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David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, January 27, 2001

Super Bowls past
live on in memories

I'M not one to get caught up in national media hype. If all of America is watching, it's a pretty good bet that I'm tuned out.

But I make one annual concession to paroxysmal popular culture: the Super Bowl. This is its 35th year and I haven't missed many on TV -- even in years when I wasn't following football closely and the game wasn't much of a match.

The Super Bowl is original hype -- a genuine happening that rises above all of the phony non-events that greedy promoters impose on us. As a national day of assembly, the Super Bowl is steeped in good memories.

Mine start with Super Bowl I, when the Green Bay Packers met the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 15, 1967, in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The game was a result of a merger of the old-line National Football League and the upstart American Football League. The name and the game were brilliant marketing moves that ignited the NFL's boom. "Super Bowl" had a ring to it that "NFL Championship Game" lacked.

While the first Super Bowl didn't have an eight-hour pre-game show, designer commercials or an extravagant halftime show, it still had a big-time feel. The buildup was as important as the game itself.

And in sleepy Hilo, the buildup was painfully long. Live satellite TV broadcasts to Hawaii weren't common yet. We couldn't watch until they flew in a tape from the West Coast hours after the game was over. That meant we had to make it through a long day without some wise guy with a radio telling us the score.

My friends Jim, Terry and I watched the game with Jack, who owned the motorcycle shop where we hung out, at Jack's home in Waiakea.

The game didn't figure to be much of a contest. The powerhouse Packers were expected to win big, given that the AFL rosters consisted mostly of NFL castoffs. But you couldn't really know. The AFL had much more to prove and the teams hadn't played each other or any common opponents.

Jim, Terry and I argued about the game with the same passion with which we debated the political wars of the day between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater.

Arch-conservatives like Jim enjoyed seeing an established power beat up on the little guy and favored the Packers. Bleeding-heart liberals like me pulled for the underdog Chiefs.

TERRY was the mercenary in the middle who sized up the spread and bet that Green Bay would beat it.

He was right, of course. The Chiefs tried to make a game of it with 10 first-half points, but in the second half Bart Starr's passes kept finding Max McGee and the Packers easily pulled away, 35-10.

There were other memorable Super Bowls. For Super Bowl VII, my friend Matt scored a penthouse apartment for the day and we watched in luxury as Miami beat Washington, 14-7. On a freezing Washington day in 1984, I ate deliciously steamy three-bean soup in my friend Norm's basement as the Redskins took another licking in Super Bowl XVIII -- this time from the Raiders, 38-9.

But the first Super Bowl was special. It was the last time Terry, Jim and I really got together before Terry and his family moved to the mainland and Jim and I started down different paths that wouldn't meet up again until 30 years later.

I wonder what they'll be doing tomorrow.

David Shapiro can be reached by e-mail at

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