Sunday, December 06, 2015

#259: Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game

--Super Bowl Gold is a Winner--

"To win this game, I'd let you stick a knife in me and draw all my blood." - Washington Redskins head coach George Allen, prior to their 14-7 loss to the perfect Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII

Football Fans - You can't miss this one.

This is so good that I am briefly coming out of my semi-blog-retirement (I guess that's why it's "semi") to tell you about it.

The editors at Sports Illustrated have put together a compendium of every "Big Game" from I to XLIX, that has just about everything that will make this the most talked about item on your coffee table for at least the next 10 years.

This collectible (and it is exactly that) doesn't go quite into the statistical detail of another excellent work I reviewed almost exactly six years ago (The Ultimate Super Bowl Book) which has been updated since this post...and I still also highly recommend), but it delivers in the way you'd expect from Sports Illustrated.

Page after page of full-color photos, many of them capturing unforgettable moments of each game (like Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL and Santonio Holmes tiptoe catch in XLIII), and they even include some photo sequences, like one showing Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse's incredible catch that put Seattle in position to win in last year's Super Bowl against New England (though we all know what ultimately happened).

Each game is given six pages, and the editors kept the same format throughout.

Page 1 has the date, the venue and the head coaches at the top right, then the final score below. It gives you the weather conditions of the game, the point spread, the length of the game, and how many people watched it.

Page 2 has a full-page photo of a signature player or key moment of the game.

Page 3 has a photo or two on the left portion, followed by a section on the right called "Just the Facts." It provides the rushing, passing and receiving leaders in the game, the MVP, a picture of the ring and the ticket, followed by who performed the National Anthem and who the marquee halftime performer was, the attendance, and how much tickets were. There are also three other tidbits, including some behind the scenes looks, a quote about the game, and other miscellany. The bottom of that section shows a small photo of the SI cover that was published after the game.

Page 4 is an excerpt from SI about the game in question with another small photo inset.

Pages 5 and 6 more or less alternate from game to game, but they contain the same info.

One of those pages is probably my favorite feature. Accompanying another picture or two from the game is a section called "The Way it Was." Sports Illustrated had apparently interviewed one player from each team (winner and loser) to reflect on the game, and they provide about 350-400 words each. For example, for Super Bowl XL, they interviewed Jerome Bettis for the Steelers and Matt Hasselbeck for the Seahawks. Bettis talks about how the game put the perfect cap on his career and how much he knew he would miss everything. Hasselbeck talked about the run-up to the game, and then poignantly describes a life lesson in the days which followed.

The other page is another full-page photo of a key moment that includes a quote from one of the game's players.

That, of course, is the meat of the book, divided into "quarters." But that's far from all.

It opens with a Foreward by Peter King, who covered 31 of the 49 games. He also gives us some insight about something from each game that he experienced during media day, or perhaps after a game with a coach or player - with one glaring error that I saw that should hopefully be rectified in future printings, but certainly not one that detracts from the finished product.

Following that is an introduction by Austin Murphy who gives a brief, but thoroughly interesting account of how the game grew from pretty much a non-entity to the can't-miss spectacle of the sports year.

After coverage of Super Bowl XXIV, SI cleverly inserted their halftime show where they discuss the evolution of halftime show, media coverage, and even the various Super Bowl ads through the years.

Following coverage of Super Bowl XLIX, Sports Illustrated goes through the trouble of answering the long-debated question, "Which Super Bowl was the best?" and they rank them from one to 49. (Will you agree?)

And, not counting the acknowledgements on the very last page, they provide some statistics like who has the most career receiving yards in a single Super Bowl, who has the most career Super Bowl receiving yards, how many buffalo wings get consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, and so on.

For Steeler fans, there's obviously plenty of interest as the Black & Gold are 6-2 in the big game. But even after you go skip through the book to look at those chapters first, you're inexorably drawn to other games that you remember. Tyree's velcro catch. Elway's helicopter tackle. Namath's guarantee. And on it goes.

And the price of this tome? Not even $50. Tou can buy one for yourself and another for that friend or relative you really want to wow.

Oh, and if you couldn't tell from the photos at the top, the (very sturdy) cover is black and gold.

(Five out of Five Stars).

"Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game"
By The Editors of Sports Illustrated
Foreword by Peter King, Introduction by Austin Murphy, Edited by Kostya Kennedy
Time Inc. Books • October 13, 2015 • ISBN: 978-1-61893-154-2 • 336 pages • $40.00