Part XVI: II-VI-MMXI=XLV (Translation: Feb. 6, 2011 = Super Bowl XLV)
For the first time in it's forty-five year history, the Super Bowl—the greatest show on earth—will be played in North Texas, home of America’s Team (a.k.a. the Dallas Cowboys). Although the term “Super Bowl” was coined by native Dallasite Lamar Hunt, the big game has never been played here...that is, until now.
Texas is football's Mecca. And the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, home to America's Team—not to mention the hub of Friday Night Lights, the Cotton Bowl, the Red River Rivalry and millions of football-crazed Texans—will officially be the center of the football universe on Sunday. The only thing missing is the Cowboys actually playing in the big game. (There’s always, Super Bowl L…knock wood!)
Most Americans—along with a few curious foreigners who will likely think they’re watching a soccer match played by giants wearing body armor—will gaze longingly into their 56 inch flat screen TVs at the sights and sounds of this Texas-sized football extravaganza. Through the magic of orbiting satellites and C-band microwaves, millions upon millions of rabid fans consuming chips, pizza and hot wings (i.e. football's blessed sacrament) will literally and figuratively face southwest and pray toward the football Gods in Big D this Sunday. It is Mecca, indeed!
And best of all, I have a ticket. To be honest, I feel a bit like Charlie Bucket from Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I am in possession of a golden ticket and I can’t wait for my official tour of Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. JerryWorld—the billion-dollar glass and steel cathedral hosting the big game.
"If it's the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?"
-- Duane Thomas, Cowboys Running Back, Super Bowl VI, 1972
Sunday's game will be my second Super Bowl, and unfortunately the Pittsburgh Steelers were the AFC representatives for both games. Did I mention that I hate the Steelers? They broke my eight year-old heart back in January 1979 when they defeated my beloved Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII (see Part Eight: Super Bowl XLV Comes to Big D). Still, it should be an amazing experience, regardless which team wins. (Go Green Bay!)
Back in the '70s and '80s the Super Bowl was just a big football game. Prior to Super Bowl VI Dallas Cowboys running back Duane Thomas even dared to question the importance of the game when he asked, “If it's the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?" Speaking of colorful quotes by Cowboys players, there’s always Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, a flamboyant loud mouth who criticized the intelligence of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw prior to Super Bowl XIII, proclaiming that he “couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'.” Unfortunately, Bradshaw beat us in one of the most thrilling Super Bowl games in history and landed in the Hall of Fame a few years later while Hollywood Henderson only landed in rehab. Karma is indeed a bitch.
Back in this 1970s, halftimes were relatively simple and the game—while undoubtedly a big event—was just another football game, albeit the biggest of the year. Now, however, the Super Bowl is a cultural event of epic proportions, unparalleled in scope and size. Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial national holiday, and it is very likely that Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Packers will be the most-watched television program in history. Even the Department of Homeland Security has deemed the game a National Special Security Event, whatever that is. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, even the potential for foul play.
Speaking of bigger, food consumption on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving. And while the American Thanksgiving is rooted in a 17th century harvest festival, contemporary traditions have completely incorporated football. Indeed, mom’s Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing simply wouldn't taste the same unless it's garnished with a little afternoon football and beer. (There’s no better combination than a little tryptophan, beer and football on a cool November afternoon.) Since the Cowboys play at home every Thanksgiving day in Dallas, it's fair to argue that football is America's official secular religion—and in this context the Cowboys truly are America's Team.
Live From JerryWorld
A couple weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to attend the Super Bowl XLV Host Committee meeting at JerryWorld. I met many of my childhood heroes like Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett, as well as heroes from my early-20s, including Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Russell Maryland. It was a magical experience for a Dallas kid who grew up with the Cowboys.
Yet, the opportunity to stand on the football field with my dad and take in the spectacle as the NFL repackaged it for the Super Bowl was the best part of the day. Indeed, the Steelers and Packers may be playing on Sunday, but it’s the Stadium, not to mention all of North Texas, that are the real stars this weekend.
In short, this Texpatriate looks forward to an epic football sojourn.
When I return next week I’ll post a Super Bowl follow up column replete with gratuitious photos, stories and much, much more. In the meantime, let’s hope I can dig my Jeep out from the remnants of the Blizzard of 2011 in order to get to O’Hare so I can make it to Big D in time for the big game!