JOE BIDDLE: Super Bowl pressure takes its toll

The Super Bowl has been the stage for more bizarre incidents than any major sporting event.

And what better location says bizarre more than New Orleans? The first Super Bowl I covered was in 1981, in the Superdome. Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett was the MVP, certainly the highlight of his career.

It remains, for me, the pre-game media question that stands above all and there have been some dandies.

One of Plunkett's parents was deaf. The other one was blind.

In the interest of accuracy, a reporter grabbed the microphone and asked: Jim, is it your mother is blind and your father is deaf, or your father is blind and your mother is deaf?

It remains a classic Super Bowl head-shaker.

New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl site. This is the 10th time it has hosted the Super Bowl. The first three times, the game was played in Tulane Stadium before moving to the new Superdome in 1978. New Orleans has everything an NFL fan could ask for – music to soothe your soul, food to die for, bars to wet your whistle, and other debauchery. It's all located in a rather small part of the city. Bourbon Street never closes, making it a perfect playground for NFL night owls.

It was right down Jim McMahon's alley in 1986. The Chicago Bears quarterback felt right at home in the Big Easy.

You could predict McMahon would provide some comic relief leading up to the Super Bowl. In a playoff game against the Giants, McMahon showed up wearing an Adidas headband. Even then, the NFL was strict on players wearing only NFL sponsored logos. He was fined $5,000 by then-commissioner Pete Rozelle. MaMahon responded the following week, wearing a headband against the Rams with “ROZELLE'' written on it.

So when he arrived in New Orleans, the media had their antennas up.

McMahon didn't disappoint. A local TV station reported McMahon referred to New Orleans women as “sluts,'' a charge the station's reporter later retracted.

It also leaked out that McMahon was suffering a strained glute and questions about its severity filled the air that week. At a pre-Super Bowl practice, a news helicopter hovered in the air above the field in an attempt to determine how much the injury was hampering McMahon. McMahon complied, dropping his pants and mooning the news crew. Film at 11? You bet it was.

Da Bears went on to smother New England, 46-10, as McMahon sported a PLUTO headband, threw for 256 yards and ran for two touchdowns.
Bears Coach Mike Ditka deemed McMahon's antics as relatively sane and credited him with keeping the team loose.

Other players tried in vain to escape the Super Bowl pressure cooker in a variety of ways.

Coaches found Bengals running back Stanley Wilson shivering and sweating as he was cowered in his hotel room's bathtub. Having blown off a Saturday night team meeting, Wilson chose to coke up. He was still out of it the next day, missing the Super Bowl.

It was Wilson's third and final drug violation and he incurred a lifetime ban. He later was sentenced to 22 years for burglary.

Oakland center Barret Robbins chose alcohol as his poison on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. He crossed the border to Tijuana, leaving his wallet and cellphone behind.

He was nowhere to be found, eventually showing up at a San Diego hospital where he was diagnosed with alcohol poisoning.

The Raiders were forced to use a backup center that had to make the protection calls in Robbins' absence. Quarterback Rich Gannon was sacked five times and the Raiders lost, 48-21.

You really had to laugh at Falcons safety Eugene Robinson. The day before they met Denver in the 1999 Super Bowl, Robinson was honored with the Bart Starr Award. It was given to a NFL player who epitomized high character and morals.

Robinson celebrated that night by soliciting a prostitute, who in reality was an undercover police officer. He was charged with soliciting a prostitute and the next day Denver grounded the Dirty Birds, 34-19.

I wonder where that award is today.

There have been other Super Bowl escapades in the days and nights leading up to the game. Those are just some of the highlights.

With the importance of the game escalating on the world's stage, players appear to be on their best behavior in recent years. In the NFL, a Super Bowl ring is the thing they cherish most.

About the most exciting thing so far has been either a clown with a media credential, or a media member dressed as a clown, challenging Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis with a spirited game of rock, paper, scissors.

The clown won. After all, it is the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Where the parties never end.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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