What a ride it was, that being Super Bowl 45. From the team charter and “Hopalong Hines” showing up in cowboy hat, jeans, boots and a belt buckle big enough to make John Travolta circa “Urban Cowboy” fame envious, to the rolling roller-coaster ride through the clouds on our re-entry to Pittsburgh airspace a week later, it was quite a trip.
Who’d a thunk Fort Worth, Texas to be colder in February than the ‘Burgh? Doesn’t anybody in Texas salt their veggies? And if so, couldn’t they spare a little salt for the roads? The freeways were laden with more accidents than a red-neck demolition derby and walking around the “Death Star” as the locals refer to Jerry-World got six or seven people hurt from falling ice. No, this was not your average Super Bowl.
I had a chance to go to the Mesquite Rodeo for Steelers TV and ride a horse, learn how to rope a steer, and sit on the back of a Brahma Bull named “Six-Burgh” while he snorted and twitched in the chute. Thankfully nobody opened the gate while i was on this half-a-ton beast, Tunch Ilkin.
I stood feeling queasy on one of the two painted X’s on the road marking the places where JFK was shot outside the Texas School Book Depository and Lee Harvey Oswald changed the course of history.
In the aftermath of Super Bowl 45 memories and snapshots fly through my head; Jerry Jones on the field and me peeking to see if his ears really did touch in back of his head, Christine Aguilera singing the National Anthem and the raised eyebrows of those around me when everybody “knew she missed something,” and spying the Jeremy Kapinos kicked football wedged up in the catwalk of the monstrous Jerry-Vision scoreboard hanging over the field.
Mental movies of movie dude Owen Wilson catching a pre-pre-game pass in the end zone. Jennifer Aniston talking football while sitting on the set of one of the pre-game shows broadcasting from the field. Adam Sandler being Adam Sandler. Watching the half-time show from the Steelers bench with the Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon, laughing as “Usher” frantically tried to untangle his hand from the safety strap after he rode down from the scoreboard on a little platform and everybody around him was already pumping to the music.
Spying the goosebumps on the arms of Chris Kemoeatu just prior to the opening kickoff, the face of frustration on Manny Sanders as he rolled by me on the golf cart ride that signaled the end of his dream year, “The Beard” calling for more Steelers fans volume as Brett Keisel pumped up the crowd while on the comeback trail from a 21-10 deficit.
Rolling glimpses of the pain in Flozell’s face after the Nick Collins pick-six and he “popped a bolt” while trying to tackle Collins, Ben’s face on the sidelines as he wiped the sweat out of the inside of his helmet and hearing the crowd after the INT to Collins. Hines Ward’s pre-game fierce, war-like face compared to the look of disbelief as he sat on the Steelers bench and the confetti streamed through the air the moment the final gun ended the quest for #7.
Imprinted in my gourd are Antwaan Randle El’s joyful face over the great catch he made that lead to a touchdown on that drive and the look of self-chastisement he bore when he lined up on the wrong side of a no-huddle formation and burned precious seconds on the last gasp series.
Anthony Madison throwing an ice cup that blew up all over some sideline media after Jarrett Bush picked clean Ben and Mike Wallace. Casey Hampton exploding in anger after Greg Jennings first touchdown.
Frustration boiled over on an extra point when Brett “The Deisel” Keisel had a set-to with the Packers TJ Lang. I caught Ryan Clark coaching up his teammates on the sidelines after Green Bay’s first touchdown drive and Troy’s quizzical look of resignation as he walked by me on the sidelines after Jennings second TD in the fourth quarter.
Hines waiting on his teammates while excitedly urging them to join him on the 32-yard line on the changeover after the end of the third quarter. The sideline as one going limp after Ben’s fourth down pass to Mike Wallace turfed out. Potsie Farrior looking at me with the blankest expression i’ve ever seen on a football field as we walked off the field while the green and gold started to celebrate.
Former Steeler and now Packer coach Kevin Greene joyfully celebrating on the field post-game, former Steeler and also coaching’em up for the Pack Darren Perry who was so classy and came to the post-game locker room to talk with the boys. Watching Flozell’s face in the locker room as i was telling Flo “You know you gott’a come back.”
Faces blur in the aftermath; the ever unchanging rock solid Mr. Rooney quietly shaking hands with his guys, Art Rooney following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and also visiting with his guys. More hanging heads than a florist has plants. Big Juicy icing his leg, The “Big Legursky,” somber though playing terriffic when most outsiders (national media) bet against him, the quiet “quietness” of Heath Miller and Kevin Colbert making the rounds.
The ever talkative Chris Hoke just shaking his head, Maurkice Pouncey feeling pain that had nothing to do with his ankle, and the half-hearted smile of resignation crossing Matt Spaeth’s face as he passed.
Standing there contrasting the post-game party after the loss with the one in Tampa and the win over the Cardinals. Bruce Arians and family, absolutely the best. Big Sean Kugler making like Jesse Ventura in “Predator”, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Keith Butler and a smile. The unflappable Dick LeBeau.
All these memories woven into an endless looping film that plays over and over in my head. It’s one that will be hard to turn off.