Though the consequences of playing pro football have been grim for lots of men, for the fan who’ll be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, a circus atmosphere will prevail.
In fact, that atmosphere has been prevailing for some time now. The weeks – two of them – between the games that determine which teams will face each other in the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl itself are jammed with promotions and parties. The phenomenon transcends sports, and at daily media sessions, t.v., radio, and print reporters and commentators who never dreamed they’d be asked to discuss football find themselves interviewing players of whom they’ve never heard about a game with which they are unacquainted.
In the days preceding Super Bowls past, these circumstances have led to some magnificently awkward moments. Consider, for example one of the media sessions before Super Bowl XXII, which would feature a Washington team led by Doug Williams, the first African American to quarterback a team in the big game. While it may or may not be true that Williams himself was asked “So how long have you been a black quarterback?” it is reliably reported that Mark May, an offensive lineman on the Washington team, was asked “How does it feel to block for the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl?”
Do you suppose Mr. May was surprised by that question? And how about Kurt Warner, then quarterbacking the Rams, when somebody asked him before Super Bowl XXXVI, which was played in New Orleans, “Do you believe in voodoo, and can I have a lock of your hair?”
I don’t know how Mark May or Kurt Warner handled those curious inquiries, but sometimes the players’ answers do make it into the historical record. That’s why we know that when Titans defensive tackle Joe Salave’a was asked before Super Bowl XXXIV, “What’s your relationship with the football?” he replied, presumably with a straight face, “I’d say it’s strictly platonic.”
Professional football is a hard and dangerous game. The Super Bowl draws an enormous audience, and although some who gather for the show are more interested in the snacks, the commercials, and the camaraderie than they are in the game, millions and millions of people will see and ridicule any mistake a player makes. Still, after reviewing some of the foolishness Super Bowl participants have had to endure in the days before the kickoff, can there be any doubt that many of them will be relieved when the game finally begins?