I didn’t watch the Super Bowl.

            I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. It has gotten to be more “show” than football. That is not an indictment for modern times nor is it a vote for old people in a kinder, gentler setting. It’s just an unadulterated fact. And to watch a sporting contest just to see the commercials seems backwards to me.

            The noteworthy thing for me and this year’s Super Bowl was the Roman numerals behind it. You talk about sobering! I remember the first “Super Bowl” like it was yesterday. Republicans and Democrats were still talking to each other. The Beatles hadn’t met Sgt. Pepper. Folks were beginning to realize that Viet Nam wasn’t going away. Jimmy Hoffa was on trial for attempting to bribe a jury. And you could buy a hamburger, fries and a drink at most any drive-in for less than a buck. 

            I was fighting some battles of my own in January of 1967. College was hard. The cold, windswept Cumberland Plateau didn’t help. Professors who thought you should show up knowing everything on the first day AND then improve each week thereafter were hard to bear. Advanced mathematics and quantitative sciences didn’t even speak English. Nor, of course, did the Latin class.

            The established National Football League had merged with the upstart (but very rich) American Football League. This first championship game was certainly uncharted waters; much like my life. I was young and also feeling my way along. College was supposed to help, wasn’t it?

I was working on my “open mind” and “inner feelings” when the food riot broke out at Gailor Hall. The dining room looked like something out of “Beowulf” with its mammoth size, stone walls and high glass windows. I was eating my English peas and minding my own business when the roast beef begin to fly. Rolls were bouncing off the chandeliers. Tables were turned up on end for shields as butter sticks, Brussels sprouts, fudge brownies and globs of mashed potatoes filled the air.

College boys blowing off steam was the main defense in the aftermath. I was thinking nothing in life could prepare you for this! Most everybody involved just saw the humor of it…….. I pondered deep into the night on perceptional connotations versus behavioral modification. And I remembered how often Dad had said, “Get that college education, son, nobody can take it away from you”!   

I was learning not everything in the world is always what it seems to be.

Of course, it wasn’t called “Super Bowl” from the beginning. It was the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. That sounds highfalutin enough to me. But since not too many foreign nations were playing football as we know it, the claim was pretty much justified. But it could go a long way in helping us to understand why we are not the most liked country around the world.

We discussed international relations over a Coke at the student center. We argued the merits of Viet Nam in the locker room after practice. I saw several campus protests up close and personal. I never took part. It seemed too radical. Of course, I also agreed that fighting a war ten thousand miles from the house didn’t make much sense. Some were devout believers in President Johnson’s Great Society. Some thought it was political bunk. Some stilled liked Elvis over The Rolling Stones. Others were gung ho on Jimi Hendrix or The Mamas and The Papas. We debated long into the night the philosophy set forth in the songs of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. I couldn’t hardly get Loretta Lynn in there edgeways!

The sixties could be a confusing time to be “base lining” your standards.

I pulled for the Green Bay Packers in that first ever final playoff game. They were the established team with guys like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Boyd Dowler and Max MaGee. The upstart Kansas City Chiefs were a little too brash for me. Maybe they had to be to defend their place in this championship setting. Maybe they were trying to convince themselves. Maybe my conservative side was winning out.

I watched the game on a small, black and white TV over at the SAE fraternity house. I was worried when Green Bay fell behind at halftime and cheered openly as they roared back in the second half to win easily. We had no sense of history here. We weren’t thinking precedent. I don’t remember one single commercial! It was just another game and a few minutes away from the tedious task of picking one’s way through the college collage.

Super Bowl XLVIII…….that’s a lot of Latin lettering no matter how you add it up! And a lot of first downs, screen passes and sideline interviews under the bridge. The game has certainly come a long way from its humble and sometimes shaky beginnings. It has stilled some critics and rewarded its proponents as the years have rolled along. It found, and then solidified, its place in this old world.

I hope and pray the same can be said about so many of those young college students that twisted and bounced through those turbulent Sixties with me.