SUPER SUNDAY

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 | Uncategorized

As I begin to write this (UPDATE: And that’s how long this post has been percolating), the championship game of this country’s National Football League, colloquially known on this side of the Atlantic Ocean as the Super Bowl, is underway.  The Baltimore Ravens lead the San Francisco 49ers 21-6 at halftime.

Does anybody happen to know won that thing?  No?  Okay, whatever.

Anyhoo.

Let’s clear up something right now.  For the most part, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas, American holidays or other big public occasions exist for two reasons and only two.  To give the American people the opportunity to eat too much and drink WAY more than that.

Do you think that Americans, of Irish extraction or otherwise, actually care about honoring either St. Patrick or the considerable Irish influence on this country?  Near as I can figure, most St. Louis “Irish” are Germans.  And do you honestly believe that American bars and taverns run specials on Cinco De Mayo to honor the equally-significant contributions Mexicans made to the American national character?

Because if you believe either of those things, I’ve got five words for you.

Wake the effing hell up.

And that’s the way most Super Bowls were, are and always will be with me.

Except one.  A game that I consider to be the single most important event in my life.  And if I died right now, I’d die a giddily happy man because of it.

Super Bowl XXXIV.  Sunday, January 30, 2000.  Atlanta, Georgia.  The Tennessee Titans versus the St. Louis Rams.

When I was growing up,  I didn’t much like my father.  There, I said it.  He wasn’t abusive by any stretch and we had lots of warm moments but I never had the anywhere near the same close relationship with my dad that my friends had with theirs and I resented the hell out of that fact.

My dad was ex-military.  He was thorough and he was detail-oriented and I wasn’t either one of those things so we’d end up yelling at each other as often as not.  Or I’d leave the room as soon as he entered it because I just didn’t want to take the chance that he’d scream at me.

Pop and I didn’t have much in common.  But we did have the St. Louis Football Cardinals.

The St. Louis Football Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals who are actually older, name-wise, than their celebrated baseball counterparts) moved to St. Louis from Chicago in 1960 for one reason.

To wait for the Windy City to get over its ridicuous infatutation with that stupid Decatur Staleys team that set up shop there in 1921 (don’t get comfortable, Phoenix.  If something should ever happen to the Staleys Bears, your boys are back in Illinois the next day).

So the Football Cardinals didn’t put a whole lot of effort into making the team better.  They got lucky now and then (Jim Hart, Dan Dierdorf, Tom Banks, Conrad Dobler, Roger Wehrli, Mel Gray, etc).

Three playoff appearances in 28 years, none of them at home and all three of them first-round blowouts.  Then the Cardinals wanted a new stadium, didn’t get one and left for Arizona.

I didn’t much care anymore.  At that point, as far as I was concerned, having no NFL team at all would have been better than having the Cardinals.

Because our “Super Bowl” was Draft Day.  You literally couldn’t get through to radio stations,  TV stations, sports lines or anything that might provide  football draft information.  Everybody in this town had exactly the same question.

How bad are they going to screw it up this year?

To the end of my life, I will never forget the deer-in-the-headlights look that I got back from my deaf but athletically-intense friend Jim when I told him that the Cardinals first-round draft pick was injury-prone Colorado State quarterback Kelly Stouffer (who never played a moment in the STL).

If they no longer gave a crap, why should I?  I think my favorite team became the Green Bay Packers at that point.

My dad still liked them though.  He watched them every week he could.

Then this town built a new football stadium and in moved the Los Angeles Rams.   As St. Louis professional footbal teams routinely did, they basically sucked until 1999.

Then Coach Dick Vermeil brings in Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz.  In the preseason, Rodney Harrison, then of the San Diego Chargers, blows out the knee of local favorite quarterback Trent Green (“Vianney High may call you”), paving the way for some Iowan named Kurt Warner.

And my Rams started winning.  And winning.  And winning.  And winning.

We actually got to host two playoff games.  We won both of them and ended up in the Super Bowl against the Titans.

A professional football team from St. Louis freaking MISSOURI was going to play for the American professional football championship of the ENTIRE EFFING WORLD!!

