SBJ/20090126/Super Bowl XLIII

Super Bowl Memories

Chris Berman
NFL anchor, broadcaster
ESPN

The first Super Bowl I ever covered was the 49ers’ first, Super Bowl XVI, in 1982. I was very close to the organization, and it was fun watching it up close because every time the 49ers went to the Super Bowl, they won.

Berman

Super Bowl XXIV against Denver in New Orleans sticks out. Joe Montana had come under a bit of scrutiny during the week for something, and he went out and just destroyed the Broncos’ defense. I’ve never seen him better, and that’s saying something because it’s Montana. There was one play just before the end of the half, a touchdown on a post to Jerry Rice, that pretty much put the game away. Montana gave a fist pump after the touchdown, and you knew they were in the driver’s seat. They went on to repeat as Super Bowl champs, and Montana became arguably the best quarterback of all time.

Five years later, the 49ers were back in the Super Bowl in Miami, and it was Steve Young’s time. Finally, they had beaten Dallas, and there was one more game to get the monkey off his back. I went to practice on Thursday, and the ball in the hour and a half never hit the ground. The 49ers were so precise. To see that translate from practice to the actual game was incredible. Steve threw for six touchdown passes, ran for 49 yards and the 49ers beat the Chargers 49-26.

Those last few Super Bowls the 49ers won, their offense was just like a race car, ready to roll and blow everybody away.

Chris Berman will be covering his 27th Super Bowl this year.

Bob Wolff
Broadcaster

Wolff

I was the lucky guy at the play-by-play mike describing the ultimate in team play when the Baltimore Colts edged the New York Giants, 23-17, in the National Football League’s first overtime championship game.

It was more than “the greatest football game ever played” because of its galvanizing effect on the NFL. Aided by the national TV and radio coverage, this 1958 thriller sold the professional game to viewers, listeners and the press as no other game had ever done. Networks and sponsors were eager to satisfy the new demand. Pro football had hit the media jackpot. … The college game had dominated the football world, but in one day, pro football leaped into the national spotlight. The title game received a more grandiose label (the Super Bowl) as it became the nation’s most-viewed individual sports event.

Just two years before the Colts-Giants championship game, Hall of Fame sportscaster Bob Wolff called Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Larry Weisman
NFL writer
USA Today

I covered my first Super Bowl 30 years ago. Ah, Miami in the winter. What a respite from the Northeastern winter. And the teams: the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII. This was the Super Bowl at which Cowboys linebacker Thomas Henderson would say that Terry Bradshaw couldn’t spell “cat” if you spotted him the “c” and the “a.” The drop in the end zone by Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith of a sure touchdown pass. Tom Landry on one sideline, Chuck Noll on the other for another Steelers victory.

But here is what I remember best: Tickets were $40. This year, they were officially priced at $1,000 for the first time. At the Orange Bowl, on game day way back when, I found my seat in the auxiliary press section and prepared to work. Took out my notebook, binoculars, flip card. When I looked up, I saw a familiar head bobbing in the row ahead of me, which was the last area of fan seating. It was one of my co-workers, who had come to Miami to see his family and went to the game on a whim.

“How did you get a ticket?”

“Scalper.”

“How much?”

“$40.”

I imagine hot dogs were probably only a dollar then.

Jim Saccomano
Vice president, public relations
Denver Broncos

The NFL has a large cadre of PR people to make the media side of it go, and I have been honored to be a part of that group for 25 years. My story is from Super Bowl XXV at Tampa in 1991.

The number of pages of print material handed out to the media is staggering. It’s basically a palette of paper consumed during the game. All week long, we kept checking with the fellow in charge of making sure the paper was delivered, and all week long we were assured it was there.

Then, early Sunday morning, our PR crew arrived. Guess what? No paper. Not one sheet. And it’s Sunday. Nobody is open. The Bucs’ PR rep took a van back to his offices and brought back all the Xerox paper from their building — nowhere near enough. He then woke up a fellow who owned a small print shop and convinced him to open up, and the van headed there.

I will never forget the sight of a cadre of big-time PR executives (us), all wearing suits, each carrying a box of Xerox paper up the stadium steps and escalators to the distribution location.

So, there are a lot of details to putting on a big event, a lot of which seem more exciting than this, but, don’t forget the paper.

