By Dr. Ken 


For many football fans, the Super Bowl is “just another game” and one that comes with the annoying hoopla that accompanies any major sporting event. From a less than auspicious beginning where the championship game between the rival American Football League and National Football League could not approach a sell out in the Los Angeles Coliseum to the up-to-$6000.00-per-ticket-on-Ebay offerings for the Ravens vs. Forty Niners contest that just concluded, the game and the event have changed drastically. It’s an “occasion” that encompasses the general public and has been incorporated into the culture so that it is now part of an international consciousness, even for non-fans. Super Bowl parties and gatherings and the unofficial “no work the next day” label are accepted as the new norm. For the true fans, for the students of the game, for those of us who played and view every game with the perspective and understanding that it truly is “about the game,” there is a certain level of annoyance and perhaps disgust when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around. Having had personal ties to one of the participating teams in the 1980’s, I attended a Super Bowl and did so while staying in the team hotel, having access to and sharing meals with the players, while watching one of my sons fulfill his “job responsibility” of shagging and chasing punts for the team punters, and having seats that placed me immediately behind the wife of the head coach on the forty-five yard line. In short, I have seen it up close and personal and admittedly, it is an exciting sporting spectacle that is fueled by energy and enthusiasm. However, for many, it’s not truly “about the game” as that aspect of what could be an entire week or weekend, has been overwhelmed by “all of the other things.” Of course and unfortunately, the 2013 version was no different.


For me, its always about the game and any game from high school level to the Super Bowl holds excitement, intrigue, and an opportunity to view it from the perspective of a former high school coach who enjoys tinkering with X’s and O’s. The games, the essence of the games more accurately, are the memorable part of the experience. In truth, the excitement level of the Super Bowl, even with a “good match up” between competing teams, is usually no more and no less than a game I might purposely pursue that involves two competitive local high school squads. This of course dictates that not only will I have no interest in the half time entertainment, but that I will have not a clue as to who is involved nor will I view it. I won’t know the primary game sponsors and I won’t recognize the many celebrities on hand to garner their own publicity and exposure. That the entire experience has become a series of tightly structured and controlled corporate events has kept me home, not only for this game following the 2012 pro season, but for a number of other Super Bowls for which I was offered tickets and lodging by coaches or players I have worked with or known. Certainly every fan should attend one Super Bowl game if possible, in order to have the experience but a fan of the game can extract as much enjoyment watching from the privacy of their home, especially with the high tech, large screen televisions now available. For me, any memories of Super Bowl games have come from the play of the participants and in giving consideration to “the most meaningful” or “most enjoyable,” I have to return not to the “best games” or even the ones in which a favorite team participated in but to the early versions of the games.


The advantage of being older and having lived through many years, is that one had the opportunity to live through an historical event or events, plural. Relative to football history, there is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment looking back and having attended New York Titans games at the Polo Grounds; a New York Giants game and a Yale game at the Yale Bowl; having sat through the howling wind and freezing temperatures of the 1962 Packers vs. Giants NFL Championship Game at Yankee Stadium; and at having the opportunity to sit by the radio and hear the play-by-play calls of the epochal Colts vs. Giants sudden death overtime classic of 1958. “I was there” adds a lot to the experience, even if “there” meant listening to the radio and not witnessing Ameche’s plunge either at the stadium or on the television screen. Thus, with that perspective, the most meaningful Super Bowl Games to me were the very first one following the 1966 season, and the game that saw Joe Namath and the N.Y. Jets overcome the bias of the sporting public when they defeated the Colts in Super Bowl III. It was less the great play, though there were great plays in the first match-up between the Chiefs and Packers, than it was the idea that the two leagues were actually meeting on the field. The surprising and outstanding performance of Max McGee, highlighted by the subsequent stories that were revealed through the years about his pre-game partying and relative lack of preparation made the game more enjoyable. Like many “old school” football players who were reared in an era where respect was given to opponents and the Cassius Clay type of bragging and taunting were only a bit less than horrifying and unthinkable, it was somewhat enjoyable watching the Chiefs Fred “The Hammer” Williamson get knocked unconscious and helped from the field. As a huge fan of Jim Taylor and the Packers Sweep, and also of Mike Garrett and the Chiefs, it was enjoyable and yes, historical being able to watch them play against each other. Because it was a game that pitted an innovative offense against a predictable but extraordinarily efficient offense, the game was enjoyable and memorable. Viewing the juxtaposition of the classic Packers helmets and uniforms and the gleaming red headgear of the Chiefs was at the same time surprising, exciting, and historical for at that time it just would not be a picture in one’s consciousness to place those two uniforms onto the same field of play.

The contest between the Colts and Jets became a stimulus for debate if only because Joe Namath was a participant. For those who were not “there” at the time, Namath was a polarizing figure, the embodiment of “cool and hip” which caused many to conveniently forget that he was a heck of a football player and perhaps one of the top running quarterbacks of all time prior to his junior year at Alabama and the terrible knee injury he incurred. In my dozen or more personal dealings with him, primarily when he was gracious enough to offer rides to Manhattan from the Jets complex at Hofstra University in Hempstead, on Long Island, where we had the opportunity to talk about numerous subjects, he could not have been nicer. Namath in fact, to what was a relative stranger whom he knew as a friend or acquaintance of some of his teammates, was absolutely one of the most considerate, self effacing, humorous, and accommodating individuals I had ever met or spent time with. Yet in 1968 he firmly represented “all that was wrong with football and sports” to many, and “the new wave of young athlete” who immersed himself in the best and worst of the social mores of the day, to others. That the Colts were considered to be, at least at that moment in time, “one of the best teams in the history of the National Football League,” one that had crushed their opponents and were clearly dominant in all phases of the game, made the eventual outcome shocking, puzzling, and unexpected. Of course, if one had taken the time to analyze both teams and their approach to the game, if one understood the pre-game confidence level of the Jets and what may have been some complacency on the part of the Colts, the conspiracy theories that followed the game would have been laughable.

The Jets were awfully good with a tremendous offensive potential, and the Colts did not have the team speed to run with them if it came down to a flat out foot race. That the Jets won and forced the general football and sporting publics to view the AFL differently of course was the primary historical focus of this one game but as a game in and of itself, it remains a favorite because it was a hard fought, “good” football contest, full of strategy. There is no doubt that some of the great Steelers teams and other teams that held personal relationships may have been “better games,” but the first and third Super Bowl games were for me, the most memorable.