40 years later, Super Bowl X still the best, but Super Bowl 50 okay

Yesterday afternoon I actually watched the Super Bowl. I’m not a huge football fan, but there’s something about the Super Bowl.

For one thing, I always enjoy the commercials. I laughed so hard. I can only remember a couple of them now, but as usual, the Snickers commercial was my favorite – Willem Dafoe in drag – not just in drag, but Marilyn Monroe? – I did not see that coming.

A couple of years ago I watched the game because local boy Aaron Rodgers was playing. I sure enjoyed telling my snooty Bay Area relatives that my kids were attending the same college as “Super Bowl winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers.”   They’re all pretty rabid football fans, that got their attention. They all root for different teams, and our family reunions can get a little hot under the collar, dentures flappin’ over whose team will “go all the way”

As a child I was a die hard Steelers fan, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris were my heroes. In 1976 I had a bad fall at school, and my mom and my doctor insisted I had to stay in traction in the hospital. It was Super Bowl weekend and I was stuck flat on my back in front of a giant tv – okay!

I had a roommate, a 66 year old lady named Estelle. She had been in the hospital for over a week because the doctors could not find out what was giving her dizzy spells. She introduced herself saying, “I’m ready to gnaw my way out of here…”   She was annoyed because she couldn’t get her hair done, she felt ugly. Her husband had bought her a couple of gorgeous gowns, so she didn’t have to wear the paper hospital gowns, but her long gray hair and the dark circles under her eyes made her look completely insane. She was on an IV, with one of those hangers on wheels, and when she felt like it she’d go out into the halls in those flowing white gowns, long gray hair straggling around her shoulders, that IV stand wheeling alongside like a staff – in my memory, she looks like Moses. 

The first couple of days were tough, especially when my friends started to parade in. Whenever a kid is in the hospital, everybody wants to visit, it’s something to do. Kids who hardly talked to me at school came to see me, for the gossip factor. Most were disappointed when I told them my prognosis – sprained back. “A sprained back?” They didn’t get it. I could hardly walk, I had to pee in a bedpan, but they thought it was no big deal.

Estelle was the only one who seemed to get it. She was frustrated with people asking her why she was in the hospital – it was very frustrating for this very active woman. She was used to playing tennis at her trailer park every  day, she said, and worried that her husband would not be exercising her dogs enough. Not seeing her dogs for weeks was getting on her nerves. But, whenever she thought I was getting down, she’d animate herself, telling me one from her bag of stories, 65 years of stories. A woman her age had seen some stuff, and she rolled it by me like a continuous newsreel whenever I started to get sad. 

A lot of those stories were about going to football games with her husband and kids. She had lived around the country, ended up in Sacramento by way of the Bay Area, but she had never left her team behind – Pittsburgh Steelers. 

My third day in the hospital was Super Bowl Sunday. Here I was with two big Steelers fans, Estelle and her husband. She had brushed her hair all morning and put on make-up. She talked about Franco Harris, “a Greek god,” she said. Her husband came in with two grocery sacks of food, just in case my friends showed up. Neither I nor Estelle was allowed to eat anything the nurses didn’t give us.  Well, okay, since you got Moon Pies…

In my memory it was the best Super Bowl ever. Only 10 years old, the Super Bowl was not what it is today. I don’t remember any half time show, and only a few big corporate sponsors made special commercials – Budweiser leading the pack. But, football was huge, the players were larger than life – they may have done the bad stuff that players do now, but they didn’t do it in the public eye.

And the game was bigger, if you ask me. The plays were more daring, the passes were longer, everything just seemed more exciting. When I looked up the game on Wikipedia, it said Super Bowl X was considered the most exciting of the first 10 Super Bowl games, and that’s how I remember it. In my childhood memory, I see Terry Bradshaw with that wild Oakie face of his, looking for an open man, not finding one, just running like Tom the Piper’s son. I see Franco Harris advancing down the field with two guys hanging off his shoulder pads. I see Lynn Swann reaching out and catching a pass that seems to drop out of nowhere.

And then Estelle got really excited, and knocked her IV bottle off her hanger, it crashed to the floor, and blood started spurting out the tube all over the place. The game was suspended for about 20 minutes while the nursing staff mopped it up and set Estelle up with a new IV. 

I have a friend who feels the word “epic” is entirely overused in our culture. He works at a college, so I imagine he hears that word every day about a hundred times in reference to everything from movies to meals to weekend trips. But, at risk of being rebuffed, I will say, Super Bowl 10 was epic.  The Steelers and Terry Bradshaw made a new name for themselves that day. The Cowboys were not too shabby either, which is evidenced in that final score of 21 – 17. 

Yesterday’s game was okay because it came out the way I wanted. I was rooting for Payton because he’s considered an old guy, and I get tired of the ageism in sports. Yesterday we saw The Orange Crush – that famous Denver defense. Payton held his own, but the defense team really won the game. I actually felt bad for Cam Newton, maybe he’ll get another chance next year. 

And Willem Dafoe in granny panties and heels – I’m still laughing.






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