Since he and I had that history, since my mom had died eight years before and since I understand loneliness better than anybody reading this ever will, a church Super Bowl party was out of the question.  I had to watch that game with my dad, there was no other option.

Granted, the game had its moments.  Like the second play from the last one when Steve McNair somehow got out from under a third of a ton of Rams, completed a pass to Kevin Dyson and set the Titans up to tie the Super Bowl (give me the power and McNair goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for that play alone).

Then there was the play we call The Tackle around here.  And it was done.  The Rams had more more points on their side of the scoreboard than Tennessee did.   The champions of the American professional football world resided in St. Louis, Missouri.

My dad and I had seen it.

And neither one of us had any conception what to do next.

A few weeks before, a female former teaching associate of my mom’s had given me a bottle of cheap sparkling wine as a Christmas gift (A signal?  I don’t know; if I was any good at reading feminine signals, I’d probably be married by now).

My dad suggested that we split it so we did.  He went to bed not too long after that and I followed him two hours or so later.  And that was that.  The old man died a year and half, give or take, after that game.

Chicago Cubs fan?  That is what it’s going to be like when the Baby Bears win the World Series that they haven’t won in over a century (and which they will, sooner than you think).  The bandwagon jumpers will be drunk off their asses.

But while you, serious Cub fan that you are, may be drinking something alcoholic, you will be totally, completely and utterly silent.  You will stare into space and think about guys like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins or Ryne Sandberg.

And you’ll smile when you do.   Actually, you’ll probably laugh out loud with a laugh that’s more joyous than any that you’ve ever known,

Trust me.

29 Comments to SUPER SUNDAY

Daniel Muller
February 5, 2013

Do you think that Americans, of Irish extraction or otherwise, actually care about honoring either St. Patrick or the considerable Irish influence on this country?

I know that this is highly tangential to your point, but I would love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, I live a block from the biggest green-puking Saturday parade and metal concert in the area, so I make it a point to be out of town, or at least out of the neighborhood, if at all possible.

One-eighth Irish … just enough to be judged by St. Patrick, I always say.
;-)

Bill Cavanaugh
February 5, 2013

Chris–Thanks for sharing your great story. Growing up in Philadelphia, I have had my heart broken numerous time by my beloved Eagles. But like you, I too have had some moments of sheer bliss–usually when they beat the hated Cowboys. I have on my phone Wilbert Montgomery going off tackle for 42 yards in 1981. Now that I am living in Dallas of all places, few share my passion–but hard as I’ve tried, I just cannot feel anything but nausea when I see that star!!

Steve L.
February 5, 2013

You will stare into space and think about guys like Ernie Banks..
As a kid growing up in 50′s Montreal all we had was Rocket Richard and Canadian 4 down football. But I had relates in Rockford and my Italian uncle would take me to Cubs games.

Some old black guy comes out of the dugout. pinch hitting for … number 18, Ernie Banks.

And someone out on West Addison got a new windshield.

Les Expo and the Jays are not the same as day games at Wrigley.

Steve L.
February 5, 2013

Opps! make that Waveland or Sheffield. A nasty foul would end up on Addison.

Timothy Fountain
February 5, 2013

As an L.A. native, I shared your joy. The Rams were the team of my childhood, and I was so glad to see them win, even as expats.

Ed the Roman
February 5, 2013

Hail to the Redskins.

Whitestone
February 5, 2013

My all time favorite sports thrills are:
Georgia Bulldogs (Alma Mater) – Herschell Walker
UFL – Tim Tebow
Love those Heisman winners.

Your post today and the one about Stan the Man are so good. I get as much enjoyment out of reading your posts as being present at a Super Bowl. Christopher Johnson, You should be published. You should have a nationally syndicated column. Too bad printed newspapers are not doing well these days.

Suburbanbanshee
February 5, 2013

Dude. Have you ever read about Irish patterans (patron saint feasts) back in the day?