Mark Murphy
President
Green Bay Packers

My fondest memory from my playing career was Super Bowl XVII at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. We had just defeated the Miami Dolphins for the Redskins’ first title since 1942. My father, Hugh, who passed away this summer, had made his way into the locker room and was able to be with me. It was a great setting. We were the world champions, and for Big Murph, as my father was affectionately known, to be there to experience and share in the exhilaration is a moment I’ll never forget.

Jimmy Smith
Group creative director
TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles

My college basketball career was in a shambles. I had been cut from Michigan State’s basketball team … again! So my NBA dream was dead. I thought, “What am I gonna do?!” Then, I was watching the Super Bowl, and this commercial for Apple ran. At that moment, I instantly knew what the next best thing to working in the NBA was gonna be. It was to work for whatever ad agency that did that dope “1984” for Apple. That Super Bowl spot launched my career and my quest.

Stephanie Druley
Senior coordinating producer
ESPN

My first Super Bowl was January 1997. I was an associate producer working on features. I was young, naïve and thought it would be fun. It was hard work then and it’s even tougher now. At that time, we just did TV: segments on “SportsCenter” and “Countdown.” Now, ESPN has TV, radio, dot-com, the magazine and other platforms offering coverage all week, 24/7.  Planning for this year started before last season even ended. It’s an incredibly demanding event and equally as rewarding when it’s all done.

Jon Higgins
Senior partner and CEO, international
Ketchum

Since I live in London and have been a lifelong Giants fan, my 11-year-old son and I stayed up until 4:30 a.m. watching every blessed play in last year’s Super Bowl on Sky Sports. It remains the most exciting sporting contest I have ever seen, including the Giants’ first Super Bowl win, which I witnessed in person at the Rose Bowl.

Trey Wingo
“NFL Live” host
ESPN

The whole thing about getting postgame interviews at the Super Bowl is they herd you down somewhere in the building well before the game is over. Halfway through the fourth quarter last year in Arizona, we left the trailer behind the stadium. I was in a holding pen with hundreds of media waiting to be released onto the field.

I had to know what was going on, so I called Mark Schlereth, who was home watching. He gave me the play-by-play as the Patriots marched down the field and scored the touchdown to take the lead.

The reception was cutting in and out, and I could peer my head around and kind of see what was happening on the field. I knew the Giants’ drive came down to a crucial play, and then they scored, and the Patriots ran out the clock.

I could see Plaxico [Burress] made the catch for the touchdown, but I couldn’t figure out who made that catch to keep the drive alive. As soon as we got onto the field, I went straight to Plaxico and got the first interview with him, thinking, “This is great. I’ve got the one-on-one with the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown.”

Five minutes later, we’re walking around, and about 10 people are surrounding David Tyree, the team’s fourth wide receiver. I’m getting all these other people — Justin Tuck, Antonio Pierce, Michael Strahan. Finally, I go back behind the Giants’ locker room later and I get Archie Manning. It’s not until I talked to him that I finally learned Tyree made the big catch to keep the drive alive. Had I known that, I would have gone to him first, but that’s what it’s like trying to cover the Super Bowl in a game like that.

Gary Belsky
Editor-in-chief
ESPN The Magazine

One of the best things about covering the Super Bowl is the media buffet, and not because of the food. This is the cavernous room where you routinely get a chance to meet your much-admired peers: famous writers, legendary reporters, producers you’ve long respected and on-air talent you grew up watching. And sometimes, the dad of your favorite player, who’s also a pretty accomplished journalist himself.

This happened to me at the second Super Bowl I attended, Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, Jacksonville. I had just finished loading up my breakfast plate when I spotted Larry Fitzgerald Sr. Fans in the Twin Cities knew him as a veteran writer, producer, talk-show host and commentator, most notably as sports editor and columnist for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

I knew him that way too, but mostly I thought of him as the dad of my favorite wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald Jr., who was drafted the prior spring by my favorite football team, thus offering a beleaguered Cardinals fan some hope for the future.

Turning 15 again, I reacted to seeing Fitzgerald by losing any sense of professional cool. I immediately sat down next to the man and spent the next 20 minutes peppering him with a mixture of questions, mostly about his son (Was he always so sure-handed? How did you raise him to be such a good kid?), but also about his journalist career (Do you prefer print, radio or TV? What’s it like working for one of the oldest African-American newspapers in the country?) and even about breakfast (How ’bout them scrambled eggs? Will you please pass the pepper?).

