by | Jan 29, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

NEW ORLEANS — Jerry Rice held the football high, pulled a fist and spun toward his grinning teammates. Joe Montana slapped him on the helmet and Roger Craig gave him a bear hug. They had it! Another Super Bowl! All that remained was to run out the clock, which read 10:08.

In the first quarter.

Good-bye, competition. This was so lopsided, I’m surprised the stadium didn’t tip over. It was the Philistines against the Boy Scouts, Popeye beating up on Sweet Pea. It was like watching a 49ers practice. No. Check that. I think the 49ers practices are harder than this. Tell me. Was this Super Bowl ever supposed to be a game, or were we just here to sell Diet Coke? That’s not a score. 55-10? That’s a championship? The Bud Bowl was closer.

And to think, people said the Denver Broncos weren’t good enough to beat San Francisco. What a foolish statement. They weren’t good enough to beat Ferris State. Obviously, after losing the 1987 Super Bowl by 19 points, and the 1988 version by 32 points, the Broncos got together and said “Come on, guys! We can do better than that,” And they did. Sunday, they lost by 45.

Let’s tally up this Super Bowl XXIV, shall we? On the 49ers’ side we had: points (the most ever in a Super Bowl), yardage, first downs, third downs, tackles, interceptions, and time of possession. And on the Broncos’ side we had: the coin flip.

So much for statistics. Before the first bowl of pretzels was gone, the only competition left in this Super Bowl was the jockeying for Most Valuable Player. There were the usual suspects: Montana, the terrifyingly accurate quarterback; Rice, so superior to other NFL receivers that he seems to only bother with long touchdowns these days; Craig, high-stepping and body-slamming his way for yards and yards.

Montana, who threw five touchdowns, got it, becoming the first-ever three-time MVP winner. No argument there. And no argument for this one — Most Overwhelmed Player: John Elway. Was he bad? Well. I don’t know. He completed some nice passes. Mostly to the 49ers, unfortunately.

Poor John. This wasn’t his worst nightmare. This was his worst nightmare times 100. He must have wished he had a big orange sheet to hide under. His rifle arm was suddenly wet gunowder. His poise was left somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. When the Broncos needed his leadership most — on the first offensive plays of each half — he threw two incompletions and an interception, respectively. All afternoon his passes hit the turf, went over the heads. He fumbled near his goal line. He was sacked repeatedly.

Listen. I’m sure life has its checks and balances. But in his three Super Bowls, Elway is now trailing, 136-20.

That’s a lot of catching up. Fourth in eight years Now, let’s remember, Broncos. It is a great accomplishment just to make a Super Bowl, right? Right? Hello? Well. Never mind. It takes a while for that shell shock to pass.

Let us focus, instead, on the 49ers, who are going to have to form their own league pretty soon, because nobody wants to play them. Can you believe these guys? They actually made sports writers look clever. We predicted a blowout. They delivered. This was their fourth Super Bowl win in eight years, and the most amazing thing is, only a handful of players remain from the first squad. Take your hat off to a remarkable system, an owner who isn’t afraid to spend money, and an eye for talent by coaches and scouts that constructed a starting offense and defense Sunday with only three first-round picks.

What’s that? A synopsis of the game?

OK. Here we go: Denver took the opening kickoff, then quickly left the stage the way a piano tuner might have left when Mr. Horowitz said, “I’m ready to play.”

Out came the Maestros, a.k.a. Killer Joe and his Band Of Renown. Figuring that their first drive was important, because it was the only one the TV audience would watch before becoming totally bored and switching to the
“Wonderful World Of Disney,” the 49ers did all the right things. Short passes. Quick runs. Montana found Rice over the middle, Rice bounced off perhaps Denver’s best tackler, Steve Atwater, and loped into the end zone.

From then on, even though the game had just started, it was like the end of a play, where everybody gets to take a bow. Here was Brent Jones, a youthful tight end who says, “I idolized Joe Montana and the 49ers growing up,” now catching a touchdown pass from Joe to close the first quarter. Here was Craig and Tom Rathman, the old Nebraska connection, carrying the ball on 13 of 14 plays during the Niners’ third touchdown drive. Here was Rice, waiting for his moment like a master thespian, streaking down the middle in the final minute of the second half, pulling in the Montana pass and dashing to the end zone untouched for touchdown No. 4.

And what about Montana? What more can be said? He surveyed the field Sunday like a cowboy surveys the prairie. I swear he’s up there on his horse, chewing on a weed, saying to himself, “Welp, I could go there, throw it to him. Then again, I could go there, and throw it to him.” Inevitably, he picks the right target. And those who criticize his short passing game got a healthy

lesson in football priorities. What good is a howitzer arm — like John Elway’s — if the defense is all over you?

Last year, after the 49ers beat Cincinnati to win Super Bowl XXIII, Montana was the first to say to his team: “Let’s repeat.”

On Sunday, the new word was “Three-peat.”

They were saying it at halftime. Bring on Charlie Brown Good-bye, competition. What San Fran did to Denver, you wouldn’t do to an ant. Hey, Commissioner Tagliabue. Take a hint. Maybe the NFL should realign the conferences. This was the sixth straight Super Bowl win for the NFC, and five of those were blowouts.

It can’t be good for the game. Was anybody watching at the end? Even the Denver fans were calling for the Broncos’ most effective play: “AIRPORT! GO TO THE AIRPORT!”

It would have been comical had it not been so sad. There’s not a lot of fun in games like this. And the buildup that accompanies it only makes it seem more foolish. Either spot the AFC team four touchdowns, or make a no-repeat law. That may be the only way to stop San Fran, who, remember, was winning this thing with a rookie coach, George Seifert.

Good-bye, competition. The halftime featured a salute to the Peanuts cartoon gang. How fitting. The Broncos must have felt like Charlie Brown when he goes running toward that football, only to have it yanked away by Lucy at the last minute. Hey! Where did the game go?

That’s what we’d like to know.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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