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Super Bowl LV and 5 Other History-Making Big Games

Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and The Weekend performing at half-time; read on for other memorable moments from the big game

The football gods couldn’t have dreamed of a more superb Super Bowl match-up than Tom Brady of Tampa Bay and Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City. There’s the “old guy,” Brady, who is 43 but looks like he’s 25, and Mahomes, who actually is 25. With all due reverence and respect, the press and fans have bestowed on Brady the title of The Goat—Greatest of All Time—for his six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots. That said, this would surely make Mahomes The Coat—Coolest of All Time. He is the defending Super Bowl champ with the charm, mega-watt smile and composure under pressure to light up Tampa Bay’s Raymond James stadium come Sunday.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make Super Bowl history as the first team to play in their home stadium. Due to Covid-19, 22,000 will be in attendance versus a capacity crowd of more than 70,000.

While on the subject of age . . .

The two team’s coaches proudly wear the badge of the “Geritol Crew.” Both are old school, in their 60s and beloved by their players. It is absolutely impossible to decide who to like better.

Mahomes plays for Andy Reid, age 62. The man may look like Grandpa Walton from that ‘60s show but Reid is in it to win it. He proved that when Mahomes was injured in the AFC divisional playoffs and had to leave the game with a concussion. Taking over from Mahomes is like filling in for John Legend at the Grammys. Yet Andy Reid pumped up his backup quarterback, rallied the team and defeated the Cleveland Browns.

Tom Brady, The Goat—Greatest of All Time—will face off against defending champ, Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City, who is almost half Brady’s age and the game’s heir apparent superstar.

And then there is Bruce Arians, who is the elder statesman at 68. When Brady left the Patriots, he chose to play for Tampa Bay, one of the least successful of the NFL franchises. What? A big reason: Bruce Arians. When Tom Terrific convinced his Pats wingman, Ron Gronkowski, aka The Gronk, to come out of retirement to join him on this incredible journey (think Batman and an impossibly huge Robin), Arians and the “Bucs” got it done. The Gronk is a big factor, literally and figuratively, to turning around the Buccaneers’ 7-9 record of last season to a Super Bowl contender.

Whichever team wins, this game will be one for the record books.

Tampa Bay has hosted five Super Bowls, two in Raymond James Stadium, but this one stands out as celebrating their hometown heroes.

Here are more history-making Super Bowls.

Super Bowl I: First Touchdown—New Meaning to “Playing Hurt”

Retirement was staring down Max McGee of the Green Bay Packers like an oncoming train. The 11-year veteran, 34 year old, came to the first ever Super Bowl in 1967 fully expecting to ride the pine and not see much of any play on the field, as was the case most of the regular season.

McGee figured why not still make this a moment to remember. He broke team curfew and went out for a night on the town. The next morning, feeling a little worse, McGee arrived at the stadium for the Big Game and joked with starter Boyd Dowler to not get hurt. Precisely three plays into the game, Dowler injured his shoulder and McGee rallied to take the field and claim his spot in sports history.

McGee once said: “When it’s third-and-10, you can take the milk-drinkers and I’ll take the whiskey-drinkers every time.” The journeyman benchwarmer’s historic first TD was a jaw-dropping one-hander for 37 yards. McGee caught six more passes that game for a total of 138 yards and a second touchdown to secure the Packer’s 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Super Bowl LI (51) pit the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons.
Super Bowl LV (55) pits the defending champs, Kansas City (14-2) against the improbable Cinderella team of Tampa Bay (11-5) and the last two quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl.

Super Bowl X: First Wide Receiver MVP—“Baryshnikov in Cleats”

Sir Mick Jagger introduced ballet as a training regimen to keep in shape for his grueling concert tours in the 1980s. Back in the ’70s, however, ballet had yet to go mainstream . . . until Pittsburgh wide receiver Lynn Swann snagged the Super Bowl MVP trophy and the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Swann’s gravity-defying leaps and impossible catches defined the Steeler’s 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys in 1976, earning him the title “Baryshnikov in Cleats.” Through grade school to high school, Swann studied dance—ballet, tap, and jazz—instilling in him body control, explosiveness, speed, grace, and vertical leap. As a football player at USC, he also worked out with the gymnastics team, focusing on the trampoline.

