MIAMI — "Hey, brother, any old bones still hiding in there?"
"In there" is a construction job at 14th Avenue and 6th, city of Miami, and a man with a tough face and plastic hat is patrolling his stretch of the fence. Checkpoint Charlie.
"A few palm trees," he says. "Other than that, it's pretty much gone."
The Orange Bowl's former address. Coming soon, the Marlins' baseball yard — fresh paint and support beams and all the trespassing signs. Everything on schedule?
"It was. Then things backed up. Money. They're still saying 2012, but ..."
"How about a look around? Five minutes?"
"Make it two. There's not much to see. Just hurry it up." So you hurry.
Ghosts of an ancient marquee — The City of Miami Welcomes You To The Orange Bowl. On special days, it was Welcome to the Super Bowl. Five of them kicked off here. Then the Dolphins moved out. Then the University of Miami Hurricanes. Then they tore it down.
But the skeletons are still around. They're still creaking. You just gotta know where to dig.
Super Bowl II
You try to pry out the game-day scoops from those old Packers — matchups, line play, fracturing Oakland's pass-catch operation — but all they want to give you is Vince Lombardi. The heaviness around the team before his official goodbye. George S. Patton, relieved of command, turning over his troops with a final, crisp salute.
"During the week we sensed this was gonna be Coach's last one," says OLT Bob Skoronski. "It came out in a lot of ways, different statements he'd make. You knew the game was so important to him. Lombardi felt it was easy to achieve a championship but much harder to keep one. And here we were trying to keep a third straight. He was so proud of that.
"A few years later, Fuzzy Thurston and I flew to a D.C. hospital to see him. He was a shadow physically of what he was. Gaunt. He looked up to see who was coming and reached his hand out, half-clenched, and it was just trembling. We both took it. Then he whispered, 'I hate to have you see me this way.'
"That was the only thing he said."
Packers 33, Raiders 14.
Super Bowl III
A treasure of first-time encounters. AFL-NFL. Ewbank vs. Shula. Namath digging in against the rowdy Baltimore pass rush. And, pregame, in the lobby of Miami's Americana Hotel, it was Curt Gowdy vs. Howard Cosell.
"Al DeRogatis and I were leaving to do the game for NBC," Gowdy remembered, "and Cosell was in the lobby. This was before he latched on to Muhammad Ali and 'Monday Night Football.' I heard someone yelling, 'Cowboy! Cowboy!' That was my nickname. Cosell was hurrying toward me."
"You know, Cowboy, I hate to see it today — the Colts will break Joe Willie Namath's legs."
"Well, nobody has broken them yet," Gowdy countered. "He has bad knees, but what the hell? Other teams were after him, too."
"They'll kill him. It's a disgrace matching these two teams up."
Cowboy heated up. "Howard — I think the Jets will give them a helluva game today."
The final swipe, right or wrong, was always Cosell's.
"Cowboy," he said, "you're just a shill for the commissioner."
Wrong. Jets 16, Colts 7.
Super Bowl V
"War is," Winston Churchill said, "mainly a catalogue of blunders." That's the forever stamp on Super Bowl V. Lost balls and errant missiles, the casualties of misfired adrenaline.
Dallas had finally thrust its way to an NFL title game, and Cowboys tailback Walt Garrison remembers that being swell enough for the team wearing the stars.
"Happy to be there," Garrison says. "That was our goal, a Super Bowl date. We'd played Green Bay back-to-back in title games and lost 'em both. So, in '70 we finally get past Frisco and at that point the season was over. Mission accomplished."
Tom Landry wrestled to keep corporate control, but the periphery was too big a sideshow for the fresh-eyed Cowboys.
"Even our practices were circus-like" Garrison says. "Somebody with the media was always wanting to talk to you. Landry was probably the only one that was focused. Such a big disappointment to him. He felt we had the better team, but we didn't prove it.
"After the game we wanted to play it over again. The Colts probably did too, the thing was so ugly."
Colts 16, Cowboys 13.
Super Bowl X
The trucks camped outside the Orange Bowl said CBS, which meant to TV watchers it'd be a Pat Summerall/Tom Brookshier championship call. With two minutes left they cut Brookie's microphone and sent him to the Pittsburgh locker room. Postgame duty. Steelers in the lead, 21-10.
"A couple of state troopers escorted me down," Brookshier remembers. "Sonny Jurgensen, who was going to help me with the postgame, had been out someplace before the game doing cocktails with Brigitte Bardot.
"We get there and they tell us to hide until the Steelers finish their team prayer. So they lock me, a cameraman and Jurgensen — who's half in the bag — in this closet.
