They call it the Super Bowl, and since I was less than one month shy of my sixth birthday when the first one was played on Jan. 15, 1967, I suppose I have seen at least a portion of each and every one.
A lot has changed since that first Super Bowl, both for myself and the game.
In the game’s early years I watched with my dad and siblings. Then I graduated to watching it with school friends, then at large social gatherings, and now more quietly with family or maybe a handful of friends.
In those early years, the Super Bowl was much like any other NFL game. In fact, for Super Bowl V the halftime entertainment consisted of performances by the Southeast Missouri State band and singer Anita Bryant.
It’s not like that anymore.
There have been great Super Bowls and many that were not so good. But I don’t think I have ever watched one as boring as Super Bowl LIII last Sunday, when New England defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3.
Maybe it was because I have never rooted for either the Patriots or the Rams, and therefore had no rooting interest. Maybe it was because I am no longer fascinated by sports like I was as a kid, or maybe it was because I no longer spend the hours before the game “getting the mood.” But whatever it was, there seemed to be something missing.
The first half last Sunday was so bad that I was ready for the halftime show early in the second quarter. But, as is often the case, that was a flop, too. Did Adam Levine really need to take his shirt off? What was the point, especially with kids all across the country watching? Is that and a bunch of “mumble rappers” the best the people who are paid huge dollars to plan the show can come up with?
Say it ain’t so, Joe.
I am primarily a college football fan. But since football is my favorite sport (trailing only track and field and the Triple Crown horse races), I watch the pros, too. And like I said, I do not think I have ever missed a Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs played in the first one. I remember it because the first football outfit I ever had was a Packers one. Somewhere my parents have pictures to prove it.
The Chiefs also played in Super Bowl IV. I remember that because a brother and I had Len Dawson (he was the Kansas City quarterback) jerseys. And, there just wasn’t a lot of sports apparel to be found back then.
Super Bowl V, when I was almost 10, saw the Dallas Cowboys lose to Baltimore, 16-13, on a late field goal. Because of coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach, and the Cowboys blueish/silver and white uniforms, I was an emerging Cowboys fan. And when Dallas came back in Super Bowl VI to beat Miami, 24-3, I was hooked.
Dallas is still my favorite NFL team.
Then came Super Bowl X, when Dallas lost to Pittsburgh, 21-17. Pittsburgh’s was one my brothers’ favorite team, and I was crushed.
When Dallas beat Denver 27-10 in Super Bowl XII, I was jumping with joy and taunting my brother.
But when Super Bowl XIII rolled around, I was almost 18, and Pittsburgh beat Dallas again, 35-31, I had to listen to my brother all over again.
For Super Bowl XVI, I was in college at Morehead State University when the Cincinnati Bengals lost to San Francisco, 26-21. I watched the game in a small dorm room with a bunch of other college guys. It was a memorable contest, I think.
From 1985 to 1988 there was a series of blowouts in the Super Bowl that weren’t much fun to watch.
But when Super Bowl XXIII rolled around and Cincinnati lost to San Francisco again, 20-16, my wife and I hosted a small party. It was a fun day, but not so much fun to watch the Bengals go down in the closing seconds again.
In Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII, when Dallas thumped Buffalo 52-17 and 30-13, respectively, all was right in the football world again.
Two years later, when I was at the same brother’s house to watch Dallas finally get revenge against Pittsburgh, 27-17, in Super Bowl XXX, I was elated. It was even better since I won two of the four pots in a betting contest on the score of the game at the end of each quarter.
This year, when the Cowboys rode into the playoffs again, I broke out the same sweatshirt I wore 23 years earlier at my brother’s house. It doesn’t fit quite the same, but it fit well enough that I had my wife take of picture of me wearing it and sent it to my sons. They are Bengals fans, but for some reason they root for the Cowboys, too.
In more recent years I have watched the Super Bowl with varying degrees of interest.
I did not like it much when Pittsburgh, my most hated NFL team, won Super Bowls XL and XLIII. I liked seeing New Orleans win Super Bowl XLIV when the city was recovering from Hurricane Katrina, I liked watching Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in Super XLV, and I have enjoyed anytime New England loses.
But just like the NFL, I no longer like the Super Bowl as much as I once did. There was a time when I never missed a Monday Night Football game. Now, unless the Cowboys or Bengals are playing, I’d usually just as soon watch something else.
Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe it’s been too long since Dallas or Cincinnati played in the big game. Maybe all the chaos around the Super Bowl cheapens the game. Whatever it is, it just doesn’t seem that super anymore.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.