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CHANCE ENCOUNTER A PRELUDE TO 40 SUPER SUNDAYS

I remember my first “Super Bowl Sunday” like it was yesterday. 
 
Actually it was 40 years ago this month - when quite by accident - I caught the final minute of Super Bowl V between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys.
 
I went to visit my best friend Tim Robinson who lived across the street from me. It was late in the afternoon on Sunday, January 17th 1971 - just another cold, winter day but a day that will forever glow in my memory.
 
Unbeknown to me, Tim was watching the Super Bowl  - all by himself. How ironic as Tim’s father and brothers were huge sports fans but nowhere to be found that day.
 
Maybe they were unaware of the "significance of the day." I wasn't an NFL fan either but that was all about to change within a matter of minutes, probably seconds when I really think back.  
 
I entered the TV room just in time to see Jim O’Brien’s last-play, 32-yard field goal which gave Baltimore a 16-13 win and the title. Tim was elated with the outcome - I was just happy to see it.

I had only become a CFL fan two months earlier - after seeing in person a playoff game between Hamilton and Montreal - so I was familiar with the Grey Cup, "Canada's version of the Super Bowl."   But my inaugural, almost inconspicuous Super Bowl moment in January of 1971 -"would forever consummate my love for both the NFL and CFL."
 
O’Brien’s winning kick would also be the first of many "Super Bowl Moments" to grace my memory over the last 40 years - memories of an annual sporting ritual that has become a cultural phenomenon bordering on global fanaticism.

MY TOP-FIVE MEMORIES OF SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

5/ “Super Bowl XI” in 1977 would be the fourth, NFL title game in five years, Tim and I would watch together (fifth if you include my chance encounter with the final minute of Super Bowl V.) 
 
(My annual sojourn to Kitchener-Waterloo actually began in early December of 1972, just after the Robinsons had relocated to the Twin-Cities. I watched my beloved Tiger Cats that Sunday, December 3rd weekend beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 13-10 on a last-play, field goal by Ian Sunter to win the '72 Grey Cup.)
 
I was 20-years-old and in my first year of university when I drove to Kitchener that Sunday morning of January 9th 1977 for the matchup between Minnesota and Oakland. It was also Tim’s 21st birthday and his girlfriend at the time, “Christine Meisel” joined us for the big game. Chris was a fantastic person - someone I thought Tim was destined to marry.
 
I had a great rapport with Chris - someone I wished I had pursued after Tim had met someone else. Unfortunately I didn’t and it would be the last time I would see the lovely Chris Meisel.   But that Sunday afternoon some 34 years ago lives with me to this very day. Ken Stabler and the outlaw Raiders hammered the Vikings much to my delight.
 
The outcome of the game was decided very early on - so I was able to re-live with everyone some of my fondest, childhood memories with the Robinson family - a family that had become something of a surrogate family during my formative years.
 
4/ I had rode the pines during four seasons of high school basketball during the 1970s - always good enough to make the team but never quite good enough to play.
 
Fast forward to the autumn of 2001. At the age of 45 I started playing again - this time Sunday morning, pick-up ball at the local public school. I hadn’t played regularly in 23 years but I still possessed my deadly, outside shot.
 
Unfortunately, in the early hours of Sunday, February 3rd 2002 - I was unable to sleep due to a full blown bout of bronchitis. Around 3 am. I checked in at the local emergency and received a prescription from the doctor. He was also kind enough to give me a free pill to get me started on my recovery.
 
I got home around 4:30 and went straight to sleep. I awoke five hours later, completely free of bronchitis and fully rested. Talk about a powerful antibiotic.
 
So I thought I might as well join the guys for Sunday pick-up. Despite being ravaged with bronchitis only a few hours earlier, I enjoyed one of my best outings - scoring some 26 points.
 
We went for beers right afterwards. I was so euphoric - I philosophized all afternoon with my teammates and many acquaintances.
 
But I got home in time to catch "Super Bowl XXXVI" as Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal on the final play to give the Patriots a 20-17 win over St. Louis.   It would be the second Super Bowl in three seasons to be decided on the final play - a  pair of several, great title games to grace The New Millennium.
 
3/ Number three on my Super Sunday list took place the year after I walked in on Super Bowl V.
 
Tim and I watched all of "Super Bowl VI" at my house as Dallas lassoed Miami 24-3. Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and Co. made amends for the loss to Baltimore as well as back-to-back, last-minute losses to Green Bay in the NFC championship several years earlier.
 
As Landry beamed with pride at game‘s end- I clearly remember Pat Summerall saying, “and the man who never smiles is finally smiling today.”
 
Despite the loss, the Dolphins were a “dynasty in the making” winning the next two Super Bowls - including "Super Bowl VII" which capped an undefeated, 17-0 season. 
 
2/ It may have been the “Dawn of a New Year” but January of 1974 was the “Winter Of My Discontent.”

I had just finished my third year of HS football, second on the senior team. My teammates had elected me “honorary team captain”  based on my work ethic and commitment to the game.
 
But I had played very little the previous fall - victimized by a coach, who, for personal reasons wanted to see me fail. It was one of the darkest periods of my life.
 
I was able to enjoy a temporary reprieve however, when I went to visit Tim and his family on Super Bowl weekend.
 
I arrived on Saturday afternoon, went for beers with Tim that night (at one of those old-fashioned taverns that you rarely see today) prior to catching “American Graffiti”  at the movie theatre. Despite becoming a huge Clint Eastwood fan, American Graffiti remains my all-time favourite movie.   
 
That’s how deeply relieved I was that weekend to escape the disappointment of my football experience - that the temporary reprieve is forever etched in my memory spawned by the joy of watching a movie classic.
 
The Miami Dolphins’ victory over Minnesota the next day in "Super Bowl VIII" was anti-climatic for me. I was just happy to be around people who made me feel safe and secure - even if it was just for a weekend. 
 
1/ By “January of 1975,” my annual trip to Kitchener had become something of a “rite of passage”  for me.“Super Bowl IX” also ranks as my “Number One, Super Bowl Memory” because of my “much improved frame of mind” from a year earlier.
 
I had done justice to both the DE and TE positions the previous season to redeem myself for 1973. I had also scored a few points in basketball - despite seeing the floor on a limited basis. 
 
I felt great and it showed!!!
 
Tim, his brother Dan and I went for a few beers Saturday afternoon at the Schaben Club. The atmosphere at the quaint German Club was quite pleasant as it further buoyed my improved self-esteem.
 
Dinner with the Robinsons that evening was excellent - I felt on top of the world.
 
The next day Tim and I, along with Dan and his girlfriend Anita watched Pittsburgh beat Minnesota 16-6 to capture their first of back-to-back Super Bowl titles. I was very good friends with Anita which further accentuated my weekend experience.
 
While "Super Bowls VIII and IX " represent two very distinct bookends for me - "in personal growth and self-improvement”  the journey was definitely worth it.  
 
The following year, I enjoyed the"best season of my five-year, HS football experience" en route to attending the Hamilton Tiger Cats' HS rookie camp in the spring of 1976.
 
Living a dream that week on the astro-turf at Ivor Wynne Stadium..."if I touched the ball .........I caught it."   
 
All because of my chance encounter with Super Bowl V some 40 years ago. 

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