With Super Bowl 57 … excuse me … Super Bowl LVII … upon us, the memories come surging back. Some good. Some bad. Some bizarre.
The bad memories are mostly tied to the Minnesota Vikings, my team since its birth in 1961. The Purple People Eaters were themselves devoured in four Super Bowls in eight years. They haven’t been back since 1977, a meager 46 years.
I have tried to forget several near misses (Gary Anderson) and heartbreaks (the “Hail Mary”) along the way but I can’t. Nor can I forget one year in the ’70s when a blizzard roared through eastern Montana, knocking out the television signal in my hometown during the game. What makes it worse is my father was the engineer for the local TV station.
Dad had to race somewhere in the middle of the Badlands to try and find the problem during the storm. The game was well over by the time his true wizardry could fix it. Days later, Dad casually mentioned he received a death threat over the episode.
My Super Bowl luck did get better, at least more interesting, when I became the sports director at an Albuquerque television station in 1985. Thanks to that role, I covered three Super Bowls — well, 2 1/2.
The first was in 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants. With the Broncos one of our “local” teams, along with the Dallas Cowboys, the boss felt it was worth the expense to make the trip.
Who can forget how lush and beautiful the area was around the Rose Bowl? We literally drove on the grass and parked under palm trees.
Media limitations allowed me to only be inside the stadium for a short time, so I mostly watched the game on television outside the Rose Bowl. At least the signal was clear and I could hear the roar of the crowd. Still, it was a kick to be there.
Denver was back the next year and so was I — sort of. The game was in San Diego, with the Broncos facing Washington. That was great because Washington had a running back named Timmy Smith from Hobbs, N.M., who set a Super Bowl record with 204 yards rushing. Boy, I could have asked him some great questions, if I was still in San Diego.
Station management decided that our crew would return to Albuquerque on Saturday before the game. Why stay when CBS covers the postgame anyway, right? Wrong, as it turned out.
The next year — 1990 — saw the Broncos back in the big game to face San Francisco at the Superdome in New Orleans. It was one of the most interesting weeks of my professional life.
The decision was made about a week ahead of time to send me and our photographer, Johnny, so the closest accommodation available was about 30 miles outside New Orleans. Picture a roadside motel with about 20 units. Not a dump but no Ritz-Carlton.
The distance made for a stressful week. We would be up at dawn to cover media avails, try to snag an interview with John Elway or Joe Montana, put our stories together and beam back a live shot for Albuquerque’s late news.
Our day would end about midnight and then we would slog back to the Bates Motel and start the process over the next day. Blame it on exhaustion, but we did make a few mistakes.
Early in the week, the search for the Superdome turned embarrassing. After driving around for an hour, we finally found a huge, brown building and pulled in. A worker kindly pointed out it was a warehouse, not the legendary stadium. At least it gave him a good story to tell.
As the game drew near, Bourbon Street was packed with hordes of fans. As I watched from a balcony, this wall of humanity included Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen, who seemed somewhat terrified as he was swept down the street by the human current.
One evening, a colleague from Denver asked if he could put his video camera in our car for safekeeping. Sure. When he later returned, the car window was smashed, the camera was gone, and so was his job. A long night.
The game itself was another blowout Broncos loss. I did get to shoot video of a Montana-to-Rice touchdown, which was a thrill, but most of the time I was watching from inside a Superdome office with Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame nearby.
Man, the Super Bowl has changed since those days. Security was not a big deal. A press pass would give plenty of free rein. Interview sessions were at a practice field or under a party tent. CBS would rely on the video we shot throughout the week to share with affiliates. Now it is the world-wide, multimedia event of the year.
It is fun to bring those memories back, and if the News-Bulletin ever decides to send a sports reporter to cover the Super Bowl, my bags are packed and ready to go, especially if the Vikings are playing, and I can get inside the stadium.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.