"We can still hear the radio broadcast being played. All of a sudden it's, 'Staubach goes back ... here's the pass ... touchdown!' Everyone in the locker room runs back onto the field for the end of the game. Dallas is coming back, and we're locked in the closet! Great. How do we do a postgame show from here?"
With the big-game Steelers in town? No worries. Steelers 21, Cowboys 17.
Super Bowl XIII
An epic that still pains a lot of the old Cowboys — including their top safety, a killer named Cliff Harris.
"We over-prepared for the Steelers," Harris admits today. "Pittsburgh had a very basic, fundamental attack. Meanwhile, we ran very complicated defenses, lots of reads and shifts.
"I was very discouraged by the complexity of the schemes our coaches presented. They overloaded us. We overdid it, and as a result we weren't as physically aggressive as we needed to be. Three years earlier, in Super Bowl X, our scheme wasn't nearly as complex, and we played Pittsburgh much closer."
On Terry Bradshaw: "He kept things simple. Once I asked him, 'Were you keying on me or (LB) Lee Roy Jordan on that deep pass to (Lynn) Swann?' He said, 'Neither. I just looked at (John) Stallworth and if he was covered, I threw it to Swann.' I just shook my head and thought, 'Why the hell did we go through all that game planning then?' "
Steelers 35, Cowboys 31.
Super Bowl XXIII
What's seared in memory is that late Joe Montana rally ... high tension, fingernails in shreds, his clutch deliveries ... the Super Joe signature. But there's also a lingering pall from that game that's seldom discussed, buried by the Montana heroics, and that's the dead arm that Cincy QB Boomer Esiason went to battle with.
To win, the Bengals needed steady work from him. Not a mad-bomber day, just be heady and pinpoint. Feed 'em strikes. After all, Esiason came into the game riding a crest as 1988's league MVP. At his disposal stood a stockpile of fine Bengals components.
Instead, Esiason cracked. Left behind were the tracks of an out-of-sync quarterback — 11 completions in 25 attempts, 13 first downs, and a trio of FG drives plus one interception.
He looked uncomfortable in the pocket. He moved that way and he threw that way. Cincy needed a Curt Schilling to win that night; instead, they got Stan Belinda.
Montana earned the win ... and the save. 49ers 20, Bengals 16.
Super Bowl XXIX
It was something from the early days of Mike Tyson, the young pit bull raging his way out of the Albany and Atlantic City rings. Those crippling flurries, maiming in their violence, closing down the arena before the lights could warm. Bouts lasting 40 or 50 seconds. That was the feel of Chargers-49ers.
And over on the underdog's side, the corner men worked on San Diego's shoulders and pumped their mantra: "Hit and move, got it? ... Tire their legs. ... Lock that chin down. ... For God's sake, don't get careless out there."
Then the lightning haymaker - Steve Young to Jerry Rice, a 44-yard score that cracked the Chargers' jaw and spun them off into darkness. Game time elapsed: one minute, 24 seconds. San Francisco's day of devastation made it 11 consecutive wins for the NFC.
"It's not like we were possessed or anything," Niners CB Eric Davis said afterward. "The AFC is just a different brand of football. It's not like the NFC, not like us or Dallas."
49ers 49, Chargers 26.
Super Bowl XXXIII
Ignored, to this day, is the wizardry of Falcons QB Chris Chandler's 1998 season. Get this — 9.6 yards per attempt, 16.6 per catch. I mean, "wow" numbers. Greedy, palatial ones, somehow lost in history's blind spot.
However, none of that gaudiness flashed against the Broncos' bastions. Denver's goal was to choke off the long stuff and let Chandler eat his fill of the chippies — that is, when he could sidestep the crushing Broncos blitz schemes.
"Everything we did," says defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, "was designed to not let him go deep. ... We counted on our rush to disrupt his timing." Chandler's yards per pass/completion in the big game: 6.3/11.5. Timing: disrupted. Broncos 34, Falcons 19.
Super Bowl XLI
The Colts were a team for the taking. They'd been heavily pierced by New England in an exhaustive AFC title game and somehow survived, Peyton Manning lashing and driving his club to the winning points through force of sheer will. By the time they hit Miami, Indy was a spent club.
Game day. Both offenses cursed the skies — rain bursts. They soaked the Colts. Chicago drowned. Rex Grossman and his smallish hands, in a frantic paddle ashore. Ten Bears drives lasted four plays or fewer. Loose balls. Interceptions.
For dome-pampered Indy, a rainbow in disguise. Colts 29, Bears 17.
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