Super Bowl Sunday is again upon us, and this is really a big one. It is Super Bowl XL, or size 40, uh, I mean, number 40. I momentarily lapsed into thinking of my old pants size, the ones I long ago gave to the Salvation Army. But anyway, being the sentimental sort, I can't help but think about past Super Bowls, where I was and whom I was with.
Recently, we started to hear many people say they didn't care about the Super Bowl. They said it was the same old teams, always a blowout and just plain ole' boring. Just give folks plenty of liquid refreshment, and it is simply a good excuse to have a party or buy a big screen TV.
As I check the record, it does seem that the New Englands, San Franciscos, Buffalos, Denvers, Pittsburghs and Dallases of the NFL world do have more than their share of Super Bowl appearances. Our local Atlanta Falcons finally broke the ice back in 1999 only to have many say, "I never really liked the Falcons anyway." They were just preparing themselves for the inevitable 34-19 loss to Denver.
I can honestly say the only time I ever bet real money on anything was on Super Bowl XV in 1981. Still being a bachelor and enjoying a regular paycheck for the first time in my life, I must have been feeling frisky. I was so sure that the Oakland Raiders would beat the Philadelphia Eagles that I put $25 were my mouth is.
Sure enough Ray Guy's Raiders did the trick, and I picked up enough cash to buy two tanks of gasoline for my new T-Bird. Even though I won, I never could make myself gamble on football games again. I knew nothing could come that easy on a regular basis.
Little did I know it then, but I would be watching the next Super Bowl, number 16, in the home of my in-laws with my new wife and her parents. The 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals in a game played in of all places, Detroit. The NFL found their way back there this year. I'm sad to say, this will be the first Super Bowl since then that I won't be able to analyze with my father-in-law.
The first dozen Super Bowls were played in mid-January. That always coincided with the big birthday celebration that my mother and her siblings threw for their father. My Granddaddy Hipp, more into hunting and fishing, wasn't a big sports fan. Even so, he tolerated all of his sons-in-law and grandsons rushing through Sunday dinner to gather round to watch the big game. Jawing back and forth with my cousins made this then-still-novel big game even more fun.
The first Super Bowl that I can remember actually watching was number three. That's when Joe Namath guaranteed that his New York Jets, from the AFL, would beat the Baltimore Colts of the 1969 version of the NFL. Namath was right. The Jets won it 16-7.
The first Super Bowl that I can remember was number two. I was nine years old and living in the backwoods of Lincoln County. My daddy had just installed a brand new antenna on top of a "light" pole in our backyard. It allowed us to pick up four stations, two from Augusta and - with a little snow thrown in - Greenville and Spartanburg. We were in high cotton.
Unbeknownst to me, daddy had other plans for that Sunday afternoon. We had a family gathering with his folks on the docket. Get this now. My grandparents on my daddy's side lived a whole 75 yards down the hill from us, and they didn't have a TV or want one.
What was wrong with daddy? He was going to make me miss the first Super Bowl that I ever knew existed to visit with folks that I saw practically every day? There I sat with a clear picture of the action a tantalizing few feet away. It may as well have been a million miles. He said he didn't want to watch because it was the same ole' team, Green Bay, would be a blowout and boring. Daddy seemed to always be right.
Most people reminisce on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Am I the only one that gets nostalgic on Super Bowl Sunday? I'll be honest.
If I could get a do-over from 1968, I'd pass on the Super Bowl. The chance to gather with my parents and grandparents would be too great to pass up. That's a chance that I'll never on this earth get again.