The Irish were perfectly capable of staying up all night praying and pilgrimaging barefoot on rocks, kneeling at stations saying countless prayers, fasting even from water, and going to Mass piously and secretly in time of persecution for the honor of the saint…

… and then running around town to all the patteran fair booths, getting drunker than Regency English lords, eating as many treats as they could afford, dancing and playing music and singing, meeting girls and guys, running off to somewhere secluded for nookie with girls and guys the family doesn’t want them to meet, and getting into huge brawls and riots.

Probably a lot of those people weren’t the same people doing the religious thing; probably a lot of them were. You didn’t get much time off in the old days in Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day in the US is an authentic descendant of Irish patteran festivals. Maybe not the way anybody planned it, but it is.

Bill2
February 5, 2013

At the risk of being banned, the best night of pure, not wife or children related, elation was 1987 when a Minnesota team finally won “the big one” in the modern sports era after losses in a couple of Super Bowls, Stanley Cup finals, and a World Series and the Twins took out the Cardinals in seven. (Cut me some slack dude. You guys have enough Series titles. Throw a guy a bone.)

When it’s been since the mid-50s since one of your major teams ever won anything significant, you do think back to your parents and grandparents who sat with you in front of the TV or went to games with, and all those big moments going unfulfilled. Learning that it’s just a game and you wake up the next day and your life isn’t worse for the loss is a good thing. But sharing those types of communal outpourings of joy is pretty cool.

Christopher Johnson
February 5, 2013

Wouldn’t think of begrudging you that one, Bill2. You guys had the better team.

Dale Matson
February 5, 2013

CJ,
Conrad Dobler? Are you serious? He was the dirtiest player in football.

Christopher Johnson
February 5, 2013

Maybe so, Dale. But he got the job done. And you and I both know that there wasn’t a team in the league who wouldn’t have taken him on in a heartbeat.

mary martha
February 5, 2013

I like to semi seriously say that being a Cubs fan teaches me about the redemptive nature of suffering.

My grandfather had a contract with the Cubs before he went to WWI where he was injured which prevented his playing. That meant that my father was born and raised as a Cubs fan. He lived a long life as a Cubs fan… and he died never seeing them win.

I grew up with my father bringing me to afternoon games at Wrigley with him very clearly saying that it wasn’t always about winning… it’s about having the experience.

On some crazy level I *almost* don’t want the Cubs to win… because that would make them less special. Then they would just be like any other team. The Cubs just winning the pennant would be a heck of a day. I think on that day I would be struck dumb by the experience.

I don’t follow football closely.. but I think fans of any sport could identify with what you beautifully wrote here.

Bill2
February 5, 2013

This is the one I wish my dad lived to see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-W9zb4h5TI

The best stuff starts at about 1:40. Hometown crowd and announcers. It was just nuts.

Katherine
February 5, 2013

Good story, Chris, and you’ll always be happy that you watched that one with your dad. My dad was kind of hard to love in some ways; he was very reserved and had a hard time expressing affection. It’s good that you spent that particular time with your dad. I had the opportunity to spend an hour with my dad, doing something he cared about, not long before he died. It was good, and the memory is good.

J. Stuart Little
February 5, 2013

Had a varying shift job and stopped watching the Supper Bowl about 28 years ago. 18 years ago I moved into an apartment that has no reception – cable only. Being too cheap to pay for internet AND cable I never subscribed and can’t watch even if I wanted.

You know other than 2 years I haven’t missed it at all.

J. Stuart Little
February 5, 2013

Bill Cavanaugh,
Traitor
I was only 5 when they won the last championship in 1960. I can also remember the 3 & seasons. Then there was the year the 76ers won 3 times as many games as the Eagles (9).

I moved out myself in 1982 when Mr Regan hired me. Since then except for 2 years I have lived in small cities and towns (not eagles fans).

(Math doesn’t work with my previous comment due to a transfer.)

Jim the Puritan
February 5, 2013

I thought this post was going to be about the best part of the Super Bowl, this commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sillEgUHGC4&feature=player_embedded

(“God Made a Farmer”)

Who knows how it got past the censors and the political correctness police, but thank God it did.

Bill2
February 5, 2013

To paraphrase Anna Nicole Smith: Paul Harvey was a freaking Genius! He wrote all his own copy.

