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The time I went to the Super Bowl and paid $20 per ticket

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The Golden Couple of the ’70s at their big Super Bowl adventure.

It’s not unusual to exchange Super Bowl stories on this, Super Bowl Sunday. And, by now, many of us have had the opportunity to attend.  Although it’s in Houston this year, I’ve chosen to stay home and watch. Had either of our favorite teams made it in – Texans or Cowboys – I might have dug deep into my connections or pocketbook to find the cash.

Feels like I’ve seen plenty already, having driven in the Super Bowl traffic on Thursday and Friday with the potential of being extremely late to work in the Texas Medical Center tomorrow when everyone tries to get back out of town.  But then, I’ve been. Knocked it off my Bucket List and have “highlights” evidence to prove it.

My story of attending the Super Bowl is not quite as cool as the story of technology over the last three decades. After all, I attended the game in 1978 when we had no idea the advances that would take place in technology and that some historic moments would be memorialized forever – including this one.

It was Dallas vs. Denver, the Superdome in New Orleans, and I had a friend who had just gone to work for the wire service UPI in New Orleans. Joan Duffy, an outspoken journalist and mentor who had been with me on a news desk during Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation, had taken me under her wing for my impressionable early years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I was hot to maintain the relationship as well as score the best birthday present of all time for my new husband during our honeymoon days. These 35-yard-line tickets to the big game would never again be matched or surpassed in now 44 years of marriage.

Face value for a Superbowl ticket?  A mere $20 compared to $3,000 today.

Husband John was marking off a huge one on his life’s bucket list. Here he was, a guy who had played football through high school and college and who was now attending an actual Super Bowl game, watching some of his childhood heroes. Huge deal, huh? Could other big events like a World Series, Wimbledon or a presidential inauguration be far behind? We were young and cool and heading for rich and famous.

It was a momentous day even before the game.  Joan, John and I were walking Bourbon Street, of course, hobnobbing and pressing the flesh. That’s when I spotted my childhood hero, Walter Chronkite, whose calming voice and knowledgeable news reports were the highlight of every evening.  These were the days when journalists were among the smartest people walking, and he inspired me to more than writing – to knowledge, to objectivity, to honorable presence, to be the Fourth Estate. He was the real deal and there he was in real life.

I was the first to recognize him and, of course, stopped in my tracks — dropped-jawed and cotton-mouthed — while Joan and husband John kept walking. Uncle Walt was so self-effacing. He chatted easily with us fellow news reporters just like we were contemporaries. I still believe he would have gone into the bar behind us for an afternoon of drinking and story-telling, had I been able to stop stuttering.

The game itself was not that momentous and Dallas stayed ahead pretty easily. We even skipped out a bit early to see the King Tut exhibit, another fantasy come true for a kid who loved to read about Egypt.  It was the exhibit’s first tour to the United States and the long lines had caused huge headlines. We made it only moments before the exhibit closed for the season.

Now, flash forward through the years and into our current day living room and the real story.

With today’s technology, we now can tape the Super Bowl highlights no matter what time they come on. We had taped them all. They are only 30 minutes long but John loved to watch them all and relive the games like the true football beast he is.

So, one day, John says he thinks he recognizes the three girls who were sitting in front of us during the Super Bowl. What? No one else would ever have known we were frozen in time on camera were it not for John’s incredible memory of football plays and peoples’ faces. And now we have slo-mo.

It goes like this:

The Cowboys’ player Golden Richards catches a pass from Roger Staubach that seals his team’s victory. The Cowboys celebrate with Hollywood Henderson throwing his arms into the air. That’s the signal for us to start watching the recording closely.

The camera goes to Cowboy Ray riding his stick horse in the stands and then pans among the many revelers. The view begins to take in the crowd in the aisle beside Cowboy Ray. The fans are wild with celebration. Then, there are the three girls – arms thrown into the air in celebration – and . . . slow, slow, frame, frame.

Yes, there is John under one of the girl’s armpits. We stop action, focus and enlarge the picture on our home television as video-John turns his head, smiles and talks to . . . me, sitting beside him. With the magic of today’s technology, we can move the picture, frame-by-frame and close in on this young couple who had been hidden for years behind these same girls.

There we are, images preserved for national recognition during such a historic event as Superbowl XII.

I had to run the picture back and forth a thousand times, frame by frame, to be sure this wasn’t some trick of the camera. How could I possible have gotten my hair that big? It looked like Marlo Thomas from “That Girl” days.

And then, there’s John. Here’s a guy who has been big enough to be shaving since Little League baseball, and, well, let’s face it: He’s wearing a powder blue suit with lapels wider than my hair. Is this John Hensley or John Travolta? Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Ah. Ah. Ah.

The kids started yelling “leisure suit,” “leisure suit.”

John swears he never owned one. But there it is, preserved forever.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

February 5, 2017 at 2:14 pm