The scene was out of Kafka. The snow was melting, and the media cars and TV trucks had turned the prison parking lot into a mire. A 22-year-old bartender named Mignon Jensen had come to visit Porky Plum, her friend who was in for receiving stolen property. "I think they're right to shoot him and get it over with," she said of Gilmore. Nearby, a well coiffed talking head, wrapped in a London Fog coat, stood ankle-deep in prison mud rehearsing for the nightly news: "The time is drawing near for the first execution in the United States in almost 10 years.... Let's do that again." Angry convicts moiling in the yard screamed, "Get the f---outta here!" and heaved snowballs over the wire fence at our small army of journalists-voyeurs until nightfall came and clergymen lit candles and read scripture in an eerie highway vigil protesting death by execution.
The line of the week was surely not Biletnikoff's ("I had to make a lot of adjustments in my patterns") but rather Gilmore's final utterance, "Let's do it!" Then came the muffled pop of rifle fire in the prison's old cannery. Of course, they were all the same in the end—the media events, the photo ops, the hype—from the roar of the kickoff to the TKO in five to the blood on the cannery floor, each just another wireless feed to sate the strange, insatiable hungers of America in our times.
THE MORNING AFTER
When the cheers die down, Peter King knows, our heroes are at their most human
THE MOST FUN I'VE HAD IN MY 20 SUPER BOWL weeks has come in the hours after the games. I've watched Bill Parcells stuff his suitcase closed the morning after XXI; hitched a limo ride with a wide-eyed and euphoric Jimmy Johnson after XXVII; heard Steve Young admonish a relative in his hotel room for denigrating Joe Montana after Young threw six touchdown passes in XXIX; and helicoptered from Fort Lauderdale to Miami with John Elway to a morning-after-XXXIII press conference. But this was the weirdest: sitting on a luggage cart with Brett Favre in a stairwell of the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, with the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI victory party in full swing on the other side of the emergency exit door. "This is the only place it'll be a little quiet," Favre said, and so we'd ducked out of the mayhem.
He was scrunched up on the luggage cart, knees almost touching his face. The occasional busboy whizzed by, but this was an oasis where Favre could soak up the 35-21 win over the New England Patriots. "I was real nervous, as nervous as I'd been since fifth grade when I first played," he said. "I was scared I'd do something stupid or not be patient. When the national anthem was playing, I was thinking, I could throw up right about now. But I knew if New England gave me something, I'd take it, and they did early. 5 Second play, we call 322 Y Stick, a safe quick-out to [tight end] Mark Chmura, but I see they're coming with a blitz, bringing both safeties up near the line. I can't believe it. Sending an all-out blitz | so early? With how we respond to a blitz? I'm leaning over center, and I say, 'Blue 50! Blue 50! Oh s---!' And I see them coming. So I check off to 74 Razor, which sends the receiver to my left on a straight post. That's Andre Rison. They left the
middle of the field wide open, and there was no question I was going for it all.
"Funny thing. I was sitting in my room in the morning, watching that continuous Super Bowl channel, and on came the San Francisco—Denver game. In that game I saw Montana audible to 59 Razor, which, for the 49ers, was basically the same play as our 74 Razor. I said to myself, 'Man, it'd be nice to find myself in that position just once in my career.' And they do it right away. Incredible. It felt like my first touchdown pass in pro football."
It was just after midnight. Favre was spent—eyes bloodshot and half-closed, the aftereffects of a midweek virus. He looked as if he wanted to curl up and sleep. But Favre knew that sleep wouldn't come for a day or three. He had too many people to hug.
"Through everything, I really believed I'd be here today," said Favre, who had undergone treatment for Vicodin addiction the previous spring. "Right here in this stairwell, talking about being world champions." He laughed. "For me, trouble never seems to be very far away. The future won't be all rosy. But they can't take this away from me. Thirty years from now the kids'll be getting ready for Super Bowl LXI, and NFL Films will drag out Steve Sabol—he'll be around 102—and he'll talk about how Brett Favre fought through such adversity. There'll be other players and coaches in some great games in the next few years, but I know this: We etched our place in history today."
ME AND THE TOOZ
John Schulian raises a glass to his favorite elbow bender and curfew breaker
HE HAD A DRINK IN EACH HAND, although I doubt he knew what kind of drinks they were. Caring only that both contained alcohol, John Matuszak disappeared them in a gulp apiece. It was a classic maneuver by the Oakland Raiders' wild man, who barged through his short, bacchanalian life with a lamp shade on his head and a pair of panties dangling from the top of the shade. Nothing in that prethong era could change him, least of all Super Bowl XV, in New Orleans. The Tooz always reserved Wednesday night for getting loose, and when the Raiders imposed an uncharacteristic curfew before the game, he boogied all over it.