Most Valuable Playa
One of most talked about yarns in Super Bowl lore sounds like the premise of a Will Ferrel movie. The “Max McGee Hangover Game” has been told and retold inside NFL circles for generations and goes a little something like this… Wide receiver Max McGee, a 34-year-old back-up on his last legs, figured he wouldn’t get on the field for the inaugural Super Bowl in Los Angeles since he had caught only FOUR passes all year. So, the fun-loving 11-year vet snuck out behind legendary coach and hard ass disciplinarian Vince Lombardi’s back and played THE field by hitting up the Sunset Strip with a gaggle of American Airlines stewardesses. After a night of Tom Foolery, he snuck back to the team hotel, passing star quarterback and early riser Bart Starr (more on him later), in the lobby. As fate would have it, starting wideout Boyd Dowler re-injured his right shoulder on the third snap of the game and McGee was called in by Lombardi. McGee was so hungover, he forgot his helmet in the locker room — you really can’t make this shit up. Wearing a borrowed helmet and whiskey breath, McGee made history by scoring the first touchdown of Super Bowl I on a 37-yard pass from Starr. McGee went on to catch six more passes for a total of 138 yards and although he didn’t win MVP honors (which went to Starr), he was Drunk History’s “real MVP.”
Broadway Joe’s Cocksure Guarantee
Athletes “guaranteeing” a victory before a must-win game is standard practice nowadays, but when Jets quarterback Joe Namath brashly declared that “we’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it,” the world went batshit crazy. Not only were his Jets seven-point underdogs to the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3, but the flamboyant, gunslinging, often-injured “Broadway Joe,” was the original Johnny Manziel, a college star, known more for his party-boy antics off the field than anything he had done on it. His brazen “guarantee” heard around the world at an appearance three days before the Super Bowl in Miami made front-page headlines, but was more laughed off than taken seriously. Although the history books list Namath as the game’s MVP (despite not throwing a touchdown pass in the game or any passes at all in the fourth quarter), the Jets ball-hawking defense and relentless running game were the ones who actually backed up Namath’s talk, controlling the game clock, while harassing the Colts’ QB and NFL MVP Earl Morrall into throwing three interceptions before being replaced by injured great Johnny Unitas, who led his team to their only score in a shocking 16-7 Jets’ victory.
Here’s to You Mr. Robinson
Stress levels can run high the night before a Super Bowl. For most players, the big game will be the pinnacle of their lives. It’s only logical and normal they would want to relieve some anxiety by blowing off some steam. Falcons starting free safety Eugene Robinson took that a bit too literally on the eve of Super Bowl XXXIII, when the 14-year veteran was arrested on charges of soliciting a BJ from an undercover cop in the “seedy side” of Miami (uh, that narrows it down). Talk about “blown coverage.” Wait, it gets worse. Earlier that day, Robinson, nicknamed the “Prophet” for his devout religious beliefs, received the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award, given annually to a player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community. You gotta love the NFL. After the arrest, Robinson agreed to return the award (what a stand up guy) and played in the game (of course), but couldn’t shake the bad juju as his team was pummeled by the John Elway-led Broncos 34-19.
Murder Was the Case
Former Ravens linebacker and current ESPN talking (okay screaming) head Ray Lewis made headlines despite not even playing in Super Bowl XXXIV. Most diehard NFL fans might recall the St. Louis Rams beating the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in a thrilling goal-line stand, but all everyone was talking about afterward was the perennial All-Pro being arrested on suspicion of double murder following an early morning altercation outside a nightclub in which two men were stabbed to death. Yikes. To this day, no one knows what actually happened that night in Atlanta, but Lewis was not ultimately charged in connection with the murders. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for which he was sentenced to 12 months probation and also fined $250,000 by the NFL.
TJ over TDs
How does a 6’5”, 300-pound man disappear into thin air? That was what Raider Nation was asking on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego when starting center Barret Robbins, went missing after being dropped off at the team hotel two days before the game, leaving his wallet and cellphone behind. A deeper look into this made-for-Netflix mystery is that this was actually pro quo for the All-Pro, who had been diagnosed with depression in college at TCU and had been found disoriented and wandering around the Raiders’ hotel in Denver during his second season. Robbins eventually did show up, explaining that he had a bipolar attack and went on a bender in TJ (a decent excuse, but the timing kinda sucks). Conspiracy theorists believe that Raiders’ Coach Bill Callahan, who was in a bitter contract dispute with curmudgeonly owner Al Davis, had inexplicably changed the team’s game plan on the eve of the game, which star wide receiver Tim Brown not only claims was sabotage, but drove Robbins, who as the team’s center is the like the tip of the spear, into a manic state. Regardless, of what or who you believe, Callahan sat Robbins out of the game and the infighting Raiders were pummeled 48–21 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former coach Jon Gruden, who happened to be a Callahan disciple (hmmm). Sadly, Robbins would never play another snap in the NFL, his life becoming a series of arrests that culminated in serving prison time.