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The Epitome of Super
Steve Rushin
February 05, 1996
It was a press-addressing, tongue-tying, dung-diving ring-ding of a week in Phoenix
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February 05, 1996

The Epitome Of Super

It was a press-addressing, tongue-tying, dung-diving ring-ding of a week in Phoenix

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In the most appropriate marketing marriage imaginable, every person attending Super Bowl XXX on Sunday received a complimentary pair of Breathe Right nasal strips, designed, says the manufacturer, "to prevent or reduce snoring." The last cure for snoring at the Super Bowl, Joe Namath, had not been available for 27 years. But that was before the Super Bowl came to Phoenix—the very name ends in Roman numerals-and once again was treated with the dignity that such a spectacle deserves.

To be sure, the nasal strips were all that was free in Phoenix. As Deion Sanders says, "If it don't make dollars, it don't make sense." After all, what's more American than free enterprise? "On Super Bowl Sunday," the Arizona Republic reported two days before the game, "Ron Kaczenski of R.N. Davis Cannabis and Hemp Co. will be selling 'SupherbBowl,' the unofficial marijuana of Super Bowl XXX." The NFL must have been displeased by this announcement, even though the Pittsburgh Steelers were openly preparing nickel and dime packages during every practice.

Speaking of Steelers practices: Each one was covered by a pool reporter assigned by the Professional Football Writers' Association of America. Last Thursday's dispatch, posted for the more than 3,000 correspondents representing 185 nations, was typically incisive, eloquent, Hemingwayesque: "Linebacker Chad Brown left practice twice, according to [coach Bill] Cowher, because 'he had the runs.'...The nearest rest room was some 200 yards away. 'Usually we have an outhouse near the practice field,' Cowher said."

Which brings us to Fred Flores of Gilbert, Ariz. Last Friday he won a pair of Super Bowl tickets from a Phoenix radio station. He did so by diving headfirst into 2,000 pounds of cow manure.

On an analogous note, reporters that same day listened to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's State of the League Address, in which he said things like, "Our coaches engage each week in what can only be described as masterful chess matches of strategy." One such grandmaster was the Dallas Cowboys' Barry Switzer, who refused to let "periphial" matters distract him, who acknowledged "disparagies" between the Steelers and Cowboys, but who hoped to win the "Orange Bowl" nonetheless. Playing Spassky to this Fischer was Cowher, who likes to "slobber and spit," in the words of Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene.

It was Greene who made the most moving address in Phoenix. Sprinkling his homily with the words dad-gum, numbnut and belly-power, the longhaired Alabaman told sportswriters, "I believe in America, the flag, freedom, and the fact that people have had to die over the years so that we can do what we're doing right now." Which was eating doughnuts and conducting interviews of epic banality.

Many of these mots justes were translated into Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Navajo, so that people in, say, Burkina Faso might know that Sanders said, "I always give props to my mama."

For some this grew wearisome as the week wore on. Wearing his visor upside down so it looked like a papal miter, Steelers halfback Bam Morris was asked by a Swedish reporter to "describe your running game to the people of Scandinavia." Exhibiting few symptoms of the Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages grow to love their captors, Bam confessed, "I'll be happy when I'm finished with y'all."

Not so for Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, whose press-conference paean to teammate Emmitt Smith earlier in the week fairly demanded to be set off in verse:

This man would stand
Right here in my face
And say, "You know I love you."
How strong our love is
Our love overrides everything
It overrides that inferiority complex
That men have when they say,
"I love you."

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