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Lynch a quick learner

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


TAMPA -- So there was John Lynch Sr., sitting on the 30-yard line of the Rose Bowl in January 1983, watching the Redskins dismantle the Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII in Pasadena, Calif.

And all Lynch Sr., a former Steelers linebacker, could think of was how knowledegable the 12-year-old football fan sitting beside him was.

Yes, 17 years before he was Tampa Bay's All-Pro safety, John Lynch already was a student of the game.

Lynch Sr. was impressed that his son could hold his own with any adult fan; that young John knew the coaches, the players, the strategy; that he could dissect the game like a seasoned fan.

"He was such an avid football fan," his father said. "Even though he was the only a kid at this juncture, he got right in there with all the rest of my friends. He was not a typical kid. He was just so interested in the game.

"He seemed to fit right in with all us adults. He was able to converse at that age with all kinds of people."

Lynch's recollections of that game, though, are more on the side of a 12-year-old than an adult.

"Just being at the Super Bowl," the 29-year-old said. "It was so awesome."

His father knew then that his son was destined to be an athlete -- before Lynch Jr. played quarterback and safety at Stanford, before he threw the first pitch in Florida Marlins history, before he gave up pro baseball for football.

A standout swimmer and soccer player, Lynch Jr. also was a baseball standout, setting a Solana Beach, Calif., Little League home run record with 21.

The funny thing is, Lynch's most memorable Super Bowl XVII moment wasn't watching Washington win, or sitting near University of Miami quarterback Jim Kelly before his 1984 pro debut with the USFL's Houston Gamblers.

It was before the game, watching his father split his pants "from top to bottom."

The family -- which included mom Cathy and sister Kara, the eldest sibling -- was at the Surf Soccer California State Championship game at Diamond Bar, watching younger brother Ryan compete. Ryan's team won, but John and his father never saw the end.

At halftime they had to rush to the Rose Bowl. To save time, they climbed a fence to get to a limousine. The younger Lynch made it intact. His father didn't.

John Sr. sat through the Super Bowl with his pants held together by safety pins.

"He still reminds me of it," his father lamented.

Lynch Jr. hopes his son, Jake, can one day enjoy a Super Bowl just as he did -- only sooner.

"It was a special thing, and I think those are special moments in my life that I'll never forget," Lynch said. "Hopefully, I'll take my son to one this year."

Q: John, what was the most important lesson you learned then?

A: "Learning how to deal with failure. I wasn't good with it at all. When I got out in baseball, I would throw my helmet. I used to have quite a temper out there. My dad had to work with me on how to channel my emotions constructively back then."

* * *

Q: If you could impart some wisdom to yourself back then, what would it be?

A: "Just keep doing what you're doing, keep dreaming big things. I really enjoy the place I'm at right now, and I enjoy what happened back them. It's my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

SUPER BOWL XVII

Jan. 30, 1983

Pasadena, Calif.

Redskins 27, Dolphins 17

MVP: John Riggins, Redskins running back (38 carries for a Super Bowl-record 166 yards).

IN THE NEWS: June 18: Sally Ride, 32, becomes the first U.S. female astronaut in space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Aug. 15: The United States admits shielding former Nazi Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, 69, the "Butcher of Lyon," who is wanted in France for war crimes. Aug. 30: A South Korean Boeing 747 headed for Seoul apparently strays into Soviet airspace and is shot down by a Soviet fighter after the fighter tracks it for two hours; all 269 aboard are killed.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: Gandhi

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: Thriller/Michael Jackson

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: Cheers

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