My Family (a long time ago)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Another Super Bowl Sunday

There was a time when Super Bowl Sunday was a huge event in my life. It was something me and my friends looked forward to every year, especially once the playoffs started. It didn’t matter who was playing, we were watching. Here in Massachusetts, we’ve been fortunate to see three Super Bowl wins for the home team (and one painful loss) in the last ten years. But there were a lot of years that they weren’t even close.

My best friend growing up, Tony, was a Dallas Cowboys fan, while I was an Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Back then, the Patriots were about the worst team in the league so we rooted for other teams. To say that Tony and I had some minor disagreements over football would be an understatement. Back in the 70’s and into the early 80’s, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Oakland were in the Super Bowl almost every year. Dallas and Pittsburgh even faced each other twice in the Big Game, with Pittsburgh winning both games (sorry Tony). The Super Bowl back then wasn’t the spectacle it is now, but its popularity was starting to grow, and it didn’t matter to us, we watched the game because we loved football. It was just with a lot less people, sometimes just me and Tony.

As time went on and the hype grew, so did the crowds both at the game and where we were watching the game. It got to be ridiculous in the late 80’s because there were so many people at the Super Bowl parties you couldn’t hear the game or each other talking. Sometimes, it was hard to even see the game – there were no big screen televisions at that time. It was getting to the point that it wasn’t even fun anymore. Then in the early 90’s, my wife and I moved to California and, not having many friends, we watched the game ourselves. As much as it felt weird, I actually enjoyed watching the game with just us. It was calm, quiet and refreshing.

You see, I still remember watching my first Super Bowl like it was yesterday, remembering that game more than some of the more recent games. An almost-8 year old boy, slightly bored on a Sunday afternoon, flipped on the TV and watched the only televised sporting event on the 7 or 8 stations we got in those days. I don’t remember where everyone else in my family was that day, but I watched alone as a guy named Joe made good on his guarantee and led his team to a stunning victory over the heavily favored opposition. It was 1969, Super Bowl III, and the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts 16-7. It was a much simpler time: we didn’t have 100+ channels on cable, no big screen TV, no surround sound systems; there weren’t 25 or 30 camera angles on every play, there weren’t constant graphics, there weren’t announcers from 50 or 100 countries. It was just me and a small 10-inch black and white TV, rooting for the Jets because their quarterback had the same name as me. I had been watching football, but Super Bowl III was the game that made me a true football fan.

Every year people reminisce about past Super Bowls, talking about the great plays, the great players and the great teams – and there were many of each of them. But when I think back, I always come back to Super Bowl III. Call me sentimental, but there are times I wish I could go back to that period of my life. To a time when everyday life went at a slower pace, when everything wasn’t as commercialized, when there was a feeling that anything was possible, when sports were still a game and not a business. To a time that I could sit alone in a room on Super Bowl Sunday and watch the game on a tiny TV and be the happiest guy in the world. Yes, I will always remember the Patriots’ victories in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX, but I will always cherish the memories of the Jets victory in Super Bowl III.

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