Super Bowl LII – Full of Surprises


We had all seen this movie before hadn’t we?

The New England Patriots had the ball, needing a touchdown to draw even or win the game. It didn’t matter if it were a Super Bowl, championship game or simply a regular season contest.

They always seemed to know what they needed to do, how they were going to do it, and the man to engineer it.

They had the marvelous Tom Brady at quarterback, and somehow, some way, they would get it done.

Just a year ago, for that matter, they had trailed the Atlanta Falcons by 25 points, but now were a touchdown away from forcing overtime.

They got the TD they needed, then got the ball to start overtime and that was the ball game.

Another Super Bowl victory.

But last Sunday, they didn’t get it done.

The underdog Eagles, who proudly played up that role for weeks, turned the tables.

On the Patriots crucial drive to regain the lead in the game with just over two minutes to play, Brandon Graham managed to get a hand on the ball in Brady’s right hand, knocked it away enough for Derek Barnett to recover the fumble which ended the Pats big opportunity.

There was a final play for Hail Mary, in a desperate attempt for New England to get in position to tie the game, but for all intents and purposes, the forced fumble by the Eagles was the defensive play which crushed  the Patriots’ hopes.

We shouldn’t have been surprised that Brady and Co. didn’t perform their usual magic.

It was a Super Bowl full of surprises. Things no one expected.

That’s why the knee-jerk analysis prior to the game is so silly.

Who can ever figure the unexpected?

Who would have anticipated missed extra-points by both outstanding kickers?  Bad snaps resulting in rushed attempts on special teams units which had been virtually automatic all year in this, the biggest game of all.

Who would have guessed that both teams would run plays in which the quarterbacks would turn into receivers?

Tom Brady dropped a pass wide open which would have given the Patriots an important first down.

Nick Foles caught a pass for a huge touchdown, on a fourth and goal play near the end of the first half.

That moment was the offensive play of the game.

How about Nick Foles?

Called into action when starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down with his season-ending injury, Foles defied his detractors and led his team to the world championship.

His poise and execution under the incredible pressure he faced will be the stuff of Super Bowl lore forever.

While Foles came into the game with considerably more than a smattering of experience, It kind of reminded me of a second year quarterback who took over for a veteran and proceeded to lead his team to their first Super Bowl crown.

That fellow’s name was Tom Brady.

When the veteran, Drew Bledsoe was injured, Brady who had thrown only three passes before becoming the starter, guided New England to the first of five titles for himself, head coach Bill Belichick and the franchise.

I’ll never forget that game.

It was the first of six Super Bowls I broadcast as play-by-play announcer for the NFL World Broadcast of the game.

It was not seen in the U.S. but it was shown in well over 100 countries. It’s not business as usual when your audience are viewers from around the world.

What is common knowledge to American football fans may be, well, “foreign”, to those watching in foreign countries.

Our broadcast was the English version, and there were, of course, Americans overseas who were witnessing our broadcast as well.

So it was a “fine line” as to the approach.

Some terminology that I use for regular NFL telecasts on Fox had to be explained in more detail than usual. The players’ backgrounds expanded.

My partner was former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston, and we were both caught-up in  the drama of the Patriots shocking upset of the heavily-favored Rams, and their “Greatest Show on Turf” attack led by QB Kurt Warner.

I’ve been fortunate to broadcast over a decade of NFL playoff games for CBS and Fox in my career, but the World telecasts for the NFL, working with Johnston, Troy Aikman, and Sterling Sharpe have been special.

The Patriots triumph in New Orleans in 2002 was the first of six Super Bowls in seven years I announced.

The last one, ironically, was exactly 10 years ago in Glendale, Arizona, when Eli Manning led that amazing rally to spur the Giants to their 17-14 victory over the Patriots.

That game, marked by the phenomenal catch by David Tyree, setting up the winning score, was the last Super Bowl defeat by the Patriots until last Sunday.

Hours before that game, I ran into Don Hasselbeck, the former tight end, who had played for several teams including the Giants and Patriots.

Hasselbeck, as many might know, is the father of former NFL quarterbacks Matt and Tim.

Don had produced the caps to be worn by the eventual champion to be crowned later that night.

He gave me one of each team, indicating they were the world champions of the NFL. One team would proudly wear them after the game. The other would be a collector’s item.

I gave away the Giants’ cap to an ardent fan of the champs. The Patriots cap, indicating a perfect 19-0 season which never materialized, sits on display in my office.

As I indicated last week, I intend to tell my story of how my life and career evolved, with stories and remembrances of interest as we go through the year.

Growing up in the 1950’s, football, like the winter sports of hockey and basketball, were mere fillers until spring training got underway preceding the next baseball season.

I collected football trading cards, as I did with the baseball version, and listened to the fortunes of my favorites, the New York Giants on radio and TV.

My father, Joseph, who was the burning influence in my unmistakable love and dedication to sports, took me to my first football game in 1951. The game was played in the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, the home of the baseball Giants, and etched in my indelible memory of sports happenings, was a 10-0 victory by the vaunted Cleveland Browns over the Football Giants.

The sight of the behemoth Browns in their all white uniforms and sweeping brown capes on the sideline, made a vivid memory for my youthful self.

The original impact that spearheaded my intense desire to surround my life around sports, particularly sports reporting, came about during the early part of the 1951 baseball season.

Stay tuned! We’ll deal with that in April!

But my father, who we all called “Joe”, was the man initially responsible for all that came after.

We would watch sports telecasts, starting from the age of 9 and continuing through my high school years, until I went off to college at Syracuse University.

One, that stuck in my mind as I viewed Sunday’s Super Bowl, was the NFL championship game in 1960.

I remember it being the only post-season game Vince Lombardi ever lost as the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers.

The team that beat the Packers that day?

The Philadelphia Eagles.

That was the last championship won by the Eagles until they defeated the Patriots this past week in Minneapolis.

So many things in sports go full circle.

The Super Bowl triumph by the Philadelphia Eagles, another in a string of heart-stopping, unexpected developments and conclusions, established the kind of coincidence and irony, that has marked my life following sports.

How did you like the end of this movie?


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