From staff and wire reports
On the first big play of the Super Bowl, it was undeniably clear why Pat Summerall became the quintessential play-by-play man and why his time as Fox’s lead NFL announcer was up.
“Picked off,” Summerall intoned midway through the second quarter of his last game alongside boothmate John Madden . ” Ty Law down the sideline. Touchdown. What the Patriots were waiting for.”
Sparse, exciting, perfect: just 14 words to tell viewers everything they needed to know.
Unfortunately, in the next breath, Summerall added: “The rush by [Willie] McGinest is what caused it.”
Actually, it was linebacker Mike Vrabel pressuring Rams quarterback Kurt Warner on the play, as Madden noted when a replay was shown immediately.
This season was the last on Summerall’s Fox contract. He announced Jan. 22 that this Super Bowl would be his final telecast with Madden, ending a 21-year partnership that started at CBS and evolved into the signature sound for pro football on TV. Summerall left open the possibility he will work with another partner at Fox or for another network.
Fox’s broadcast of the New England Patriots’ 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams was the announcing pair’s eighth Super Bowl together. Their first was the 1982 NFL championship, which remains the highest-rated sports telecast ever.
And once again, Summerall and Madden who moved to Fox in 1994 reprised the roles millions of viewers have heard on Sunday after Sunday: Summerall providing the short, steady stream to Madden’s babbling brook.
Right to the end, Madden filled the air with his insights and opinions, including insisting the Patriots should run out the clock and head to overtime instead of trying to get into position for what turned out to be Adam Vinatieri’s winning 48-yard field goal.
It’s a good thing for Summerall he didn’t get paid by the word and a good thing for Fox that Madden doesn’t.
A typical exchange, and the one real in-game acknowledgment of the 71-year-old Summerall’s swan song:
Madden: “Well, as we start our fourth quarter, Pat, it’s our last fourth quarter together, and I just want to say thanks for all the memories of a lot of great quarters.”
Summerall: “They have really been terrific.”
Madden: “Twenty-one years. Then you multiply all those years by all those games. Then you multiply that by all those quarters. It’s been very, very special, and you’ve made it very special.”
Summerall: “So have you, and I appreciate it.”
Summerall’s succinctness shone through on the field goal that ended the game.
His final play-by-play words beside Madden: “It’s right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock. And the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable.”
Sparse, exciting, perfect.
Watching in Kabul
It’s never easy being a U.S. soldier overseas, but when the holidays or the Super Bowl roll around, it’s even tougher because that’s when homesickness really kicks in.
But instead of long faces this Super Bowl Sunday, Marines at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan were filled with anticipation, thanks to some goodwill from the NFL and CNN that allowed the kickoff to be aired live at 4:15 a.m. Afghan time.
“It’s the biggest diversion we’ve had,” since arriving in Afghanistan in late December, said Lt. Gregory Curtis , a die-hard Patriots fan who was born and raised in Massachusetts. “I’ve been looking forward to this all week.”
Despite the early hour, 26 Marines crowded the recreation room to experience a handful of reminders of home: tortilla chips and salsa, popcorn, plenty of Coke. The national anthem caused the soldiers, sitting on bar stools, sofas and folding metal chairs, to break into cheers.
“Since September 11 we’ve all been reminded that serving one’s country is a privilege and a necessity,” said Staff Sgt. Ricky Henderson, 34, a native of Atlanta. “I tell my Marines that everything we are doing here is making history.”
Until two days ago, it was unclear whether the three platoons deployed to the Afghan capital from the 8th Brigade at Camp LeJeune, N.C., would get to see the game at all. With no official American diplomatic presence in Afghanistan for more than 11 years, the soldiers have been working to restore not only security, but also electricity and sanitation to the embassy compound, where various riots and battles had reduced most of the compound to rubble.
When CNN discovered that the troops had no infrastructure to watch the big game, it set the political wheels in motion to get the NFL to supply the broadcast for the Marines for free. Meanwhile, CNN engineers repositioned an orbiting television satellite 2 degrees, so that a beam could leave New Orleans, travel across the planet to the CNN receiving dish atop the Hotel Intercontinental in Kabul and then be retransmitted to another CNN team positioned at the U.S. embassy some three miles away.
Ring of honor
St. Louis Rams safety Kim Herring had a special distinction among the 92 players who suited up for Super Bowl XXXVI last night at the Superdome. Herring, who started on the Baltimore Ravens’ championship team last year, was the only player going for a second straight ring.
“I thought I could have been in Baltimore a little longer, but now I have a great opportunity to win another ring,” said Herring, who signed with the Rams as a free agent. “It was probably more satisfying last year because we didn’t expect to get to that point. This season, the expectation was to win the Super Bowl because we had done that in 1999.”
Herring said it’s a lot easier on a defensive player’s blood pressure with the Rams’ high-powered offense compared to the Ravens’ less potent outfit.
“It’s definitely a different feeling,” he said. “Last year we were winning games 6-3 and 10-7. That can wear a little bit on you.”
Long time coming
Ever-stoic Rams offensive coordinator Bobby Jackson admitted to some emotion after finally reaching the Super Bowl in his 19th NFL season. Coaching for a ring may be old hat to offensive line coach Jim Hanifan, who won titles with Washington in 1991 and St. Louis in 1999, but it took Jackson 17 seasons just to make the playoffs with the 1999 Redskins.
