What is your first vivid sports-related memory? Is it getting harder as you get older? I’m sure I asked myself that question 15 years ago, I would tell you about my first T-Ball game, or the first time I participated in a swim meet. I remember the teams that I played on, but nothing really stands out. Ya know what does? Super Bowl XXI.
I don’t recall much of that season, I remember bits and pieces, but I remember the day that I watched the New York Football Giants defeat the Denver Broncos, 39-20. I remember neighbors from down the street with their 3-year-old daughter coming over. I wore a gray Giants hoodie. My dad told us about how his father took him to the Polo Grounds for a game and they forgot where they parked the car (I have heard this story once a year since then). Neil Diamond, my mom’s favorite singer, sang the National Anthem. There was a commercial for Rocky IV, and I hated Rocky III (sorry for the Bill Simmonsesque reference).
Oh, and as for the game itself? The overhead shot of the Rose Bowl was half Giants blue, and half Broncos orange. Rich Karlis didn’t kick with a shoe, and maybe he should have, since he missed the shortest field goal ever in Super Bowl history. John Madden could not stop talking about how hard John Elway could throw the ball. He even decided to show us with the telestrator how fast Elway could rotate the ball in the spiral, causing players to have X’s on their chest. As a kid, I didn’t know that this was called exaggeration. I believed for the next 3 years that Elway imprinted his teammates. The Giants could not move the ball very much and I started to hate instant replay even though it benefited the Giants. I can totally understand why the league got rid of it for awhile. It took FOREVER. But, it overturned a completion for the Broncos, which would have resulted in a 25-yard gain, and then George Martin would sack Elway in the end zone, making it 10-9 Broncos. Denver didn’t stand a chance after that. The Giants would maul the Broncos in the 2nd half. All sparked by a fake punt that Denver was completely caught off guard. The Giants didn’t get a first down on their first 3 plays of the second half, but instead of sending out Sean Landeta with the punt team, Bill Parcells had Jeff Rutledge, the back up QB go out. The Broncos didn’t pick up until the last second, and Rutledge sneaked for the first down. The onslaught would begin. Phil Simms was near perfect, Mark Bavaro dominated Karl Mecklenberg and Tom Jackson, and Phil McConkey had that awesome reception that got the Giants down to the 1 on a flea-flicker. The Giants defense just dominated the 2nd half. Hell, even Elvis Patterson picked off Elway. It was 39-13 with a little over 2 mins left when Elway would throw a meaningless TD, but the Gatorade shower was already being planned by Harry Carson.
It was a pretty awesome day in our home. I would watch the Giants win again a few years later in Super Bowl XXV, a much more exhilarating game, and I understood the game much better at that time, in fact, I remember that entire season. I also started to learn about the lottery for season-ticket holders. See, only about 12k fans get selected by the team to purchase tickets for the Super Bowl, and we had not won, ever. Not those first two Super Bowls, and not the massacre against the Ravens, and not against the Patriots 4 years ago. I also knew in the back of my mind that even if my dad had won it, my oldest brother was going first. Seniority rules.
Well, this year, my dad finally won the lottery. He received an email from the Giants 45 minutes after the OT win in the NFC Championship games. I was super-excited for him. He was going to the Super Bowl after being a season ticket holder since 1976. But my excitement was tempered knowing that I was one spot behind getting to go. My brother was headed to Indianapolis with him. Happy for dad, and needed to resign myself to the fact that I would be watching with fellow Giants fans here in NJ.
Then I received a phone call from a friend who had an offer that was too great to let go by
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SUPER BOWL BABY!!!!!!!!