Tag Archives: super bowl

Superhero

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My attachment to the Super Bowl began forty years ago in the same year that I declared my love for the Dallas Cowboys. I was seven, an ideal age for declaring eternal love, and my newfound infatuation was rewarded with a dominant Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl XII was played in New Orleans, only a few hundred miles from my house but in a magical alternate universe as far as I could tell. It was the first “primetime” Super Bowl, so since my dad did not go to church with us he kept a close eye on the game until I made it home from church for the second half.

Those awesome late 1970s names take me back. Golden Richards. Too Tall Jones. Hollywood Henderson. Jethro Pugh. Billie Joe DuPree. Tony Dorsett. Haven Moses. Otis Armstrong. Riley Odoms. Lyle Alzado. But my hero, hands down, was Roger Staubach. Roger the Dodger.

It is clear in retrospect how deeply I was influenced by my environment. As a white American church-going boy, of course my hero was Roger Staubach. Clean cut. Patriotic. Captain America. He was a Navy man, just like my dad.  And a quarterback, just like my dad.  #12 was my first sports hero.

Just before the following Christmas, eight-year-old me had the idea to write my hero a letter. With a new knowledge of cursive handwriting, which was easily my worst subject in school, I labored over the perfect letter to express to “Mr.  Staubach” the depths of my love for him—and to request an autographed picture. We somehow tracked down the address to the Dallas Cowboys, so my dad wrote a check for three dollars addressed to Roger Staubach and mailed it and my letter off to the great unknown.

Never in my life will a piece of mail replicate the joy in my heart on the day the manila envelope with the royal blue Dallas Cowboys sticker arrived. I floated by day and slept with the envelope at night and on show-and-tell day became the most popular kid in the third grade. We learned that an 8×10 photograph cost one dollar that year, so I received an autographed picture inscribed, “To Al Sturgeon, Merry Christmas, Roger Staubach,” AND an 8×10 team photo of the 1978 Dallas Cowboys. (We concluded that the other dollar must have been used for shipping and handling.)  This piece of mail was instantly my greatest material possession.  I would like to know how many hours I spent memorizing the names of the players in the team photo.  I would like to know because I still know almost every one forty years later.

Some will remember this, but in the old world of checking accounts all personal checks were returned by mail each month so that you could properly balance your checkbook.  My parents soon realized that Roger Staubach had endorsed my dad’s three-dollar check, so when it arrived at our house I had yet another autograph from my hero!  For free!

I have followed the forty Super Bowls that have occurred since Super Bowl XII.  A sportswriter ranked Super Bowl XII as the worst game of the first fifty.  You will never convince me.  In all honesty, I had zero interest in the Eagles-Patriots matchup yesterday.  I was not allowed to cheerfully support the Eagles as a Cowboys fan, and although I used to root for the Pats in honor of my dear friend, Scott, their recent dominance of the game removed any desire to support them either.  But I followed along because of the memories this annual American tradition brings.  Memories of a little boy and heroes, a dad and a check, and a letter that seemed to appear from heaven.

It’s funny, but I saved that canceled check and surprise autograph for many years, and it was long after my dad died that it dawned on me that it contained another surprise autograph: My dad’s.  Right there on the front.

My sweet wife framed that check for me in a special frame where you can see the signatures on both sides of the check.  I always display it where you can see my dad’s autograph.  It turns out that he was my first and greatest hero all along.

Increase the Challenge

PrincePrince died one year ago today. His death was a terrible blow to the music world, and it was also a terrible blow to my wife, who is the biggest Prince fan that I know. I never doubted that she loved me more than Prince, but then again, the three of us never were in the same room.

Regardless of your personal thoughts, Prince was undeniably an amazing performer and a musical genius. In the days following his death, I stumbled across a video produced by the NFL that featured his unforgettable Super Bowl halftime performance at Dolphin Stadium in 2007. Football is tough enough in a rainstorm, but I can only imagine holding a twelve-minute worldwide concert in the driving rain. Come to think of it, I couldn’t play a guitar in high heels under perfect weather conditions.

The video is worth eight minutes of your life, but since all Prince fans have probably seen it and the rest of you probably won’t take the bait, I will share the best part. With the storm bearing down on Miami and threatening to ruin the show, a producer said to Prince, “I want you to know it’s raining…Are you okay?” Prince calmly responded, “Can you make it rain harder?”

When I have work to do in this life and adversity rears its ugly head, that’s the attitude I would like to be strong enough to adopt. Make it more challenging. It won’t stop me.

A False Sense of Security

Rolling Stone did a great piece on why the NFL sacked Roman numerals for Super Bowl 50, and if your team ended up with the L yesterday, you can just think of it as a big old Roman numeral instead. (Too soon?)

Super Bowl 50 mostly made me feel old since I remember most of them. I was a football fan and a churchgoing kid in the 1970s-1980s, which was a terrible combination on Super Bowl Sunday.¹ Our church had Bible classes at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, followed by a 6:00 p.m. worship assembly, and it was clear that we would go straight to hell for missing either. I lived in a house directly across the street from the church building, so my friend Jamey and I would run across the street² in between class/worship to get a Super Bowl update from my non-churchgoing dad. It was torture at the time, but it makes me smile to remember me/Jamey/Dad and the breathless fun of being a kid.

My dad played football in the 1930s when players wore leather helmets with no facemask. Crazy, right? Recently, I heard some lawyers discussing football’s concussion scandal and someone suggested returning to those days. Super crazy, right? This deranged lawyer tossed in some actual facts (sneaky!) that contact sports like rugby (sans helmets) have a much lower incidence of brain injuries, which if not concussed, takes about half a second to understand: A false sense of security is a dangerous thing.

Well, going helmet-less should never happen to American football, but that’s not where my brain is at today.³ I’m thinking about the other equipment we wear to protect our minds and our hearts that unconsciously liberates us to act in ways that damage us even more.

Like, I won’t let anyone know my weaknesses, so I drive myself harder and harder (you can’t hurt me!) until, well, my weaknesses are pretty undeniable.

And, I won’t let anyone know my failures, so I set out to prove how successful I can be at everything (you can’t beat me!) until, well, I fail in spectacular fashion.

And, I won’t let anyone know my loneliness, so I endear myself to so many people (you can’t ignore me!) that I end up not connecting to anyone.

Among others.

Maybe I should take off the old football helmet. That may force me to consider how my daily actions truly impact my tender mind and heart.

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¹ Arguably a terrible combination period, although I have stubbornly held on to both.

² I never was clear on the state of our eternal souls if we were hit by a car while crossing the street running away from the church on Super Bowl Sunday. Post-law school, I think our mens rea would have protected us, but then again, who would have been out driving on Super Bowl Sunday anyway?

³ Pun? Irony? Terrible writing? All three?