SAN DIEGO — Super Bowl again. America's tribal ritual. A one-game World Series. It gets its own numerals like Popes, kings and Rocky movies.
They have to number them or you wouldn't be able to tell one from another. It badly needs a point of reference--a guy running the wrong way, a player calling his shot, a monumental boner. Something to set it apart from its 21 predecessors.
Why couldn't Earnest Byner have saved that fumble for a Super Bowl? Why couldn't John Elway have engineered the Drive in a game with a Roman numeral after it?
It's usually as one-sided as a book-burning. A Soviet election.
They've put this thing in San Diego this year, I guess because Tijuana was busy.
San Diego has the best climate in the universe, which calls to mind the late Bob Goldstein's quip about Los Angeles: "It's got the ideal weather. No matter how hot it gets in the daytime, there's still nothing to do at night."
San Diego has a zoo, a harbor full of warships and a world-famous aquarium, which some may think sprung a leak or that killer whales have taken to wearing helmets when they see some of the specimens who line up Sunday for Super Bowl XXII.
A Super Bowl plays host to 90 football players, a dozen coaches--and 1,500 knights of the media, an army without banners descending on this cataclysmic event with notebooks, pencils, microphones, cameras, drawing pads and tape recorders. Gutenberg never intended this use for movable type when he invented the printing press. He had in mind easier access Bible quotes, which you will get this week only if a quarterback is religious.
What you really get is a whole bunch of "Whadeesay?" A whole bunch of "Who's he?" A lot of "Which one's Williams?" and "Where's Elway?"
The prototypical interview will go like this: A whole claque of journalists bearing mikes, pads and backpack hardware will descend on some 300-pound behemoth perched precariously on a ballroom chair that was designed for a Junior League banquet. This will be Sack Rumley, the most feared pass rusher in either conference.
Reporter: "Sack, if he stays in the pocket, what do you propose to do to stop him?"
Sack: "Frnstplkis anganganis erubidobo ajrptflsk,*+ly! Arrghh rlmm grrr."
Colleague: "He says if he stays in the pocket, they'll break his arm, but if he leaves the pocket they'll kill him."
PR guy for the team: "He says he has a lot of respect for John Elway and they hope to keep him in the pocket, but if he gets outside and scrambles they may have to resort to some sophisticated defenses."
Some journalists will opt for the coach quotes:
Reporter: "Coach, how do you propose to defense Elway? Do you think he's impervious to the rush or will you blitz him with a lot of linebackers and come with a lot of stunts and loops?"
Coach: "I told the team today, John Elway is going to put points on the board but not to get discouraged and stay in their game. You don't control an Elway. You give him the short stuff and just hope he doesn't kill you with the 50-yard Hail Marys."
Coach (to himself): "How do I propose to defense Elway? With a blackjack if I could! I told those clowns this morning that if John Elway isn't limping by the third quarter, there are going to be 20 jobs open on this club next spring. I told them I don't want to see this game, I want to hear it. I told them if Elway has to put the ball in the air 50 times, the drinks are on me."
Reporter: "Coach, how do you plan to stop their running game?"
Coach: "We have to stay at home in the line to stop their runners. Everybody always talks about Elway, but they have two of the most dangerous running backs in the league."
Coach (to himself): "Running attack! What running attack? I've seen guys running after a bus move faster than these guys. These guys look like they're in snowshoes. I don't know three people who know their names. Elway needs running backs like a lion needs more teeth. He only gives them the ball to fall on it."
Reporter: "Coach, are you going to have a curfew and bed check this week?"
Coach: "Curfew? We're dealing with grown men here, not college sophomores. If a man can't take the Super Bowl serious enough to put his pleasures on hold, I don't know what he can."
Coach (to himself): "Will I have a curfew? Did Hitler? The last Super Bowl this team played in, they left their game in a bottle. The fullback showed up in a tuxedo. Curfew is going to be so tight this year, the only way these guys'll be able to get out of the hotel at night is if it's on fire."
Reporter: "Coach, will you play a ball-control game?"
Coach: "Not necessarily. We may see a wide-open game. We plan to open up the game early, maybe throw long often."
Coach (to himself): "Ball control! If I have my way, those guys won't know what color the ball is till the fourth quarter. I hope Elway is off the field so much, people think he's the water boy. Ball control! I'd like to take that ball on the opening kickoff, let the air out of it and bury it."
The story will be upbeat: "Wide-Open, High-Scoring Game Seen For Super XXII. 'Great Respect For Elway. Won't Slug it Out in the Trenches. Super Sunday Should Be Fun,' Coach Says."