THE HOME GAME
I'VE COVERED 36 SUPER BOWLS—PARDON ME, XXXVI Super Bowls—but I didn't get to go to Super Bowl I. I wasn't sent there because writers who covered the American Football League in those days were creeps. We were swine, underlings, unworthy of being sent anywhere NFL teams, and their writers, hung out. I was the New York Posts beat man on the New York Jets—the AFL Jets. You've no doubt heard old AFL players talk about what it was like in those days, the scorn to which they were subjected, the shabby way they were treated by their NFL counterparts. Well, that extended to the writers. The Giants weren't a power anymore, but their writers still carried the old arrogance. All the old-time NFL writers did. We were a bunch of punks covering a punk league. Oh, how I loved it in the press box two years later, watching the Jets wipe the smug, arrogant looks off their faces, sticking it right up their...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was never as desperate to see a game in my life as I was to see that first Super Bowl. Because I knew the Kansas City Chiefs would win. Yeah, die Packers were great, but they were old, too. And the Chiefs were the best team in the AFL because Lamar Hunt had the most money to buy good players. Litde Mike Garrett, and that great guard-tackle combination, Ed Budde and Jim Tyrer—was there a better left side of a line anywhere? And Bobby Bell and big Buck Buchanan. Yep, they were going to beat mighty Green Bay. Justice would be done. Hadn't the upstart Cleveland Browns of the AAFC murdered the Philadelphia Eagles just 16 years before that?
I begged my sports editor, Ike Gellis, to let me cover the game. I'd pay my own way. I'd go back to schoolboy sports for a year. Anything. Nope, he said, we're sending our NFL writer, Al Buck, and that's it.
So the morning of the game I staked out a spot in front of the TV at home and drew up more and better charts than I ever had before or ever have since. I was going to chart this game to a fare-thee-well; I was going to leave a record for mankind. Then the phone rang.
"Don't answer it," my wife said. "It's an omen." Omen, what omen? It was my sports editor, telling me that the Posts NBA writer, Leonard Lewin, was sick, and that I had to go cover the Celtics-76ers game. I don't know what I said to him. Gibberish. Stream of consciousness. Whatever came into my head. Wife's sick...get her to the hospital...father-in-law flying in from Denver...caught my neck in a mangle...brainlock....The words shot out of me like bullets.
"O.K., O.K.," Ike said. "I'll get someone else. Take it easy."
Still trembling, I watched the Chiefs lose and felt that some-how, if I had been at the game, the outcome might have been different. It's the one and only Super Bowl that I missed seeing in die flesh. Sad, huh?
BEDTIME FOR GONZO
STOP AND GO. THE CITYSCAPE OF HOUSTON would zip across the windshield, then, screech, the car would slow down to almost nothing, move along at a crawl.¶ The crawling would continue for maybe 30 seconds, then, wham, the needle on the speedometer would flip all the way to the right again. Mothers would protect their small children as a four-wheeled missile passed through intersections. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was driving.