“It really hasn’t hit me because it has happened so fast,” said Jackson, the Redskins’ running backs coach from 1995 to 1999. “We beat Philadelphia [in the NFC Championship game] Sunday night and we were on a plane down here at 6:30 Monday morning. But I did get tears in my eyes when time ran out. This is uncharted territory for me.”
That’s also true of Rams linebackers coach Mike Haluchak, a 16-year NFL veteran. Haluchak, who coached that position in Washington from 1994 to 1996, spent the next three seasons with the New York Giants before coming to St. Louis last year. So he just missed out on both the Rams’ 1999 title and the Giants’ run to the Super Bowl last season.
In addition to Jackson, Haluchak and Hanifan (a Redskins assistant from 1990 to 1996), Rams coach Mike Martz guided Washington’s quarterbacks in 1997 and 1998, defensive backs coach Ron Meeks served in that capacity with the 2000 Redskins and offensive assistant Henry Ellard was a Redskins receiver from 1994 to 1998. And Rams scout Dick Daniels was Washington’s player personnel director for all but one season from 1978 to 1989.
Matt Stevens, who started four games at free safety for the Patriots and is a key part of their nickel package and kick coverage, is the only New England player or coach with Washington ties. Patriots special teams coach Brad Seely waited 13 NFL seasons to reach the Super Bowl, while it took receivers coach Ivan Fears 11 years. Patriots assistant college scouting director Lionel Vital was the top running back for the Redskins’ undefeated replacement team in 1987, rushing for 346 yards and two touchdowns in three games.
September 11 memories
After Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee at Miami on Oct.7, he left the stadium on crutches. It was feared that Andruzzi would be out for several weeks, possibly for the season. Instead, he was back in the lineup the following Sunday and started every game for the first time in his five-year career. New England coach Bill Belichick called Andruzzi an inspiration, but the son of a retired New York policeman knows his courage and determination are matched in his family.
Andruzzi’s brothers, Billy , Jimmy and Marc , are New York firefighters who are still working to clear the rubble at the World Trade Center.
“Jimmy was in the second tower, and he got out just in time,” Andruzzi said. “A couple of years ago, he came to see me play in Pittsburgh, and a couple of the guys he went with were lost in the tragedy. Out of the 350 firemen [lost], Jimmy knew a majority of them. Time is going to heal all wounds, but it’s going to take some more time because [the salvage operation] is still going on there.”
Rams coach Mike Martz , Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis all began their NFL coaching careers as lowly staff assistants. However, New England defensive backs coach Eric Mangini had an even lower-level entry into the league. In 1994, after two years coaching an Australian semipro team, the 23-year-old ex-Wesleyan nose tackle called his college coach, Kevin Spencer , looking for a job. Spencer, then an assistant under Belichick in Cleveland, could only offer a spot as a ballboy, but Mangini took it even though most of his fellow ballboys were pre-pubescent.
Mangini became a public relations intern for the season, and when Belichick realized he was a fellow Wesleyan graduate, the coach hired him as an assistant to his 1995 coaching staff. Although Belichick was fired after the season, Mangini remained and was the quality control coach during the franchise’s first season in Baltimore before rejoining his mentor with the New York Jets in 1997. Mangini jumped with Belichick to the Patriots last season.
“Bill has developed more young guys than anybody,” Mangini said, citing Spencer, Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and college scouting director Phil Savage and assistant pro personnel director George Kokinis of the Ravens. “All of us got our starts doing grunt work for Bill.”
Ex-presidents pitch in
In keeping with the country’s war footing and the Super Bowl’s red, white and blue theme, which was enhanced by the Patriots’ presence, four former presidents and an ex-first lady were involved in the pregame pageantry. George H.W. Bush shared coin toss duties with Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach , a Navy veteran and the MVP of Super Bowl VI, which was played in New Orleans 30 years ago. Bush, Bill Clinton , Gerald Ford and Nancy Reagan wife of former President Ronald Reagan all read Abraham Lincoln ‘s words during a videotaped presentation of Aaron Copland ‘s “Lincoln’s Portrait,” which was performed by the Boston Pops.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue termed the matchup between the NFC champion St. Louis Rams and AFC champion Patriots as one between “middle America, which symbolizes this nation’s values and the birthplace of those values.”
The Big Easy’s ninth
This was the record ninth Super Bowl in New Orleans and the sixth in the Superdome. Kansas City beat Minnesota in Super Bowl IV, the last AFL-NFL showdown. Then came Roger Staubach and Co.’s victory over Miami at Tulane Stadium and the first of Pittsburgh’s four titles, a conquest of Minnesota in Super Bowl IX. Dallas topped Denver in Super Bowl XII in the first Superdome contest. Three years later, Oakland whipped Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, and five years after that, Chicago crushed New England in Super Bowl XX. San Francisco routed Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, and Green Bay returned to glory against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
Tickets for last night’s game cost $400, a hefty $75 increase from last year and twice what they went for just seven years ago. The $400 price tag compares to a $15 bargain for the first New Orleans Super Bowl 32 years ago.
“We have kept our prices relatively low compared to some other mega-events,” Tagliabue claimed.
The Patriots’ surprising drive to the AFC East title moved them from 19th to ninth in NFL merchandise sales. St. Louis ranks fourth in sales, trailing Oakland, Dallas and Green Bay. Rams halfback Marshall Faulk ‘s jersey is No.1 in sales with quarterback Kurt Warner seventh. In between are quarterbacks Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia and Brett Favre of Green Bay, Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis , Oakland receiver Jerry Rice and Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher . According to an ESPN poll, 31 percent of Americans own NFL apparel. That’s more than baseball and the NBA combined.