JIM FINKS, THE NEW ORleans Saints' general manager, recalls it
best: ''The excitement leading up to that first Super Bowl never will
It was the thrill of the unknown, the prospect of a game that was
impossible to predict, because the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City
Chiefs had operated in different worlds -- one in the mighty NFL, the
other in a league the old- timers disparaged as ''Mickey Mouse,'' the
AFL. I was an AFL man at heart, and going into that first Super Bowl,
then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, I was convinced that
the Chiefs were going to make believers of everybody.
It was my first year as a pro football beat writer. I covered the
AFL Jets for the New York Post. I was sick of seeing my stories
buried under any item relating to the NFL Giants, sick of hearing
folks in my neighborhood tell me what a crummy league I covered. I
liked the AFL, its lack of pretension and the friendliness of the
players and coaches I dealt with.
I'd had one experience with the Vince Lombardi Packers, though.
The Post pulled me off the Jets one weekend to cover a Packers-Bears
game in Chicago. My palms were sweating when I was ushered into
Lombardi's office for an interview. We chatted about mutual friends
in New York, and he brought in Packer line coach Phil Bengtson to say
hello; Bengtson had been my line coach at Stanford. I'm thinking,
Hey, this guy isn't so tough after all. Then Lombardi looked right at
me and said, ''You're a young writer and you're from New York, so I'm
going to give you a good story.'' Thump, thump went my heart. ''This
is the game I find out about my million-dollar rookies, Jim Grabowski
and Donny Anderson. I've got to find out if they can play.''
The headline on the Post's sports section the next day read:
LOMBARDI TO UNVEIL MILLION DOLLAR ROOKIES.
Neither one played a down. The story had been a plant. I'll take
care of ya, kid, you're from New York. Yeah, sure.
Now Lombardi's Packers were facing the Chiefs, and I was certain
that Green Bay would topple. The Packers had struggled against the
Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game. They'd given up 418 yards. They
were pushed around, especially in the fourth quarter, when Dallas
came within a blink of pulling the game out. And while all this was
making headlines, the Chiefs were burying the Buffalo Bills, a team
that had owned the AFL for the previous two years, by 31-7. The
Chiefs had seven All-Pros, including monster linemen like 292- +
pound Jim Tyrer and 287-pound Buck Buchanan. Len Dawson was a
terrific quarterback -- Buffalo sacked him eight times, but he still
completed 16 of 24 passes.
Then the Post pulled the rug out. I was the junior football
writer. Al Buck would go to Los Angeles to do the story; I would stay
home. On game day I checked the TV 20 times to make sure it was
working. I drew up the most complicated set of charts I'd ever made.
At 11 a.m., the Post called and told me to get up to Boston and cover
a Celtics-76ers game. I don't even remember what I told them -- death
in the family . . . neck caught in a mangle . . . who knows? ''All
right, all right, stay cool,'' the guy on the desk said. ''We'll send
The Chiefs sacked Bart Starr twice on the first series, and they
came up with a new wrinkle, a four-linebacker set, to produce the
second sack. They spotted the Pack a touchdown but came back and tied
it. Spotted them another TD and came back to kick a field goal. Now I
knew they would win. The Packers would melt in the second half in the
80 degrees heat of the Coliseum.
Willie Wood intercepted a pass in the third quarter and took it 50
yards to set up a Green Bay touchdown. Max McGee caught three passes
in a drive for another Packer score in the third quarter. It was all
over. The final was 35-10. I'd underestimated them. And him --
Lombardi's ability to get his team up for the big one. The legend --
I didn't want to believe it was true, but I guess it was.
This is an article from the Jan. 2, 1989 issue