Fitzgerald answered all my questions. All in all, he was gracious, although at some point he said something about needing a bagel and left the table. Every time I saw him for the rest of the weekend, he turned the other way. Can’t say I blame him.

George Martin
Vice president
AXA Sports Financial Services

My biggest memory would have to be our [New York Giants] Super Bowl and the safety against the Denver Broncos and John Elway back in 1987. That is something that will always be a sense of pride for me and a great accomplishment — to have done that on the world’s greatest stage.

George Martin was a defensive tackle for the New York Giants (1975-88). Last fall, he walked across the United States to raise awareness and funds for 9/11 first responders.

Marv Albert
Broadcaster
TNT, Westwood One Radio

Albert

As a fan, it would have to be the Jets beating the Colts in 1969. I remember watching the game on NBC. It wasn’t what you could call a great game, but the magnitude of the win was enormous, Joe Namath and his guarantee of victory, particularly in a Giants-geared city. … The game was so significant in leading to the merger.

From a broadcast point of view, there are two memories. The most exciting play to call was in 2007, when Devin Hester of the Bears returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. It was a stunner, and on a rain-soaked field in Miami. It was a perfect way to start the game. It gets you ready for the rest of the game.

The other game was last year, when the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. Put that right alongside the Jets in ’69 in terms of upsets.

Marv Albert will be calling his seventh Super Bowl this year for Westwood One Radio.

Arlen Kantarian
Former CEO of professional tennis
U.S. Tennis Association

Kantarian

Cowboys-Bills at the Rose Bowl in 1993: I was producing the halftime show, and Garth Brooks was set to sing the anthem. He threatened to walk out 20 minutes before the start of the anthem because the network didn’t play his video during pregame as promised. The NFL was left without an anthem singer and asked us to find a celebrity in the stadium who would be willing to sing on 10 minutes notice.

We found Jon Bon Jovi, who was willing to do it. He came down from his suite, practiced in the tunnel, and at the last minute Garth Brooks showed up, realizing he could not possibly walk out on the national anthem with an audience of over a billion people. Bon Jovi was promised the anthem for the following Super Bowl.

Clifton Brown
NFL writer
The Sporting News

After last year’s Super Bowl, I was rushing back from the Giants’ locker room to write a magazine feature on Eli Manning. I passed a man in the hallway who looked familiar, but I was in such a hurry to make deadline, I kept right on walking. I took about 10 more steps before I realized who it was: Archie Manning, Eli’s father. I did a U-turn, caught up with him, and asked him some questions about watching another son win a Super Bowl. He could not have been nicer. I walked away thinking, “Man, is that guy lucky.”

Later, I started thinking, “I just watched a great Super Bowl in person for free, I got paid to do it and I accidentally bumped into a source who helped my story.” Sometimes, when I get stressed about the job, I think about that moment, and it brings a smile to my face.

Warren Sapp
Analyst
NFL Network, Showtime

My Super Bowl anecdote was trying to figure out a way to get 50 tickets. I am in California and my whole family is in Florida, and I am trying to figure out how to get them all tickets. That was the hardest thing. I have pictures from Sports Illustrated where I am sitting there counting them out, trying to make sure I had them all. I counted them every day to make sure my mama’s ticket was good, my sister’s ticket was good. It was the wildest thing ever, and I didn’t get them all until the last day. The game was the easiest thing. Those 50 tickets were a nightmare.

Harvey Schiller
President
International Baseball Federation

Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego produced my best personal memory. I was with Sid Luckman and Al Davis, both hall of famers and fellow Erasmus Hall High School graduates. Al was my freshman football coach at The Citadel and, of course, famous for recruiting Paul Maguire, my roommate to Charleston.

Leonard Armato
CEO
AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour

Armato

My favorite Super Bowl memory was the San Francisco 49ers miracle team of 1982 winning it all after finishing near the bottom the year before. Joe Montana and Dwight Clark led the offense, and Ronnie Lott, who was my first sports client when I was an agent, was the defensive star in his rookie season.