I loved how it sounded like it was coming from an old AM radio and the photography was magnificent.

Allen Lewis
February 5, 2013

What can I say? Chris, this is some of the best writing, ever!

I am deeply moved. May God preserve you and bless you so that you keep on writing this thing!

Don Janousek
February 6, 2013

I have no interest in pro sports anymore.
-MLB – overpaid jackasses
-NFL – overpaid steroid users
-NBA – overpaid uneducated blacks running up and down a court for sixty minutes

I love college sports. And I am really old and remember when sports were sports. Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Unitas, etc.

I also remember when players did not have tattoos, when players did not wear earrings, etc.

In 1965, the greatest pitcher ever in baseball, Sandy Koufax, held out for a $25,000 salary.

Those were the days. Much like untalented maroons are now movie stars demanding millions for their non-acting.

Turned 65 today. Am now officially old. And with my new Medicare card, I can go to any hospital in the world – Grand Island, London, Bumfu#k, Egypt, anywhere.

Thank you, taxpayers!

Allen Lewis
February 6, 2013

@ Don Janousek -
I, too, am 65, but cannot afford to retire yet. The state of SC still thinks I am useful, so I am still working. Maybe I will win the lottery and manage it that way.

You are welcome to your Medicare. I am beginning to see the machinations of Obamacare every time I get a perscription filled. I now have to agree to let the gubmint have access to my medical data. This annoys me no end.

(apologies to all on the OT post).

:-)

Katherine
February 6, 2013

No, no, Allan, don’t go to an Egyptian hospital. But Happy Birthday!

Katherine
February 6, 2013

Allen. Sorry. Coffee!

Upstate
February 6, 2013

Chris, I remember that Super Bowl quite well. I had been the grad school doldrums when the Rams moved to town in 1995. Having remembered the Cardinals fiasco, I reserved judgment. By the time the Rams won I was up here in upstate NY. Still loved the moment for my one-time home. 2006 and 2011 were pretty cool, too, obviously.

That being said, while Christian charity dictates all kindness and mercy be extended to Cubs fans, I nonetheless ask: Really? They have 6 Bulls rings, 1 White Sox, the 1986 Bears (who were a phenomenal team), and 2010 Blackhawks. The Windy City has celebrated PLENTY. Let’s not give away the farm. ;)

Fuinseoig
February 6, 2013

My contribution to the tale of sporting woe is my county’s record in theAll-Ireland Hurling finals. We’ve won it a whopping two times, the most recent in 1959. That means I’ve lived my entire life since birth without seeing a victorious Waterford team in the finals.

To quote Wikipedia:

“Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary are considered “the big three” of hurling. Between them, these teams have won 89 out of 124 championships completed during its history, including every title since Offaly’s 1998 victory.”

Guess who our neighbours to the west, east and north are? Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Which means if we do manage to beat either Cork or Tipp in the Munster final (and to be fair, we’ve had a very good run this last decade), we are likely to run into Kilkenny for the All-Ireland semi-final and it’s not a case of “Will they beat us?” but “By how much?”

Though in 2008 we made it all the way to the final – where we met Kilkenny. Three guesses who won that one, and the first two don’t count.

;-)

Dale Price
February 6, 2013

The Detroit Lions. Maybe. One day.

But it gets harder to believe every season.

Great post. Oh, and a fun fact: Merlin Olsen had a scene in his Father Murphy series where they were looking at headstones. One was labelled “C. Dobler.” Olsen hated Dobler’s guts.

Truth Unites... and Divides
February 6, 2013

I’m also happy for Kurt Warner. What a great Christian man.

Dale Matson
February 6, 2013

Dale Price,
“The Detroit Lions. Maybe. One day.” As a long suffering Lions fan, I can say “If only”. Our best quarterback was a drunk; Bobby Lane. Our best running back Barrie Sanders quit football rather than play one more season with Detroit. The dirtiest current football player is Ndamukong Suh: They have never won a super bowl and the last championship for the Lions was 1957 (probably before most of the readers of this blog were born). And why is this? The owner is Ford. Think Ford level quality.

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