Levitating over his opponents, seemingly unfettered by the Earth’s pull, Swann’s perfect catches accounted for a record 161 yards, including an impossible pirouette for a 53-yard catch. A New York reporter wrote of Swann: “Put in classical music, watch (Swann) in slow motion, and you’ve got football as art.” Bravo.

Super Bowl XX: “Super Bowl Shuffle”—First Sports Music Video

The Super Bowl Shuffle, a kitschy foray into 1980s sports rap starring the Chicago Bears, made it to No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and was even nominated for a Grammy Award. The song didn’t win, but what the video lacked in artistry, it more than compensated with audacity.

Players in uniform performed in the video released a month before the playoffs and before the Bears could possibly know they would even play in the Big Game. Now that’s confidence. In fairness, the Bears bulldozed through the 1985 regular season with an astounding record of 15-1 and ultimately did make it to the Big Game. They staged a blowout of historic proportions, beating the New England Patriots 46-10, the largest margin of victory at the time. The Bears defense held New England to a total of seven yards rushing for the entire game.

The Bears were led by their legendary QB, Jim McMahon, famous for the black sunglasses seemingly grafted to his face; “Sweetness,” aka Walter Payton, soft-voiced off the field but a battering ram on and William “the Refrigerator” Perry, who at 350-plus pounds became the heaviest player to ever score a Super Bowl touchdown, helped carry the day.

Super Bowl LIII kicks off at 6:30 P.M. (Eastern Time) on Sunday, February 3, at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Super Bowl LV kicks off at 6:30 pm EST on Sunday, February 7.

Super Bowl XXII: Breaking the QB Race Barrier—Doug Williams

Doug Williams didn’t even start at quarterback for the Washington Redskins until midway through the regular season when the team’s young hotshot, Jay Schroeder, was injured. Williams was given no chance to defeat MVP heir apparent John Elway, of the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl XXII match up.

It gets worse. The day before the game, Williams woke with a throbbing toothache and endured three hours in a dentist’s chair for a root canal procedure. Next, the heavily favored Broncos posted a 10-0 lead. And then Williams slipped and hyperextended his knee. Writhing in pain, he was carried off the field.

Two plays later, he limped back onto the field to start the second quarter and launched an 80-yard bomb to make the score 10-7. The Denver thrashing continued that quarter with three more Washington TDs—two passes and one rushing—to put Washington ahead 35-10 at half time. The offensive line—determined to see their friend and colleague prevail—didn’t let a single Bronco player get anywhere near their injured leader. The game would end in a score of 42-10. Williams set four Super Bowl records that magical night: passing yards in a game (340), passing yards in a quarter (228), touchdown passes (four), and longest completion (80 yards).

The real drama will take place on the sidelines with beloved coaches and elder statemen Andy Reid (62) and Bruce Arians (68), strategy masters playing a high-profile game of football chess.

Super Bowl LIII: Give Back—Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

Super Bowl chatter typically spotlights heroics on the field, but the real heroism occurs off the field. The NFL Man of the Year, awarded since 1970, was renamed in 1999 to honor the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, a pioneering advocate of organ donation.

Each of the league’s 32 team nominated their pick for the honor, with the winner announced in a ceremony the day before the Super Bowl. A $500,000 donation will be given in the name of this year’s winner, with $250,000 to the NFL and United Way’s digital education program, Character Playbook. An additional donation of $250,000 will be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $50,000 in their name to expand Character Playbook, and an additional donation of up to $50,000 to their charity of choice.

Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns won last year’s honors for his work with Waterboys, an organization focused on bringing water to communities in East Africa. Early in 2020, Garrett made a two-week trip to Tanzania to help install wells and experience the impact first hand. Since its launch, Waterboys has funded 83 wells, serving more than 350,000 people. Garrett is also credited with raising awareness about social justice issues such as police brutality and the digital divide. He is also active in the Cleveland Hope Exchange to provide more than 24,000 pounds of food and additional resources to those in need as a result of the current pandemic.

These are football’s true MVPs.

Photography provided by:
Wikimedia © Creative Commons
Image 1 by Doctorindy
Image 2 by All-Pro Reels