OPINION

Super Sunday Memories

Mark Martin
Sportswriter

I love football.

So, it goes without saying that I love the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Sunday for me is filled with a plethora of memories.

This year’s Super Bowl matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs was number LV.

Of the 55 Super Bowls, I’ve watched all but three.

The first two, both won by the Packers, came when I was simply too young.

But by Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath predicted to the world the New York Jets would upset the Baltimore Colts, I was raring to go. It is the first to register well in my memory bank when discussing Super Bowls. 

Besides the first two, the only other one I didn’t see was Super Bowl XXIV as Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers routed the Denver Broncos in 1999.

While I missed the game, there was still a sporting event taking place in my life that day. Working for radio stations at the time in Gallipolis, Ohio, missed the 49er blowout because I was a basketball game as the University of Rio Grande visited Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio.

Here are some Super memories from Super Sunday:

FAVORITE GAME I: Hands down it is Super Bowl XXII in 1988 as the Washington Redskins took down the Denver Broncos, 42-10. Ripley native Paul Lanham, who passed away in October of 2019, had been hired late in the ’87 season to help shore up the Redskins' special teams.

He did, and Washington reached the big game and won.

While doing a book about Coach Lanham’s career, Joe Gibbs, who led Washington to three Super Bowl victories, told me that had he not hired Lanham that season there’s a good chance the Redskins wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl. In fact, it’s doubtful they would have made it that far.

FAVORITE GAME II: What could be better than watching a Super Bowl than with a guy wearing a Super Bowl ring.

In 2004, I enjoyed taking in Super Bowl XXXVIII with Paul as the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29.

FAVORITE GAME III: While Paul Lanham won a Super Bowl, he also had to endure defeat in the big game.

Pittsburgh won its then fourth Super Bowl crown by defeating the LA Rams, with Lanham as an assistant, in 1980.

What a thrill it was to see Paul, who I was just getting to know, working in the biggest game of them all.

BEST GAME: In my opinion, the best Super Bowl I’ve witnessed was Super Bowl XV.

In 1991, yes, 30 years ago, Jeff Hostetler, a one-time WVU great, led the New York Giants to a thrilling, 20-19, win over the Buffalo Bills.

I had the chance to speak with Jeff last week about his incredible journey as a backup to Super Bowl stardom.

Hoss, who still lives in Morgantown, was clearly the game’s Most Valuable Player, but didn’t get the nod.

He did, however, earn the ring (one of two in his career).

MVP LONER: While Hostetler didn’t get the MVP Award in Super Bowl XXV, another former WVU football great did 20 years earlier.

Linebacker Chuck Howley of the Dallas Cowboys was chosen as the best on the field of Super Bowl V.

But as strange as it may seem, he was on the losing end that day.

Baltimore knocked off the Cowboys, 16-13.

I watched that game in Spencer (yes, I know where I’ve been and who I was with for each Super Bowl) at the home of my dad and mom's friends. I can still see kicker Jim O’Brien’s chin strap dangling from his helmet as hit kicked the ball through the uprights.

SUPER BOWL POPCORN: Another great Super Bowl came in 1979 – my senior year of high school.

The Pittsburgh Steelers captured their third title with a 35-31 win over Dallas in Super Bowl XIII.

I was working that Sunday at the old Colonial Inn in Ripley.

The Colonial, owned by the late Coy and Pat Hersman, who were so great to me during those days, was an establishment featuring a great dining experience on the top level and a bar in the basement.

Pat came into the kitchen, where I worked as a dishwasher, to make popcorn for the bar patrons who would be watching the game later on.

As Pat finished making enough popcorn for a movie theatre, she did something I'd never seen before with this delicacy. Instead of salt, she covered the popcorn with parmesan cheese. 

The minute my shift ended, it was off to my Grandmother Heiskell’s house to watch the game.

And sure enough, I made popcorn and covered it in parmesan cheese. My grandmother, who was 78 at the time and lived to be 104, looked at me like I was crazy.

I still do it a lot to this day and always think of Pat Hersman.

MY FIRST SUPER BOWL: As I mentioned earlier, the first Super Bowl to be recalled vividly by yours truly is Super Bowl III.

I watched it in Ravenswood at the home of my Uncle Dana and Aunt Hazel Williamson. Along with their daughter, Jill, I was also there with my parents, brother, my Uncle Press and Aunt Barb and their five boys.

It was truly my first Super Bowl party.

I was obsessed with football by then and was probably wearing everyone out about how the Jets had no chance. Little did I know.

What sticks out about that day at 504 Sand Street is just how enjoyable it was to be with family.

While I had been to high school football games in a large setting as a young fan, that day hit home as to how neat it was just to be surrounded by those you care about in a smaller setting while enjoying an event like the Super Bowl on television.

We watched the matchup (and I got chastised most the afternoon thanks to the performance by the Jets), played board and card games, ate good food and laughed…laughed a lot.

I’ve often said that football plus family plus friends equals fellowship.

Any chance that comes my way to drive by the old home of my late beloved uncle and aunt I do so, for it brings back wonderful memories of wonderful times…including Super Bowl III.