Chili Bowl

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(Pictured: Emerson Boozer, #32, takes a handoff from Joe Namath on January 12, 1969.)

I have referred to the record charts as the calendar of my life. Super Bowls can serve a similar function. Each of the games I can recall directly has flashes of memory attached, carrying me along from the second grade to geezerhood. Here are a few.

SB2: I went to a friend’s birthday party that day, and I think I recall a football game on TV in another room of his house. I remember coming home so jazzed about the party that I asked if I could have one for my upcoming eighth birthday. My party remains a vivid memory even now, although part of the reason may be that there’s a home movie of it—which I should digitize for your amusement, and mine.

SB3: After the Jets beat the invincible Colts, there was universal agreement among the third-grade boys that Emerson Boozer was the coolest name we’d ever heard.

SB5: In the week following the game, my fifth-grade reading class did a media unit, which included groups of us doing a “broadcast” in front of the class. I was a sportscaster, I read a story about the Colts’ last-second win, and I remember throwing ad-libs into my copy. I was not yet 11, but I’d already heard my calling.

SB14: Before the game, a friend who was a Rams fan invited us for celebratory old fashioneds in his dorm room. I missed the game itself because I had to be on the radio. I think it’s the only Super Bowl other than the first two that I didn’t see a single minute of.

SB18: Ann’s parents had given us a microwave oven as a wedding present. It came with a small cookbook, and on a whim, I decided to make the chili recipe it contained for the game. We have had chili of various sorts on Super Sunday every year since—almost.

SB21: The elevator-music station gave away a one-day rental of a big-screen TV for the game. It was a common promotion, back when big screens were unwieldy, bargelike appliances and very expensive to buy. I recall that the winner was angry she would have it only for Sunday, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of “one-day rental.”

SB31: The Packers beat the Patriots, and I sat on my couch in tears, although the tears may have had a little to do with the fact that I was to start student teaching the next day, and I was petrified. I honestly didn’t know if I was capable of doing it. As it turned out, I was. But when the job I found that summer was in publishing and not a conventional classroom teaching job, I was not unhappy.

SB32: My team simply didn’t lose championship games (not since 1960, the year I was born), and nearly 25 years later, I’m still not completely over it.

SB35/36: If you want to pay attention to the game and the associated hoopla, you need to watch at home, on your couch, no distractions. In each of these years, friends invited us to watch this game with them. I told ’em that no matter what else was on their menu, I was bringing chili. I don’t remember anything about the games, because of the distractions.

SB45: The Packers beat the Steelers, and I think I tried a new chili recipe, which was a bust.

SB51: I was on the air during the first half, and I never felt more alone. If I’m ever going to say “fuck” on the air, that would have been the day to do it. There were more people listening in reading class.

SB53: The chili streak was broken because I had to drive to Michigan, and we didn’t want to eat it for breakfast before I left. I watched the game in a dingy Baymont Inn not knowing it would be my home for five days, as the class I’d been sent there to teach was postponed four times by weather.

What will stick in memory from SB55 on Sunday won’t be revealed to us for years. Not until the game, and the day, and this whole dumb and deadly era, are firmly part of history. The fullness of time reveals what matters most. As Drew Magary wrote this week at Defector, in “Life Is Measured in Super Bowls,” “The game never changes. But you will.”

I’ll probably remember we had chili.

3 thoughts on “Chili Bowl

  1. Growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, my parents and their friends would make chili for every football game. During the pre-season, the chili would not be very spicy at all. As the regular season progressed, the chili would get hotter and hotter. The heat index would go up as the Steelers worked their way to the Super Bowl. It was a lot of fun!

  2. The leap of time here from the 11-year-old to the celebratory old-fashioneds is a bit jarring. ;-)

    I watched any number of Super Bowls and really have few specific personal memories of any of them.
    I was not a particularly huge Bills fan growing up in WNY so I did not live or die (read: die) by those four appearances. I think I kinda liked the Patriots as a younger kid and thus would have been disappointed by their collapse against Chicago.

  3. TimMoore

    not sure if it’s the coolest name, but when i read Emerson Boozer, the name i thought of now
    is Booger McFarland..i’m sure the teenage ME would have loved it back then…

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