In no particular order, my top ten favorite Super Bowl moments:
10) Giants over Pats – The catch – I can’t stand Tom Brady and the Patriots, and the thought of them going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl made my stomach burn. When Eli Manning escaped from a certain sack and flung a prayer to David Tyree, the darkest corners of my soul lit up with hope. When Tyree pinned the ball against his helmet and secured the catch, the gates of heaven parted and shone light upon the earth. All was not lost. Evil could still be vanquished. Did I mention that I really fucking hate the Patriots?
9) James Harrison’s INT return against Cardinals – I’m a defensive guy at heart, but over time, the NFL has made every effort to foster an offense-friendly environment for fans, so when defenses overcome all the rules and make a game-altering play, I cheer anyway. When one of my favorite players on my favorite team makes a play that ultimately wins the game, I’ll take that memory to my grave.
8 ) Don Bebee stripping Leon Lett at the goal line – The only thing I despise more than the Patriots is the prison work-release program known as the Dallas Cowboys. When Bebee ran down Lett, stripped him of the ball, and prevented a garbage touchdown, it no longer mattered that the Cowboys were winning the game. The trash-talking scumbags were denied a celebration and were forever immortalized as the scumbags they are.
7) John Elway’s head first dive against the Packers – At the beginning of the season, a ruptured bicep tendon had threatened Elway’s career, and we all knew he didn’t have much gas left in the tank. No one was sure how much he did have, but we all knew it wasn’t much. When he dove for that first down, taking a pretty good shot and getting helicoptered to the ground, even though I was pulling for the Packers, I gained a whole new level of respect for the man. He wanted that win, and he wanted it badly.
6) The Steelers’ surprise onside kick against the Cowboys – The Cowboys had been in control of the game from the opening kickoff, but the Steelers had scored to cut the score to 20-10 with 11:00 to play in the 4th quarter. The last thing I expected was an onside kick, and neither did the Cowboys. It worked flawlessly, and the Steelers scored to cut the lead to 20-17 with about 7:00 to go.
5) Ronnie Lott’s crushing hit on Ickie Woods – The goddamn Bengals and Ickie Woods had done that fucking Ickie shuffle too many times to my Steelers that year, so in the Super Bowl, I was hoping the 49ers would embarrass the Bengals. Early in the game, Ronnie Lott delivered a message. He hit Woods as hard as I’ve ever seen a running back get hit on a run, buckling Woods’s knees and pretty well crushing his spirit. Woods was never the same runner after that hit.
4) Terry Bradshaw’s bomb to John Stallworth against Rams – This is really my first Super Bowl memory. I have earlier football memories and earlier Steelers memories, but this is the first memory I have that’s a conscious awareness of the Super Bowl. And man, what a memory–the Blond Bomber went up top on the Rams, who had played a wonderful game to that point and still had a chance to win the game, but when Stallworth cleared the safety, caught the pass, and sprinted to the endzone, the game was no longer in doubt.
3) Hacksaw Reynolds’s hit on the goal line stand – Hacksaw played at Tennessee and was near the end of his career. He was a fierce competitor who had played on some lousy teams. With the game on the line and his second chance to win a Super Bowl ring in sight, he clocked Pete Johnson (I think) and stopped the Bengals on the one foot line. It was a thing of beauty.
2) Rod Woodson on Michael Irvin – Not long after we cut the score to 20-17, the Cowboys had a big third down to convert. Rod Woodson had blown out his knee against the Lions in the first game of the season. He had promised the team that if they would keep him off injured reserve, he would be ready for the Super Bowl if the team made it. No one really expected him to make it back, but somehow he did it. On this play, everyone in the world knew the Cowboys would throw to Michael Irvin, and even though he hadn’t played a game in five months, on this play, Woodson lined up across from Irvin to cover him. You could see Irvin yapping his coked-out, trash-talking nonsense before the snap, but at the snap, Woodson covered him like a blanket and denied him the ball. The moment I remember most is after the play was over, Woodson stood on one leg, bent his injured knee to his chest, pointed at it, and told Irvin that he was fine. Even though we ended up losing the game, that memory still gives me chills. Rod Woodson, you were the best defensive back I ever saw play the game.
1) Santonio’s Catch Against the Cardinals – It’s recent, and it gave my favorite team our 6th Super Bowl ring, the most in history until we win the 7th next year.