Evan Kamer
Executive vice president
Fantasy Sports Ventures

Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 was only the second time the NFL allowed real-time fan votes to influence the MVP winner. There was a very short window when fans were able to cast their votes on NFL.com or via mobile phone. The game came down to a last-second, game-winning kick by Adam Vinatieri. Votes had to be tallied quickly, and the MVP (Tom Brady) needed to be announced within minutes. But the effort was nothing compared with what Jim Steeg and the NFL events group were able to pull off that year, having to move the game back one week because of the 9/11 attacks, which happened only four months prior.

While the game was one of the most thrilling and one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, the most memorable moment was the moving, uplifting and respectful halftime performance U2 gave, as names of all the 9/11 victims scrolled up a screen behind Bono as he sang “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Evan Kamer was senior director of business development for NFL Digital Media at the time of Super Bowl XXXVI.

Joe Favorito
Strategic communications and brand consultant, former head of communications for the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and USTA

I have three Super Bowl memories, more for the locale from where I witnessed them.

The first was seeing Kevin Dyson stopped at the end of Super Bowl XXXIV. I watched on a 12-inch screen in an empty bar at the Johannesburg airport on the way to Davis Cup in Zimbabwe.

The second was seeing Denver defeat Green Bay in the early-morning hours amongst a half-dozen cheeseheads at the Melbourne Casino during the Australian Open.

The third was watching the Cowboys beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XII from the emergency room of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, where I had gone to get my hand X-rayed after chipping a bone in my thumb during a pre-Super Bowl touch football game in front of my grandparents’ house.

Trent Dilfer
NFL analyst
ESPN

The biggest challenge was the emotions: going back to the stadium where I had played so long and now [was] in Super Bowl XXXV, the biggest game of my life. Everything I did that week was to mentally and emotionally prepare myself to not get caught up in the moment when I walked onto the field. I soaked in the environment and the grandeur of the Super Bowl, but was calm and as flat-lined as I had ever been before a game.

When the game kicked off, I didn’t have enough emotion to play the game or any rhythm, and I played poorly. Our fullback, Sam Gash, came over to me in the huddle when we were in a TV timeout. He grabbed me by the chest-plate of my pads, shook me and said, “You need to get your emotions up. You are the emotional leader of this team.”

Boy, did it wake me up. A few plays later, I threw a touchdown pass to Brandon Stokely, and the rest of the way, I played my game, and we won.

Trent Dilfer led the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl XXXV title in Tampa in 2001, the year after he left the Buccaneers, for whom he played his first six NFL seasons.

Jay Harris
“SportsCenter” anchor
ESPN

I was working in Pittsburgh doing national radio news when the Cowboys met the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. A buddy of mine and I wore our Cowboys jerseys to the Black and Gold party at work that Friday before the game. We were booed and joked [at] mercilessly. You may remember the Cowboys won the game. My buddy and I wore our jerseys to work that Monday … grinning. People didn’t talk to us for a long time.

Mike Greenberg
Show host
ESPN Radio

They say you never forget your first, and I certainly never will. My first Super Bowl: 1993 in the Rose Bowl, watching the sun set in the distance as Garth Brooks sang the national anthem and the military planes flew overhead in formation. Then, the Cowboys shellacked the Bills 52-17. I have had the privilege of covering 12 Super Bowls since.

Scott Van Pelt 
Anchor, show host
ESPN TV and radio

As a fan, the moment that stands out is John Riggins’ run on fourth down against the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII in 1983. As a Redskins fan, I was fortunate enough to see them win three Super Bowls. But the first time your team wins, it is unlike any other because you wonder if it’s even possible. Also, as a teenager, I suppose I was far less cynical about all of it.

Dennis Dillon
Staff writer
The Sporting News

The first Super Bowl I covered was XV, in 1981, between the Raiders and Eagles in New Orleans. I was a beat writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and had to write two pieces: a “running” story during the game and a feature on Raiders linebacker Rod Martin, who had three interceptions, after the game.

When they passed out sack lunches at halftime, I was busy writing. I put it under my seat, thinking I would eat it after I was finished working. When I returned to my hotel room that night, I was famished. I couldn’t wait to bite into my sandwich. Imagine my surprise when I opened my sack lunch: My Globe-Democrat colleague columnist Bob Burnes had inadvertently put the unsmoked half of his cigar in my bag.

The Sporting News is owned by American City Business Journals, parent company of SportsBusiness Journal.

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