Magazine article The Spectator

End of My Sugar Bowl Affair

Magazine article The Spectator

End of My Sugar Bowl Affair

Article excerpt

A HELMET with tiger stripes reminded me ineluctably of a love affair. It ended without regrets or recriminations and affection still lingers. But it was never to be anything more than a glorious bit on the side.

That helmet was worn by Artrell Hawkins, a person unknown to me. He was lying on the ground in the photograph black and white although I knew at once that his helmet was bright orange -- attempting to bring down another man I had never heard of.

But I was transported back a dozen years to when Boomer Esiason wore that same striped helmet as quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals, and seemed about to lead his unlikely side to victory in the Super Bowl, the grand final of what Americans call football.

His side was leading by three points with three minutes left: the mighty San Francisco 49ers toppled at last. And there I was in Miami to witness it on a jaunt that had already taken me to a game in Chicago with a wind chill of minus 25 F, a race riot, the Super Bowl breakfast for 3,000 journos, and now this.

I used to make regular wanderings across the face of America, writing about sport or, to use the American term, sports. I did so at the height of the British fascination with American football: shotguns and huddles and Hail Marys, and me in the middle of it all, swaggering about as the star of mv own movie, which is the priceless gift that America gives every visitor.

And Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers walked into the huddle when his side regained possession with those scant three minutes left, and with 92 yards of the field ahead of him. It was the most convincing walk in the history of sport: those 20-odd yards from sideline to the huddle carried that certainty of his own destiny that defines so many great sporting moments. …

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