© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2003
The Super Bowl is professional football's biggest stage. If a player does something spectacular in this game, or sometimes even before the game, he likely will be remembered forever.
Here's a look at some of the more memorable (or forgettable) events in 36 Super Bowls:
Washington Redskins running back John Riggins was known for his escapades off the field, but he showed how good he was on the field in a memorable run in Super Bowl XVII against Miami. Trailing 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, Washington decided to go for it on fourth and 1 from the Dolphins 43-yard line.
Riggins pounded left off tackle, brushed past defensive back Don McNeal and rambled down the sideline for a 20-17 lead, propelling the Redskins to a 27-17 win.
The Tennessee Titans were driving toward what they hoped would be a first championship in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. Titans quarterback Steve McNair hit receiver Kevin Dyson inside the St. Louis 5-yard line when time expired. Dyson reached for the goal line but Rams linebacker Mike Jones was there to stop him a yard short. Game over, Rams win 23-16.
Actually, Lynn Swann made three great catches in Super Bowl X for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was the 32-yarder in the first quarter when he leaped inside of Dallas' Mark Washington to catch the pass and stay in bounds.
Then there was his second-quarter catch when he leaped high for a pass, juggled the ball while falling to the turf then held onto the ball while tripping over a defender. And lastly, he caught a 64-yard bomb from Terry Bradshaw in the fourth quarter for what proved to be the decisive touchdown in a 21-17 win.
Boy, would Dallas tight end Jackie Smith love to have this one back. It was Super Bowl XIII and Dallas was trailing Pittsburgh 21-14 in the third quarter. Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach threw a perfect line-drive pass to Smith, who was open in the end zone. He dropped the ball. Dallas lost 35-31.
There have been others in Super Bowl history, but none more dramatic than Desmond Howard's 99-yarder against New England in Super Bowl XXXI. The Patriots had just scored a late third quarter field goal to cut the Green Bay lead to six.
Then Howard broke through a perfect wedge, darted right and raced untouched to give the Packers a 35-21 lead. That was the final.
With apologies to Baltimore Colts kicker Jim O'Brien, who won Super Bowl V with a 32-yard field goal in the final seconds, New England's Adam Vinatieri wins this award. Some felt the Patriots should run time off the clock and play for overtime against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI last season. But the Patriots marched down the field and set up Vinatieri for a 48-yard field goal.
Granted, the kick came on turf and in the climate controlled New Orleans Superdome, but it was still a long kick and Vinatieri drilled it to give the Patriots their first championship. It was the first time the Super Bowl had been decided on the final play.
Scott Norwood had a chance to ease the pain of long-suffering Buffalo Bills fans. Instead, the pain endures. Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds left in Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium, and the Giants survived to win 20-19. The kick was wide right all the way.
Joe Montana is as calm as they come when the game is on the line, as it was in Super Bowl XXIII against Cincinnati on Jan. 22, 1989. Montana marched the 49ers 92 yards for the winning score, a 10-yard touchdown to John Taylor with 34 seconds left. It sealed San Francisco's 20-16 win.
That goes to Miami's Garo Yepremian, and he'll probably have this award for as long as they play Super Bowls. In Super Bowl VII in Los Angeles, the Dolphins led 14-0 late in the fourth quarter when Yepremian trotted on to attempt a 42-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Washington's Bill Brundige and Yepremian got the loose ball. He attempted to throw it away, but it slipped from his hand and wobbled in the air.
It wasn't even officially a pass attempt; the play was ruled a fumble and Redskins defensive back Mike Bass ran it 49 yards for a touchdown, Washington's only score in a 14-7 loss.
Tampa Bay fans had to feel a little pride when Doug Williams, then Washington's quarterback, lit up Denver in a 42-10 blowout in Super Bowl XXII. In the second quarter alone, the Redskins scored 35 points on five straight possessions, a record for most points in a quarter in a Super Bowl.
Williams threw four touchdowns in the quarter, including an 80-yarder and a 50-yarder to Ricky Sanders. He had 340 yards passing and was named game MVP.
Marcus Allen ran wild against the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa Stadium. Allen gained 191 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 74-yard darting run that made it 35-9. Allen was named game MVP in the 38-9 Raider win.
There are so many words spoken in the week, and sometimes weeks, leading to a Super Bowl. This one explains the importance of a championship to the players.
"I'd run over my mother to win it," Redskins guard Russ Grimm said before Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa.
