watching my neighbor’s pigs being born.”
* 1984. In a minute, OK? A dedicated Raiders fan, living in Chicago, was stabbed by a friend during an argument over the game. The wounded man, bleeding on the couch, continued to watch the Super Bowl, even though his girlfriend called the police. When the paramedics came, he didn’t want to leave until the game was over.
* 1985. I can’t quite see it from here, fellas. With Super Bowl hype reaching epidemic proportions, the NFL actually had President Reagan call the coin flip via television hookup from Washington.
* 1986. Cheeky. Jim McMahon, who set a personal record for hype during Super Bowl week, actually mooned a helicopter.
* 1987. Double yuck. The New York Giants were well-known for their defensive ferocity. But Lawrence Taylor still stunned a few people when he described what he called a “Kill Shot”: “That’s when the snot comes quivering from a quarterback’s nose and he starts shaking on the ground.”
* 1988. That’s not real money you’re betting, is it? The Denver Broncos, blown out by New York the year before, were three-point favorites against the Redskins.
Washington won, 42-10.
* 1989. And for a really juicy quote, it’ll cost you 50 cents. Sam Kennedy, a little-known special teams player for the 49ers, charged reporters a quarter for every interview. He made $1.80 for the week.
* 1990. In the key of E-fat. San Francisco lineman Bubba Paris, who weighs well over 320 pounds, spotted an overweight reporter during a press conference. “Me and him are so big,” Paris said, pointing, “we could sing ‘We Are The World’ by ourselves.”
* 1991: Well, there was Downtown Julie Brown from MTV asking players about shaking their booties, and the four Giants linemen who spent $1,600 on a steak dinner Tuesday night. Then again, who knows?
We still have a few hours left. . . .