Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl Flashbacks: San Francisco treats

I've obtained credentials for 11 Super Bowls. Of the 11, none is more memorable than the game I didn't cover.

Some background: I wasn't supposed to travel to Miami for the Cincinnati Bengals-San Francisco 49ers contest in 1989. But because Dick Connor, then my colleague at the Denver Post, was down with the flu, the sports editor asked if I could file a week's worth of columns from South Florida.

My answer was a qualified yes.

I’d made plans to spend Super Bowl Sunday with my fiancee. An elegant champagne brunch at Denver's Brown Palace was to precede a game-watching party at a sports bar a friend had recently opened. Would it be possible, I wondered, to work for a week and return home Saturday?

I figured on Connor getting well in time for kickoff. Dick had written stories from every previous Super Bowl – 22 of them – and wasn't about to let a flu bug break his streak. Sure enough, he made it there around the time I left.

As for my week before the game, it went, uh, swimmingly: Sunny afternoons writing on a poolside deck lounge, evening parties in South Beach. There are worse gigs.

The highlight was a session with the late Bengals president Paul Brown. The legendary coach could be irascible – comparisons to Bill Belichick are fair – but Brown, who then was 80, revealed his charming, story-telling side that day.

A prominent figure in the integration of pro football, Brown was credited for such innovations as game films, full-time coaching staffs and communicating with the quarterback through a short-wave device installed in his helmet.

This was during the mid 1950s, and the technology didn't always work. Brown recalled a snafu with quarterback George Ratterman.

“As George was walking off the field after a series, I asked him if he heard the play call in his helmet,” said Brown. "He told me, ‘No, Coach. What I do know is there’s just been a holdup on Third and Pine.’ ”

A few days later, I was back in Denver for a delicious but very expensive brunch, the cost of which was picked up by the 49ers. When Joe Montana threw a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 32 seconds left, it gave San Francisco a 20-16 victory.

On the $10-a-square sports board at the bar, I had 0 for the 49ers and 6 for the Bengals. Life is good, but some weeks are better than others.