Handling The Hype
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ America loves a party and the Super Bowl is always is one of the best bashes around - unless you happen to be a player or coach, trying to concentrate on, of all things, the football game.
For those whose trip to the NFL’s January Thaw is made for business, not bombast, cutting through the hoopla and hype that precedes the kickoff sometimes is one of the biggest problems.
″The answer to handling the hype is being there a second time,″ said Bob Griese, who quarterbacked three Miami Dolphin Super Bowl teams. ″It is difficult for a first-time team and for first-time quarterbacks. (Denver’s John) Elway and (New York’s Phil) Simms will find that out.
″The first time I played in the Super Bowl, it was unsettling. The environment is so different. The media, the crowds. You’re living in a fish bowl. You don’t make a move that people don’t see.″
John Matuszak, once a flamboyant defensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders, knows about that. When the Raiders played Philadelphia in the 1981 Super Bowl at New Orleans, Matuszak was observed in mid-week sampling Bourbon Street’s nightlife at 3 a.m., well after curfew. That error in judgment cost him $1,000 and when he was asked to explain his transgression, Matuszak offered a marvelously simple answer.
″Wednesday night,″ he said, ″is the Tooz’ night out.″
That explained that.
Griese sort of understood. ″You have to get out of your room if you want to keep your sanity,″ he said. ″You have to get away from the hype and look for some normalcy. Sometimes you can’t find it. It’s very difficult and it must be addressed.″
There is, for example, the simple matter of dining. ″We found a restaurant in New Orleans with good food, close by the hotel that offered a maximum of privacy and a minimum of bother,″ Griese said. ″It was small, more of a bar than a restaurant, but it had great steaks. They knew us and put us in the back, out of the way. We went there three nights in a row.″
And that’s why the quarterback ate steak three nights in a row.
At least Griese made it into the fresh air. There were times when Pittsburgh’s Joe Greene didn’t get that far in his four Super Bowl trips.
″It got bad for me on the Friday and Saturday before the game when the hometown fans show up,″ he said. ″That’s when you feel the tension. You want to get on with it and you can’t get into or out of the lobby. They were always there. It gets pretty hairy. It becomes a madhouse. You wind up staying in your room.″
Then, there is the matter of where that room is, which sometimes is a subject of some contention.
Bud Grant, who coached Minnesota in four Super Bowls, remembers how details like that could interfere with the football planning.
″Getting ready to play is not a problem,″ he said. ″You spend less time in preparation then than at any other time that you play. Having played the other team once (as the Giants and Broncos have) eliminates a lot of the work. Practice time is minimal.
″Relatives and family are what bothered me. Somebody else’s wife always got a better view. ‘How come he’s on the 10th floor and we’re on the second?’ It’s not a big thing to a player. But to a wife, it is.
″And then they decide the kids are coming and we’ll need four more tickets for the game. Then there’s, ‘Where do we get the Disneyland tickets and where do we eat tonight?’ I don’t think the players are annoyed outwardly, but they’re concerned that their wives have a good time. There’s no quiet time. Leaving a meeting, they’ve got to rush back to the family.″
Teams have solved the Super Bowl scene by not leaving much work for themselves in those final days before the game. That, said Lynn Swann, Greene’s Steeler teammate, is the best way to approach the mayhem.
″The week before the Super Bowl will be a lot easier depending on how they handle the week before that,″ he said. ″They’ve got to get the other stuff out of the way then, who’s going, where are they staying, tickets and stuff. Get that done the first week (after the conference championship games) and Super Bowl week becomes a lot easier.
″If you have to deal with the media and practice and all the cousins and aunts and uncles you haven’t heard from for years who suddenly show up, it gets tough. Do you think John Elway, who went to Stanford, is going to have a lot of family and friends at the Rose Bowl? And in no way do they expect to pay for the tickets. They say, ‘Hey, you’re an NFL player. Get us tickets.’ Just like that.″
Team ticket policies vary. Chicago players last year each were offered 20, worth $75 apiece.
Griese farmed out the problem. ″I would say to somebody, ’Here are the tickets. Dish them out and don’t come back for more.‴
Greene used the same tactic. ″You put somebody in charge of the tickets, maybe your wife,″ he said. ″You don’t want that distraction.
″You know who’s going to have fun?″ Greene said. ″(Giants’ punter Sean) Landeta. He’s a small guy. Nobody knows his face.″
That anonymity will be short-lived. ″If you want people to know about you,″ Swann said, ″make it to the Super Bowl. Everything you do, everything about you will be exposed and devoured, right down to your stamp collection.″
As annoying as the hectic schedule is, Grant, the only four-time Super Bowl loser, understands the whole package.
″It’s a grand experience,″ he said. ″It is our reward for a long season of hard work.″
Is it overblown? Grant chuckled.
″It’s the biggest and the best,″ he said. ″You’ve got to go along with it. You can’t fight it. That’s why they call it the Super Bowl.″