This will be the 48th Super Bowl. I’ve watched all 47 – 29 in person, 27 as a working journalist.
People often assume the NFL’s showcase game would be the ultimate assignment for a sports scribe. Not so – at least not for this one, mainly because everything about the Super Bowl is so dreadfully overblown, including the Roman numerals. So many hundreds of media are credentialed they wind up being herded like cattle. Give me a good high school game on a Mississippi Friday night.
True story: In Pasadena one year (1993), I wrote my column with broken eyeglasses and blood from my nose dripping down onto my computer. A TV cameraman, trying to exit an overcrowded Troy Aikman post-game interview, swung his camera around and nailed me right in the face. You’ve heard of playing hurt? I wrote wounded.
Now seems as good a time as any for some Super Bowl memories, but not that one. Here would be my all-time awards.
Most memorable game: Has to be the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. The Saints? Super Bowl champions? Pigs flew. Hell froze over. And those were just the headlines.
Best halftime show: Springsteen? The Stones? Prince? Michael Jackson? Not for me. Had to be the 1997 Super Bowl in New Orleans with the Blues Brothers, ZZ Top and James Brown, who sang “I feel good” and made everybody else feel great.
Best performance by a Mississippian: Either Jerry Rice in 1989 when he caught 11 passes (from Joe Montana) for 215 yards and a touchdown or Jerry Rice in 1995 when he caught 10 passes (from Steve Young) for 149 yards and three touchdowns. I’d probably go with the latter, because Rice played the game with a full-blown flu and needed IV fluids both before the game and at halftime.
Best performance in a loss: I’d go with Steve McNair in 2000 when he nearly willed the Tennessee Titans to victory only to come up inches short.
Most dominant performance: Da Bears, 1986. Chicago ransacked New England 46-10 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. I honestly thought the Bears defense might kill Pats quarterbacks Tony Eason and Steve Grogan.
Best catch: This one might surprise you and Jerry Rice. In the 1984 Super Bowl at Tampa, Ray Guy, the greatest punter in history, leaped high into the air to make a one-handed catch of a snap that would have gone out of the end zone. Guy then landed, rushed his punt and kicked it into the other end zone in the Raiders’ 38-9 victory.
Best play: Has to be Eli Manning’s remarkable scramble away from the Patriots and then his pass to David Tyree, who made a remarkable catch in the Giants upset victory in the 2008 Super Bowl. I still watch it on YouTube occasionally and am still dumbfounded.
Best audible: On the Packers’ second offensive play of the 1997 Super Bowl, Brett Favre saw a New England cornerback sneaking up to play bump-and-run coverage on Andre Rison with no help from a safety. Favre checked out of a run play and threw a perfect pass to the streaking Rison for a 54-yard touchdown. Favre then exited the field with a grin of a 5-year-old riding his bike without training wheels for the first time.
Worst pass: This would be the 1973 Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins , leading 14-0 late, were attempting to finish off a 17-0 season and had a chance to do it with a 17-0 victory over Washington. Instead, Garo Yepremian’s short field goal was blocked. Yepremian could have just fallen on the ball but instead picked it up and tried to pass it. The ball squirted out his hands, straight up into the air. Yepremian could have just batted it down, but instead he batted it up. Redskin Mike Bass snatched it out of the air and ran it for a touchdown. You can’t imagine how funny it all looked unless you saw it. Don Shula did not laugh about it – or even smile, even after his Dolphins had won 14-7.
Best quote: Asked about playing in sports’ ultimate game, Dallas Cowboys running Duane Thomas replied, “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they are playing it next year.”
Which, getting back to the way this column started, is kind of my point.
Rick Cleveland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.