The Super Bowl was still six days off when Overtown, a poor, predominantly black section of Miami, the Super Bowl's host city, erupted in rioting after an unarmed black motorcyclist was shot and killed by a Hispanic police officer during a chase through the neighborhood. A passenger on the motorcycle, also black, was critically injured when the cycle crashed. He died the next day. That set off a second night of looting, arson, gunfire and rock-and bottle-throwing, which spread to another black neighborhood, Liberty City, and left one person dead, 22 injured and many businesses destroyed.
The Cincinnati Bengals and many of the 2,000-plus members of the media were staying at hotels within several blocks of the violence. When Houston Post sportswriter Ray Buck drove into Overtown soon after the incident, his car windows were smashed by flying rocks. The night after the shooting the NBA's Miami Heat game at the Miami Arena against the Phoenix Suns was postponed, 15 minutes before starting time on the advice of city officials. While driving to the arena, the three refs scheduled to work that game, Gary Benson, Joe Crawford and Jack Nies, had their windshield smashed and suffered cuts. It is believed to be the first NBA game postponed for a reason other than inclement weather since Nov. 22, 1963, when many NBA teams canceled weekend games after the assassination of President Kennedy.
The NFL was criticized in 1963 for deciding to play its slate of games just two days after Kennedy's death. Last week commissioner Pete Rozelle chose to stay the course again. Team buses were given police escorts to practices, which were held as scheduled. So were the many extravagant, pre-Super Bowl social events. Miami business leaders had hoped the game would inject more than $100 million into the south Florida economy and improve their city's image. Regrettably, some of those leaders seemed more concerned with that image last week than with the human tragedy of Overtown.
The Super Bowl didn't cause the riots, something one might not have known from the way the two became juxtaposed in the public consciousness, a linkage encouraged by the contrast between game-related glitz and the poverty that fueled the outbreaks on Miami's streets. Still, Overtown had a bigger impact on the game than the game did on Overtown. To those assembled in Miami for the NFL doings, football seemed less important and the high jinks of Super Bowl week a little less fun than usual.
Bengal fullback Ickey Woods didn't get to do his Ickey Shuffle on Sunday, but during the week his terpsichorean creation was all the rage. In Cincinnati, Arthur Murray dance studios even added it to their curriculum.
Teammate Cris Collinsworth was puzzled by the phenomenon. "When we go out to a nightclub, we've got guys on the dance floor doing backflips and the most unbelievable disco—John Travolta moves you've ever seen," he said. "And here Ickey thinks up this thing—1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3—and he's making a million dollars off of it.
"I guess there's something to be said for simplicity and ponytails."
Even without the special glasses, those three-dimensional Diet Coke ads shown at halftime looked more realistic than most TV fare. That's because the spots were filmed at 60 frames a second rather than the usual 24 or 30, thus presenting fresh images to the eye twice as often.
By the way, if you wore the glasses and couldn't tell that the picture was 3-D, see an eye doctor. The American Optometric Association says that people unable to pick up the 3-D effect may have deficient eye coordination.
Three weeks ago, in the Bengals' 21-13 AFC semifinal win over Seattle, Cincinnati running back Stanley Wilson scored the first playoff touchdown of his six-year career. Wilson appeared to have overcome the drug abuse that had led to his suspension by the NFL for the entire 1985 and '87 seasons.
"Mentally I feel great," he said after the Seattle game. "It's almost like there were two different people there. The person I was two years ago would have no conception of what I'm like today. It's like being reborn."
On Sunday morning the NFL declared Wilson ineligible for the Super Bowl for allegedly having violated the league's substance-abuse policy. League officials said he ran afoul of that policy on Saturday. A source close to the team told SI that Wilson was found Saturday night "crumpled on the floor" of the bathroom of his hotel room with cocaine lying next to him. Later that night, he slipped away from Bengal staff watching him at the hotel. "He has no money," said the source. "He's out on the streets of Miami. He got away down a fire escape. We don't know where he is," said the source.
ON THE DEFENSIVE
All week the Bengals' Sam Wyche and the 49ers' Bill Walsh downplayed their widely praised coaching abilities. Wyche recalled how he contributed to game strategy during his years under Walsh as a quarterback (Cincinnati, 1968 through '70) and assistant coach (San Francisco, '79 through '82). "If I thought an idea wouldn't work, it went in the game plan, right away," Wyche said. Walsh, alluding to his former pupil's innovations, such as the no-huddle offense, said, "He's Star Wars compared to what we do in San Francisco."
Walsh apparently forgot that when it comes to Star Wars, the 49ers have the league's foremost authority. Linebacker Riki Ellison works in the off-season as a research analyst for Lockheed in Sunnyvale, Calif. His job is to make presentations to government officials on the Strategic Defense Initiative, the controversial defense program better known as Star Wars.
Cincinnati's Kim Wood may be the only strength coach in the game who shops for equipment at blacksmith-supply and hardware stores. Wood, who calls many of the high-tech fitness gizmos on the market silly, has some of his Bengal players, such as defensive end Jim Skow, lift 70-to-185-pound anvils and 6-to-16-pound sledgehammers as part of their workouts. "An anvil is a nonsymmetrical object, which makes it difficult to lift," says Wood.
Skow says he has benefited from the unusual training but that having an anvil around has sparked a secret desire: "I've always wanted to go out to the Arizona desert and drop it on the Road Runner."
THE PRICE OF MONOPOLY
"Pete, when do you think the NFL will get around to having a corporate sponsor for the Super Bowl, like the Preparation H Super Bowl?" asked a reporter at commissioner Pete Rozelle's press conference on Friday. "We did consider one corporate sponsor," replied Rozelle, flashing a smile. "It was the Trump Castle Super Bowl."
Rozelle hasn't forgotten that the driving force behind the $1.69 billion antitrust suit the USFL brought against the NFL in 1986 was Donald Trump, then owner of the New Jersey Generals. Remember how Rozelle gloated after the jury decided that though the NFL was indeed a monopoly, it had to pay the USFL owners just $3 in damages?
Well, he wasn't gloating on Friday. The day before in New York, U.S. District Court Judge Peter K. Leisure, who had presided over the case, ruled that the NFL must pay the USFL $5,515,290.81 in attorneys' fees and $62,220.92 in other court costs. As of Sunday, the NFL hadn't announced if it would appeal.
TEA LEAVES, ANYONE?
There was no shortage of offbeat methods of predicting the Super Bowl winner. Sex counselor Dr. Ruth Westheimer favored the Bengals because the players' wives were allowed to stay with them, while the 49ers' wives had to stay at a hotel across the street from their husbands. Even the New York Times got into the act, offering a prediction based on the stock market. The Times found that if the Dow Jones industrial average is higher at the time of the Super Bowl than it was at the end of November, then the team whose city comes second alphabetically will probably win. Between Nov. 30 and Sunday, the Dow climbed from 2,115 to 2,235. So when the 49ers won on Sunday, they were just following market forces.
A SUPER LEGACY
Bengal owner Paul Brown obviously would have preferred a Cincinnati victory, but the 49er triumph marked the 11th time that a team coached by a Brown protègè has won the Super Bowl. Walsh, who now has three Super Bowl wins, was an assistant under Brown from 1968 to '75. Among Brown's other pupils, Chuck Noll (Steelers) won four; Don Shula (Dolphins), two; Don McCafferty (Colts), one; and Weeb Ewbank (Jets), one.
THEY SAID IT
•Randy Cross, veteran 49er center, choosing his words carefully as he announced his retirement: "I'm not a boxer. I'm only going to do this once."