As someone fortunate enough to have played on three Super Bowl teams, I'd like to offer some advice to the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots.
Regardless of how foolish it might seem, some people actually believe the Super Bowl has something to do with determining the best pro football team in the world (or at least in the United States). Not true.
It is actually a week-long party thrown by Commissioner Pete Rozelle for the press and as many corporate fat cats as they can load on the bus. I suppose I wouldn't mind all that much, except it significantly undermines what is supposed to be the point of the exercise: the game.
Initial evidence for this is the two-week period between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. What possibly could be the point of it? Football teams and players are used to a certain amount of time and preparation for each game. All year, starting back in July, they have had one week to prepare between games. Physically and psychologically, they have been going through the exact repetition day in and day out for almost seven months. Now, for the most important game of the year, they change the cycle.
It's no coincidence that the most dominating team of 1982 and 1983, the Redskins, won the Super Bowl with only one week of preparation in January 1983 (because of the strike) and lost the Super Bowl when forced to wait two weeks to play in 1984.
The two-week period between games allows for a major media extravaganza and requires the players to go early to the site of the Super Bowl. It's against league rules for a team to remain in its home city and fly in to play the day before the game. Never mind that's how they do it all year.
As a result, the players are seemingly at the beck and call of every media person from every newspaper, radio or television station from every town across the nation.
Walter Payton definitely will be asked at least 500 times how much this game means to him, as an all-pro who, after 11 years, finally got to the Super Bowl.
The Refrigerator, famous for his appetite, probably will be off his feed after being grilled ad nauseum regarding his eating. (What do you eat for breakfast? Lunch? Wait, let me get this down now once again, how many pieces of bread? How many hamburgers at lunch? What about when you were 15 and 14, 13, elementary school, hold it! Go back to 15 for a second -- now what did you eat for lunch in 1975?)
After a week of this, the guys are crazed.
Then, of course, there is the issue of how Mr. Rozelle feels the public should be handled. His answer: the public should not be handled.
The teams are required to stay in a specific hotel. The site is known to one and all, and every time a player attempts to leave his room, he is literally chased and hounded down the hallways, out the back doors and down the streets.
When the Redskins played the Raiders in Tampa, Fla., there were hundreds of fans camped out in the hotel lobby in hopes of seeing their favorite ball player. Since these folks had to eat (and occasionally drink), the hotel was not about to throw them out the door.
After being chased through the lobby several times, many of the players thought room service would ease the problem. Instead, they discovered the crowds downstairs had hopelessly tied up the kitchen and service was running four hours behind.
George Allen, famous for his public and press paranoia, was determined to keep his players isolated in the midst of this fish bowl when the Redskins played in Los Angeles in January 1973. He went so far as to station a policeman outside each of our rooms, making us virtual prisoners.
Clearly, the Super Bowl champion will be the team with the head coach who best figures out how to keep his boys sharp while catering to the NFL's needs.
Still, to play in the Super Bowl is a marvelous experience. It's a testimony to hard work, dedication and excellence. To all those big guys walking down Bourbon Street, heads high and chests out, congratulations and good luck coping with the madness that is Super Bowl week.