Super Bowl V: The first Super Bowl I can remember watching on TV. I was 7. We watched all big football games in the basement rec room of my Dad's work buddy. There were fish tanks. The game was boring.
Super Bowl VI: The first Super Bowl that interested me. I was 8. Roger Staubach scrambling became my template for what football should be, and what quarterbacking should be. Still is.
Super Bowl VII: Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian's ill-fated improvised pass that wound up being intercepted and returned for a touchdown became the first hint that something silly could happen in a big football game.
Super Bowl X: The first Super Bowl that hinted that Super Bowls could be epic. Lynn Swann's play led a Steelers comeback and broke the heart of a young football fan who didn't know better than to care about the Cowboys.
Super Bowl XXIV: This was the first Super Bowl I covered. A young sportswriter in New Orleans, covering people like Montana and Elway? The week was better than the game. Pro tip: If you've eaten a lot of jambalaya and imbibed a bit, don't eat the mint on the hotel pillow. There were ramifications.
Super Bowl XXV: The second Super Bowl I covered. The previous year I had hung out with former Cowboy Everson Walls in New Orleans. He was looking for a job. The veteran cornerback ended up signing with Bill Parcells and the Giants and Walls helped Jeff Hostetler and Parcells pull off one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history, 20-19 over the Bills. I actually picked the Giants to win by one. Which should have been wrong, but apparently sometimes NFL kickers miss makable field goals at the end of games.
Super Bowl XXVI: The third Super Bowl I covered was played at the Metrodome. I spent a couple of weeks following Washington and legendary coach Joe Gibbs, who won his third Super Bowl in Minnesota. One day a reporter asked him why he still slept in his office. Gibbs pretended he didn't. The reporter then asked why Gibbs' car was the only one in the parking lot still under snow. Gibbs: "Ya got me.'' My fellow football writers raved about Minnesota hospitality.
Super Bowl XXVII: My first trip to the Rose Bowl. I had covered Dave Wannstedt as Cowboys defensive coordinator, and I bumped into him with a bunch of Dallas writers at a hotel bar during the week. The conversation was off the record, but he left little doubt his team would win in a rout. Final: Dallas 52, Buffalo 17. The Rose Bowl, in the late-afternoon California sun, looked like a painting.
Super Bowl XXXIV: After a cold, ugly week in Atlanta, we saw a stunning game, with Kurt Warner throwing a 73-yard TD to Isaac Bruce to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, and Rams linebacker Mike Jones making a game-saving tackle of Kevin Dyson just short of the goal line on the last play.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Jacksonville tried to prove it was a great host city for a Super Bowl. Nobody bought it. Even Jacksonville's stadium seemed ugly and outdated. The game, though, turned dramatic. Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to David Givens and Mike Vrabel, as if to accentuate the lack of receiving talent around him. Future Viking Donovan McNabb led the Eagles on a 13-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that consumed 3:52 of the final 5:40 of the fourth quarter. It was Andy Reid in a nutshell: able to produce yards and points but terrible at clock management. The Patriots killed most of the remaining clock before punting to the Eagles 4-yard line and holding on.
Super Bowl XLI: I sat in the rain in Miami to watch Peyton Manning win his only Super Bowl. Long after the game, Colts center Jeff Saturday talked at his locker about Manning insisting, during slow portions of practice, that Saturday get a bucket of water, dip footballs into it and snap them to Manning. What he called the "wet ball drill'' helped Manning, a dome quarterback, deal with slick conditions in Florida. I asked Archie Manning about it. "Huh,'' he said. "I've never even heard of that.''
Super Bowl XLVII: After another wonderful week in New Orleans, where I believe all Super Bowls should be held, the lights went out at the Superdome and the Harbaugh brothers' teams waged a classic, with the Ravens defense holding on in the red zone at the end. Afterward, knowing how poorly the Superdome elevators work, I sprinted from the top of the stadium to the basement on the stadium's old ramps and got there just in time to see Matt Birk walking off the field, his forehead creased and marked, blood covering his jersey. I talked to him for 20 minutes then sprinted up the ramps to beat deadline with my favorite Super Bowl story.
Super Bowl XLVIII: Any play can lose a Super Bowl. The Broncos snapped the ball into the end zone for a safety on the first play from scrimmage. On their first second down of the game, Peyton Manning threw over the middle to star receiver Demaryius Thomas. It was the kind of routine play that helped the Broncos offense set records. This time, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor rushed up and smashed Thomas, holding him to a 2-yard gain. Another completion, to Julius Thomas, wound up short of the first down marker and the Seahawks were on their way to a blowout.
Super Bowl XLIX: The Patriots' Malcolm Butler won the game with a goal-line interception. Now I was standing in front of his locker, waiting for him to finish television interviews, so I could ask him about his life. He told me about playing at West Alabama, about going undrafted, about how he had gotten beaten for a touchdown on a similar play in practice and Bill Belichick had told him how to play the pass the next time. When we finished talking, he told the gathering crowd to back up. "Can I please put on my pants?'' he said.