Willard Scott, naked people, Paul McCartney, The Weather Channel, an obscure long-snapper, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and all-night typing.
You have your Super Bowl memories.
I have mine.
I went to six Super Bowls, enough to have nice memories and to remind me that the circus can get old.
These VI days, I’ll recall each of them:
Super Bowl XXX, Miami, 1999:
I got to cover my Super Bowl through that time-honored tactic many a sportswriter has employed to get a plum assignment.
I got my sports editor drunk.
Or, at least, after my sports editor had poured a couple of beers down his gizzard.
It was my first year at The Huntsville Times, and I’d been covering the Titans’ home games. Hanging out in the courtyard at Humphrey’s one night, I asked if we’d ever covered a Super Bowl, and was told we hadn’t done so for a while.
My pitch: It’s in Miami, it’s a cheap flight if we buy a ticket now, we could see if we got our money’s worth out of it, and if we didn’t, well, we tried and we don’t have to do it again.
And, um, bartender, another beer for my friend here…
We made all the arrangements, then had the happy surprise that the Atlanta Falcons, a regional team, made it to the Super Bowl. We even had a local player, Adam Schreiber from Butler High, who was the Falcons’ long-snapper.
I got Schreiber on the phone a few days after the Falcons beat Minnesota in the NFL championship game. What I figured for a 15-minute interview turned into an hour-long talk.
“I’m an offensive lineman,” he said. “Nobody’s wanted to interview me for 13 years. I’ve had a lot of stuff stored up.”
He later gave me a fun story about Morten Andersen, the Falcons’ kicker, who kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Vikings.
“Morten Andersen’s from Denmark. We get in the huddle, we address the ball and Denny Green, the Vikings’ head coach, decided to ice Morten,” Schreiber said. “We come back in the huddle and Morten’s laughing. I mean, this is the biggest kick. What in the world is he laughing about. He goes, ‘They’re icing me. I’m from Denmark. I don’t get cold.’”
Schreiber was so good in our first interview, I brought up the idea about him doing an as-told-to inside look every day of Super Bowl week. I’d get with him, turn on the tape recorder, let him talk and I’d make it his “Super Bowl diary.” He agreed, and it was terrific. I always maintained the best interviews in sports were offensive linemen, and he continued to prove it. (We kept that tradition going with Joey Kent of the Titans and Howard Cross of the Giants the next two years.)
I had to go back and look up some of this stuff: Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder were the halftime performers. Cher did the national anthem. It turned out to be John Elway’s last game. They brought out players from the ballyhooed “NFL’s greatest game ever played,” the Colts’ overtime win over the Giants from 40 seasons earlier. (One of those honored was Art Donovan, who may have been my all-time favorite Quarterback Club speaker/interview ever. He came to Anniston one night, and he asked for a nominal speakers’ fee — and a 12-pack of Schlitz. Nowhere to be found in Calhoun County, a QB Club member had to drive to Birmingham to buy the Schlitz.)
The Falcons lost to the Broncos, and after the coaches’ press conferences, I caught Schreiber in the locker room. He was dead-tired. The Falcons’ No. 1 center was hurt in the first quarter, and Schreiber had to play much of the game.
We were an afternoon paper, so I didn’t have a deadline until 6 or so the next morning. While most of the writers were toiling away in the press box, I caught the media shuttle bus, rode back to my hotel in downtown Miami and sat up all night typing, with just an hour to spare before I had to grab a cab to the airport.
I think I wrote a game story, column, sidebar and Schreiber’s story. Trying to make sure the paper got its money’s worth. I wanted to make sure the first Super Bowl I covered wouldn’t be the last.
Never would I have thought I’d be back in the same stadium in 335 days, watching Alabama play Michigan in the Orange Bowl. Alabama lost in overtime, with some unknown kid named Brady passing for four touchdowns. I need to Google and see what ever happened to him.