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SUPER BOWL I | A LOOK BACK | Jim Murray

No Fairy Tale, Only a Grim Ending for AFL

January 29, 2006|Jim Murray

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. They pulled his whiskers off at the Coliseum Sunday and it turned out to be Vince Lombardi saying, "Ho, ho, ho!"

Sorry, kids, fairy tales don't come true, after all. Sleeping Beauty was really dead. Hansel and Gretel never did get out of the oven. The giant ate Jack and the beanstalk.

St. George got eaten by the dragon. The guys in the black hats got clean away with the cattle.

Little Red Riding Hood didn't notice Grandma's ears till too late and she found out her teeth were too big the hard way. Goldilocks is just a big lie. The Easter Bunny doesn't really bring all those jellybeans. They get them at Thrifty Drug.

All of which is my way of telling you the clock struck midnight for the American Football League Sunday. Brute strength conquered in the end again. They played for money and them as has, got.

Goliath must have had an off day. The little guys don't win these things.

What the Super Bowl needed was a rewrite by Walt Disney or Hans Christian Andersen. So it would come out like this:

The little, shy, frightened, big-eyed AFL, wandering through the forests cringing at shadows and shuddering at the roars emanating from the Ogre of the Woods, the NFL Colossus.

"Please, sir, won't you play with me?" asked the shy little league in the red cape and boots.

"Fee, fi, fo, fum!" roared the NFL. "Go way and get yourself a football first."

So the little AFL huffed and puffed and he sued the court. And the NFL ate their lawyer. So the AFL said, "Well, I know a shortcut to Grandma's house, otherwise known as the Super Bowl" and sprinkled money around and bought lots of players. Only the giant bought even more.

Sucker Will Pay

Then, the fairy godmother -- the commissioner of football -- came along and said, "Wait a minute. Put on this glass slipper and all of a sudden you'll be fairer than all the football leagues in the land."

Out of the side of his hand he whispered to his own giant, "Don't worry. This way we'll make the sucker pay and then we'll eat Riding Hood's cape and all right in front of 63,036 people who will pay 12 bucks a head for the privilege of watching. Wouldn't you like to dispose of Little Red Riding Hood on national TV for 2 1/2 million dollars?"

And the big giant said, "Fee, fi, fo, fum! Pete has stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum."

Well, you all know what happens next in fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood outwits the wicked old wolf, or Jack slays the giant. Cinderella gets the prince.

Well, the Kansas City Chiefs just turned back into pumpkins. As a fairy tale, the Super Bowl wouldn't sell a copy. The Brothers Grimm would sit right down and cry. Peter Pan would crash. It'll never make a movie. Who wants to star the wicked old witch?

Of course, there's another way to look at the Super Bowl game (and you realize here I'm just looking at the thing in its broad literary aspects, not from a prosaic yards-per-carry, first-downs-on-the-goal-line kind of thing).

You have the Horatio Alger Jr. slant. Here you have poor-but-honest Harold, better known as Vinnie Lombardi, from this small town who puts together a team by pluck and hard work and long hours, and devotion to his mother and the wall mottos in the parlor.

He finally reaches the top through this kind of perseverance. Whereupon, rich old squire Lamar Hunt comes along with all of Daddy's money and says, "Ha! What's so great about that? Bring me my checkbook and I'll do it overnight."

And poor-but-honest Harold (Vinnie Lombardi) said, "Fi on you, sir! You will not make a mockery of my devotion to thrift and loyalty and make sport of me in this fashion. I will give you a good thrashing."

So he did.

And then he said to his kindly old friends, "You see, sirs, hard work and devotion to detail still counts for something not all your money can buy. And even if you come from a small town where it snows all the time and everybody wears a mackinaw and carries a lunch pail, you too can say, 'Your gold will not buy my heart, sir! Take your money bags and OUT.' "

Well, either way you look at it, the score was still 35-10. And, as the late Julius Caesar used to say, "Veni, Vinnie, Vinci!"

And they all lived happily ever after.

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