When Gene Stallings was Alabama’s football coach, the routine was that reporters would meet with him in the staff room adjacent to his office after practices, Monday through Thursday. And after the questions about practice or players or games had been asked and answered, we sometimes just sat and chatted.
One day when there were just a couple of us for the post-practice briefing, perhaps late in the week when Alabama had a cupcake opponent, Stallings was asked about cornerbacks who couldn’t tackle, defenders who had to try to body block or drag down a ball carrier. That was even true in the NFL (where Stallings had made a big reputation as secondary coach for the Dallas Cowboys).
As was his wont, Stallings didn’t answer the question directly. “Those guys aren’t exactly paid to tackle,” he said.
I guess I was smirking. Stallings looked at me and said, “You don’t like pro football, do you Kirk?”
Confession is good for the soul. “Booorrring!”
Today they’ll pack an hour of action into about four hours.
I recognize that pro football players are fabulous athletes, the best of the best from college football, and that with coaches and players working fulltime the games are played at the highest level. But that doesn’t mean it is more entertaining than college football.
Has anyone noticed that there are many college stadiums bigger than NFL stadiums?
Part of it, too, is my job in football season has always involved having to work on Sundays, wrapping up Bama’s Saturday game and getting ready for the next one. That didn’t leave time to get attached to pro football.
I bring this up because once again today I’ll make a decision whether or not to watch the Super Bowl. Someone in Las Vegas betting on that (hey, you can bet on anything about the Super Bowl!) would have to lay odds.
Unless I go to a Super Bowl party (which I am not today), I’m not likely to watch. I will be for Seattle, only because I have friends in Seattle who have Seahawks Fever (not Supersonices Fever as I suggested to one of them).
I have seen a few of the 48 Super Bowls, including the early ones before they had the Super Bowl name. I watched the first couple because I liked the Packers, a hard-nosed running team (Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor) with a quarterback from Alabama (Bart Starr). I watched the first one, cheering for the Packers against Kansas City. That’s before I became friends with former Alabama player Tommy Brooker, who played in that first Super Bowl for the Chiefs.
I have a great memory of the second game, Green Bay against Oakland. I was a sportswriter at the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald when I got a telephone call from O.A. Lindsay, the father of a friend of mine, Odie Lindsay. Mr. Lindsay was a postman and someone I considered something of a Renaissance Man. He had many, many interests.
He asked me, “Can you hear that?” I had no idea what he was talking about. He was speaking to me from a telephone booth (ask your parents if you’re under 20) on Miami Beach, and wanted to know if I could hear the surf. He was there for the game, part of his bucket list, although we didn’t have that term.
I also have a great memory – as do almost all football fans of an age – of the third game. Who could forget it? It may have been the singular moment in pro football, former Tide quarterback Joe Namath not only leading the New York Jets to the championship and earning MVP honors, but also guaranteeing victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts before delivering. That win resulted in the NFL accepting the upstart AFL on equal terms and the merger of the leagues.
And I remember it in great part because I was in the Army, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. The deal on that Sunday was those who wanted to see the game were give the opportunity, and those who didn’t – well, the Army would find something for them to do.
I chose watching the game.
But who wouldn’t want to watch Joe Namath play football?
I didn’t watch a complete Super Bowl until years later when I was traveling with the Alabama basketball team and we were in Gainesville on Sunday. Sang Lyda, Bama’s trainer, and I were sharing a room and we ordered room service and watched the game.
Since then I have seen parts of several, but missed all of more of them. I watched a good bit of one a few years ago and just about every play was a pass. That’s not for me.
I think the next time I’ll watch the Super Bowl will be if the Packers can make it back. I don’t know much about the Packers, but I do know Eddie Lacy is playing for them and I know that if you have Lacy on your team you’ll run the ball sometimes.
I am aware that former Alabama player James Carpenter is playing in today’s Super Bowl, but I’m not likely to watch a football game to see how a guard does.
I’ll see the best of the commercials later.