Super Bowl XV was the first one I attended in person — which is another way of saying it was the first one I didn’t watch on TV, where it is supposed to be watched. Despite growing up in New Orleans, I had missed Super Bowls IV, VI and IX at old Tulane Stadium and Super Bowl XII, the first in the Louisiana Superdome.
As with many Super Bowls, off-field events shaped the mood. The early days of 1981 also were the early days of the Reagan administration: Morning in America. Even those who had voted the other way were cheered by Iran’s release of 52 American hostages just five days earlier.
Any feeling of national unity didn’t extend to the NFL, where the public feud between Raiders owner Al Davis and commissioner Pete Rozelle, which had heated to the point that the big question was if they would shake hands at the trophy presentation if the Raiders won.
And the Raiders did win, trashing the Eagles 27-10 in a game that was a testament to the value of quarterbacks. Oakland’s Jim Plunkett threw three touchdowns and was selected the MVP. Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski threw three interceptions – all to linebacker Rod Martin.
There was no handshake at the trophy presentation — although not a pure snub either. Rozelle shrewdly used both hands in turning the trophy over to Davis.