"I'd run over Grimm's mother, too," Redskins linebacker Matt Millen said.
Here are some of the characters and events that grabbed headlines before the kickoff:
On the eve of the first Super Bowl, which was Jan. 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, 34-year-old Max McGee, a little used receiver for the Green Bay Packers, figured it would be okay to break curfew ... by about eight hours. Soon after assistant coach Dave Hanner checked the players' rooms at around 11 p.m., McGee left and didn't didn't return until after sunrise on game day.
"I waddled in about 7:30 in the morning and I could barely stand up for kickoff," McGee said in the book Lombardi, written by Packer teammate Jerry Kramer. "I was in no condition to play a ballgame. (Receiver) Boyd (Dowler) was hurt early and I played the rest of the game and caught seven passes and scored two touchdowns. After the game, dear old Vince (Lombardi) came up to me and said "Nice game.'
"Most any end could've done the same thing," McGee said.
"You're right," Lombardi said.
New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath was the national media's focus for Super Bowl III at Miami's Orange Bowl. It started when Namath checked into his hotel in Fort Lauderdale. He was visited by two FBI agents, who said his life had been threatened in New York and they had reason to believe the person traveled to Miami. They wanted to make sure there was no line of sight for a would-be sniper to take a shot into the room.
Then, at a Miami Touchdown Club meeting three days before the Super Bowl, Namath announced "The Jets will win on Sunday, I guarantee it." The Jets, an 18-point underdog, won 16-7.
During pregame festivities for Super Bowl IV in 1970 at New Orleans' Tulane Stadium, the plan was to have a hot-air balloon race between a Viking and a Chief. The balloon manned by the Viking never gained enough altitude and floated into the end zone seats. Nobody was injured, but it was a bad omen. Kansas City won 23-7.
That was all the Vikings were asking for. But when they arrived at their training facilities for Super Bowl VIII at Houston's Delmar School, there were no lockers in their changing room and only 15 showers, three of which actually had running water. In the corner of the room were two sparrow's nests.
"This is a Super Bowl game, not a pickup game," Vikings coach Bud Grant said. "I don't think our guys have seen something like this since junior high." Grant was fined $1,500.
At a party two nights before the Redskins played the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII, Washington owner Jack Kent Cooke hosted a party for about 350 guests. Casual attire was suggested, but never one to conform, fullback John Riggins showed up in a top hat, white tie and tails and a walking stick. He also broke curfew by a few hours on another night and woke up just about everybody staying in the team hotel.
However, Riggins gained 166 yards on 18 carries and added 15 receiving yards. His 181 total yards was more than Miami gained as a team (176).
It was Super Bowl XX in 1986, the year the Bears brought us the unforgettable rap hit The Super Bowl Shuffle, recorded before the playoffs. They were chock full of characters, from William "Refrigerator" Perry, to Jim McMahon and coaches Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan.
McMahon stole the show during Super Bowl week. After being told by commissioner Pete Rozelle before the NFC Championship Game that he couldn't were a headband under his helmet with "Adidas" written on it, McMahon scratched out the logo and wrote "Rozelle" with a black magic marker. He also wore the headband during the Super Bowl.
McMahon also mooned a helicopter flying over practice, and created a stir it was later discovered he had nothing to do with. A Chicago radio station falsely reported that McMahon made disparaging remarks about New Orleans women and also insulted the men. By the time the story was proven false, the Bears hotel was being picketed by angry New Orleans residents.
It should have been the icing on the cake of Dallas' 52-17 rout of Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII. But Leon Lett became part of a memorable gaffe. Lett recovered a fumble late in the game and ran for what should have been a touchdown. Lett held out the ball to celebrate yards from the goal line only to be chased down by Buffalo's Don Beebe and stripped of the ball before he reached the end zone.
Lett was dogged by the play for much of the next season, and when Dallas reached Super Bowl XXVIII the next year, Lett sat silent in front of reporters for the hourlong media day. Reporters asked him about everything, especially the play, but he never uttered a word.
Both Super Bowl XXV in 1991 at Tampa Stadium and last year's in New Orleans will be remembered for tight security. In 1991, America just entered into the Gulf War, and security was at a then all-time high. Most pregame festivities were toned down or canceled. Snipers were positioned throughout Tampa Stadium. The skies over the stadium were declared a no-fly zone.
Last season, security around the Superdome was tripled as it was the first Super Bowl since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Every person entering was searched. No cars or buses were allowed near the stadium, not even the limousine carrying Tagliabue.