Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 02-06-16

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


By Dave Klein
Arriving at the airport in order to serve as your correspondent at the Super Bowl for a 50th consecutive time, I was sitting and waiting for the shuttle bus when a guy approached.

He wore the uniform of Host Committee Volunteer, people who don't get paid, who do whatever they can to offer directions, assistance and information to the football visitors.

He noticed one of my carry-on bags, a remnant from an earlier Super Bowl.

"Need any help, mister?" he asked. Then he pointed at the bag in question and said: "You know, I was reading today in the paper that there are only three guys who have been at every Super Bowl. Isn't that something?"

I smiled. "You're talking to one of them right now," I said, and he was pleased to know he had hit pay dirt. But how could I tell him that there is much pathos in this fact, too, that so many friends have passed on and could no longer claim the rather dubious distinction of having seen every one of these games in person?

We all started out in Los Angeles for the first game, and frankly, no one expected this newest gimmick would work. But it did, this "AFL-NFL World Championship Game," as it was called, since the merger between the two leagues had been approved but not finalized.

In fact, it wasn't until the third game that all the teams became part of a larger NFL, and there's a little back story to that, too, The week before that third game, after absorbing to ugly beatings from the Green Bay Packers, the original AFL owners gathered in a secret meeting at a Miami Beach hotel called the Kensington, which was owned by a one-time popular entertainment star named Arthur Godfrey.

It was decided that after the NFL's Baltimore Colts throttled the AFL's New York Jets, they would demand a suspension of the game until, as they said, "we felt we were competitive."

Well, Joe Namath and the New York Jets stunned the Colts and there never had to be a gap in Super Bowl chronology, and the following year the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs did it to the NFL again, beating the Minnesota Vikings to even the score, so to speak.

But there were real people involved in the chronicling of these games, many of whom are no longer with us, and just like the band of U.S. soldiers trapped in a farmhouse basement in France during World War II, we formed a sort of fraternity. Those soldiers vowed that if they survived, they would take with them a bottle of rare French wine hidden in that country basement, and that once a year the survivors would meet in a hotel in Chicago.

The last survivor, they said, would open the bottle and offer a toast to his fallen comrades.

It took almost 45 years, but finally the last remaining member of this "tontine" showed up, asked for the key to the conference room they had reserved year after year, opening a cabinet and took out the bottle. He poured himself a glass but couldn't drink it. He offered up a toast - probably something like "to fallen and departed friends" - and then threw the filled glass and the rest of the bottle into the fireplace.

We made no such formal agreement, but now there are just three of us, and the other two are more retired than active. One is 87, the other is 85. It's probably the only group I'll ever be a part of again in which I am the youngest member.

So last Friday the NFL put together a small gathering of those who have seen all 50 games in person - and no, there was no bottle of vintage wine. There were the three journalists, three photographers, the legendary groundskeeper George Toma, eight fans who have formed two clubs and who have, indeed, made all 50 trips, and Norma Hunt, widow of the late Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt, the man largely responsible for the merger and the creator of the name Super Bowl.

They all answered questions posed by the moderator, but there was an underlying sadness to the proceedings, as undoubtedly all those present were thinking back to other years and friends who dropped by the wayside slowly but surely.

They even handed us each a personalized memento of having had the good taste to achieve some form of longevity, but what not even the NFL is able to do is recapture those earlier days with those who accompanied us on this journey. To recount their names would serve no purpose, and it certainly won't bring them back, but it's nice to think that somehow they know how much they are missed and, in many cases, how foolish it is to put all this drama and sentiment and emotion into a football game.

In the end, you see, having attended all 50 Super Bowl games is not an achievement of note. It is, rather, a tribute to fortune and holding down a job and longevity, and I don't know that any of us could have ordered all that in just the right doses and measurements.

Having been at all the games is nice to think about, but far more important is whether one did a good job, spent every ounce of effort not to miss a fact and, ultimately, done enough to make this stroke of fate something worthwhile.

So here I am, and most of the questions regard "my favorite Super Bowl." The interviewers are surprised when the answer is "there isn't one." Favorite plays might serve better - the David Tyree catch, the Lynn Swann catches, the missed Scott Norwood field goal, the chance to see Hall of Famers (both players and coaches) on the field doing what they do - or did - best, the running of Marcus Allen and John Riggins and so many others, and the guys in the trenches who played with their usual but anonymous excellence.

Welcome to Super Bowl 50, and by the way, why is Bill Parcells remembered with near-reverence for winning two of these games while Tom Coughlin, who also won two and "retired" just a few weeks ago, doesn't seem to get a call?

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

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