The editors of Sports Illustrated have put together that kind of book. Simply put, it's a treasure.
“Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game” (Time Inc. Books; hardback; $40; 336 pages) is a wonderful coffee table-sized book, with a nice blend of the past and the present.
The articles were written by some of pro football’s most gifted and astute writers — Tex Maule, Dan Jenkins, Paul Zimmerman, Rick Telander, Michael Silver and Peter King (who wrote the foreward).
Maule wrote the main SI story for the first eight Super Bowls. Jenkins wrote the next five, followed by a 14 from “Dr. Z” — including 12 in a row. Silver wrote the game stories from Super Bowls XXX to XLII.
These weren’t just game stories — SI readers had seen the game, listened to the commentators’ opinions and had read the next-day accounts. Sports Illustrated’s writers provided the insight and analysis gleaned from careful observations and interviews where good questions were asked — and good answers were given. They told the what, for sure — but they also told the why.
Zimmerman’s prose after John Riggins led the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XVII is a perfect example. What Riggins had done, Zimmerman wrote, “was grab modern NFL football by the scruff of the neck and toss it a few decades back into a simpler era — big guy running behind bigger guys blocking.”
Each chapter is formatted to include the coaches’ names, the game conditions, time of the game, point spread and television audience. Facts like statistical leaders, behind the scenes notes and notable quotes also are included. Every game also had two boxes called “The Way It Was,” with the viewpoints from a player from each team.
Attendance figures, halftime entertainers, national anthem singers, game MVPs and ticket prices are included, along with images of each Super Bowl game ticket and winners’ ring.
The book opens with a feature by Austin Murphy about three fans that have been to every Super Bowl and are about to witness their 50th. They are referred to as members of the “Never-Miss-A-Super-Bowl-Club.”
The book is divided into “quarters,” and at halftime are three feature stories. The subjects are halftime entertainment, media day and Super Bowl advertising. The halftime show originally featured high school bands and groups like Up With People. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle didn’t think a glitzy halftime show would work.
“Why would we spend all that money,” he asked. “That’s when everybody goes to the bathroom.”
It did, culminating with Katy Perry atop a 1,600-pound, 16-foot high golden animatronic lion during Super Bowl XLIX. The halftime show survived the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and old-time acts like the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and The Who allowed Murphy to write the best line of this book.
Murphy referred to those geriatric rock ’n’ roll greats as “AARP With People.”
A section in the back of the book rates the games from most exciting to totally boring. That should spur some lively debate.
The photography in “Super Bowl Gold” is stunningly beautiful, but that’s not a surprise. Through the years, SI photographers always seemed to have the right angle for that great play or defining moment.
Football fans who revel in the Super Bowl will revel in “Super Bowl Gold.” It brings back plenty of memories, and readers will enjoy — or re-enjoy — the game accounts, photographs and statistics.
It’s a super-sized tribute to the biggest event in sports.