Saturday, April 13, 2024

When I Was A Kid: Super Bowl appearances are memories to be cherished by fans and players alike

| February 11, 2022 7:00 AM

Another Super Bowl Sunday nears.

The NFC champs, the Los Angeles Rams, against the AFC champions, the Cincinnati Bengals. A few of the so-called experts might have picked the Rams to get there. I doubt if any thought the same of the Bengals.

I know a few serious fans of the Rams. I can’t recall knowing any serious Bengal fans. By serious, I mean a fan that watches the game alone lest others think there is something seriously wrong with them.

Here’s hoping that it is a close game that comes down to a final drive. There were some great playoff games already this year.

It’s hard to get to the Super Bowl. There are a lot of factors a team deals with in making a championship run. Some teams never get there (looking at you, Detroit, Cleveland and Houston). Some teams have been there multiple times without a win (hello Minnesota and Buffalo).

Return trips to the big game can be few and far between. I know first hand.

I go back to Jan. 17, 1971. Back to Super Bowl V. The AFC champion Baltimore Colts (Yes, Baltimore. The infamous night move to Indianapolis was still in the future) and the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys.

When I was a kid, the Super Bowl was not the big production it is now. I don’t even know if adults hosted or bars held Super Bowl parties.

My interest in football peaked in the fifth and sixth grade. The first football game I saw on our black and white television featured the Colts. I think they were playing the Los Angeles Rams. I must have liked the horseshoe on the helmet, though I’m afraid of horses. I can’t remember who won the game, but I decided then that the Colts were my team.

I just had to watch this game, the fifth Super Bowl in history. But where? Home wasn’t an option. Dad had Sundays off so he was home. He was not a sports fan. As a kid, he had other concerns such as World War II and the civil war in Greece.

My hood consisted of elderly widows and two older couples. Who was even watching the game? And who would invite me in?

Ms. Haaland was not an option. After a couple of years of throwing or kicking footballs, baseballs, baseball mitts, Frisbees, wiffle balls, wooden glider planes and parachuting soldiers onto her yard, then going around and over through the fence to retrieve them, I was not on any of her guest lists.

I wandered across the street to Mr. and Mrs. Cummings’ house. I’d shoveled their walk that winter and it seemed that they thought I was OK. Adults were different then. They never tried to be your friend. As a kid, you were a bit nervous in their company.

I stood in front of their large living room window. They noticed me. It was hard not to. After giving me the eye, they asked me in.

I began hinting about some football game being played today and wishing I could watch it. They mentioned they were getting ready to watch the Super Bowl and asked if I’d like to join them.

Yes. Mission accomplished. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Cummings.

I told them I had to go ask my dad. He OK’d the deal with the instruction to “be polite and don’t bother them.” Most likely, dad threw in a couple of other stipulations.

Seated on the floor, staring up at their 70-inch high definition plasma TV — just kidding. There was no cable, no satellite then. More likely, we watched on a 24-inch American-made, rabbit-eared antennae, black and white TV. It might have been in color — I can’t remember.

No chicken wings or fancy drinks on the menu. Just milk and cookies, which were delicious.

In a game filled with fumbles, interceptions and bad calls (no instant replay in those days), in a game where an aged legend, Johnny Unitas, got knocked out early, in a game where future Cowboy legend Roger Staubach never left the sideline, in a game where a defensive player on the losing team received the MVP trophy, the Colts prevailed on rookie kicker Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard field goal with four seconds left. Final score: Colts 16, Cowboys 13.

At game’s end, Dallas hall of fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly tossed his helmet about 30 yards. Players did not cross the field to shake hands. Both teams just walked into their locker rooms.

The Colts aged and fell on hard times. The Cowboys would win the following year’s Super Bowl, beating the Miami Dolphins with Staubach at the helm.

No matter to me in 1970. I was happy. I’m sure I bragged up the Colts the next day at school. I thanked Mr. and Mrs. Cummings and walked home, looking forward to the Colts’ next Super Bowl appearance.

It happened, it just took 34 years.