Super Bowl: booboos . . . unsung coach
Some final observations on Super Bowl XV: * Before the game Philadelphia Coach Dick Vermeil talked about how costly mistakes could be. The Eagles certainly made their share, committing three turnovers on intercepted passes, while the Raiders, in what must be some kind of record, went through the conference championship game and Super Bowl without a single turnover (lost fumble or intercepted pass).
Just as critical for Philadelphia was the way it blew chances for good field position. The Eagle offense started from inside the 30- yard line on all but one occasion, when it took over on the 37. But it would have had the ball on the 39 and 41 if not for clipping penalties on two kickoff returns. Another time, right after Oakland had taken a 21-3 lead and Philadelphia needed a big lift, Eagle kick returner Perry Harrington let the ball bounce off him out of bounds at the 10. In summary, Philadelphia "saved" perhaps its worst game of the season for last.
For the record, 11 of 15 Super Bowls have been won by the team committing the fewest turnovers. As for the value of field position well, the farther one must go to score the harder it is. The chances of a team's driving 80 yards to score are only about 1 in 10.
* Oakland Coach Tom Flores was probably the most overlooked story of the Super Bowl. His life history is even more interesting than that of his team, yet club owner Al Davis stole the big headlines because of his feud with the league, and specifically NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
The son of Mexican immigrants and once a grape picker himself, Flores was a distant third in balloting for American Conference Coach of the Year, finishing behind Buffalo's Chuck Knox and Cleveland's San Rutigliano, despite Oakland's Cinderella season. Unlike John Madden, his massive and boisterous predecessor, Flores is a quiet leader. After a playing career at the College of the Pacific, he went to Canada, then briefly to the Washington Redskins, before becoming the Raiders' first quarterback in 1960.He was eventually traded by Davis to Buffalo ("a crushing experience") and later became the No. 3 QB for Kansas City when the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV. Before taking his present job, he was the Raider receiver coach.
Ironically, Flores is the NFL's first Hispanic coach -- ironic because the league has never had a black head coach even though about 50 percent of the players are black. Concerned about this oversight, the NFL Players' Association conducted a study that shows that during the previous 20 years, 261 assistant coaches and 68 head coaches were hired among the ranks of former players. No black got one of the top jobs, and only 20 became assistants.
* Three Raider players -- Kenny King, Cliff Branch, and Lester Hayes -- played in the Super Bowl after threats were made on their lives. The trio headed for the locker room two minutes before the game ended. Sadly, death threats are not so uncommon before big games, presumably the result of gamblers trying to influence a contest's outcome. Athletes generally disregard such threats and play anyhow, but their concentration may suffer, which is probably the hideous intent of such threats in the first place.
* Historically, Philadelphia sports fans have tended to be among the country's most rabid and demanding. Loyalty, however, may not be their strong suit, judging from the boos during Sunday's Super Bowl. If ever a team deserved a city's unwavering support it was the 1980 Eagles, who played with great heart to reach the championship game. Philadelphia is generally considered to have less raw talent than many other teams, but under Vermeil the Eagles have become consistent overachievers. Perhaps no team franchise in football has more free agents (14) on its roster.
Club owner Leonard Tose expressed great disappointment in the defeat, and before the game had said, "We don't think we should have a parade if we lose. I know Dick is strongly against rewarding losers."
Losing the Super Bowl, after all the Eagles have achieved, should hardly stamp them as losers.
* What a switch to see and hear a capacity crowd proudly singing the national anthem. At many sporting events, overeager fans drown out the last several measures with cheering, horn-blowing, and other distruptive noise. The return of the American hostages, however, put Super Bowl spectators in a patriotic mood. A huge yellow bow was attached to the outside of the Superdome, 80,000 yellow ribbons were passed out to ticket holders, and the players displayed short strips of yellow tape on the backs of their helmets.
* New Orleans has hosted five Super Bowls. None of them were very exciting, but the city itself rates high as a fun site for the game. Besides its warm climate, New Orleans has thousands of hotel rooms within walking distance of the Superdome and the French Quarter, which takes on a festive air as out-of-towners jam its narrow streets. The area's restaurants, shops, and hotels are also used to tourist invasions and handle them reasonably well.
Next year, when Detroit hosts Super Bowl XVI, the big questions are logistics and weather. Many of the hotels are an hour or more from either the Renaissance Center, NFL headquarters for the event, or the Silverdome in suburban Pontiac. Playing in the world's largest covered stadium presents no problems weatherwise, but snow could foul up flights in and out of Detroit and transportation around town. A study shows, however, that snow has never fallen on the area during previous Super Bowl dates.