Minneapolis — My finest Super Bowl moment did not occur when Tom Brady created a miracle on a victory drive. It did not occur on John Riggins’ sterling victory run or Lynn Swann’s flying catch or Marcus Allen spinning and breaking 74 yards to a touchdown.
It was not created by Vince Lombardi or Joe Namath or Bill Walsh or Tom Landry or Chuck Noll or Doug Williams or Joe Montana or John Elway.
Or even Peyton Manning!
My favorite Super Bowl moment occurred four years ago in New Jersey. And no coach nor player had a thing to do with it except exercise his responsibility to stand at attention with respect and listen to a magnificent rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
It was a national anthem sung by the marvelously operatic Renee Fleming. It was sung with passion and belief and patriotism — and the belief that it was the top kick-butt performance of all kick-butt Super Bowl performances.
After a captivating finish — “Land of the Brave” — Ms. Fleming stepped down from the podium onto the football field.
Her gowns were flowing, her face frozen in pleasure — and she pumped her fists and arms and elbows in absolute triumph. She was more pumped than the athletes and the coaches on the Broncos and Seahawks. Likely she was more pumped than any other individual in the stadium.
Upstairs in the pressbox — this former Naval officer, likely the oldest ink-stained wretch in the enclosure — melted. It was a gigantic emotional lift.
On the field, the first snap from scrimmage sailed over Peyton Manning’s helmeted head for a safety.
My most shining Super Bowl moment had been followed by Super Bowl burlesque.
Four Super Bowls later, burlesque again is an appropriate description, as the league commissioner has emerged as the clown-in-chief.
Roger Goodell is alleged to have said that “the league has already done enough for veterans,” according to the Conservative Tribune and Tea Party Action Network websites.
These sites state that NFL censors rejected the AMVETS’ submission of a $30,000 advertisement for Sunday’s Super Bowl LII program because it would have implored any remaining kneelers and all fans to stand during the playing of The National Anthem.
Those websites claim that the NFL rejected the advert as “too political.”
Apparently kneeling or sitting during the pregame playing of The Star Spangled Banner before kickoffs are not considered by Goodell and his hirelings as being political actions.
The NFL is certain to honor veterans and service people at Sunday’s Super Bowl LII. The Veterans of Foreign Wars origination is to be the honored. The league said it will have several Medal of Honor recipients in attendance.
“America The Beautiful” will be sung, and some pop person knows as Pink will deliver “The Star Spangled Banner” in a supposedly unique style at will tick most of us off.
None of that, of course, can be construed as “too political.”
Last year former President George H.W. Bush was on the field for the coin toss.
That wasn’t “too political” either.
The kneel-down issue started just before Super Bowl LI last February.
It gained attention when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand with teammates in a sloppy form of attention before 49ers game — and attracted much media commentary.
This past season it was turned into an unsavory sidebar to NFL games and drifted down occasionally to college and high school games. Kaepernick was obviously barred by league edict. In my opinion, anyway.
Goodell and his people uttered a few weak sentences but refused to chastise the athletes — actually employees. Some of us cursed.
The kneel-down issue, started by the obviously barred Colin Kaepernick, turned into an unsavory sidebar to the 2017 season. It was rewarded with more media coverage than it warranted. As expected now, criticism crashed out of Donald Trump’s White House. Other zealots regarded the kneel-down players as exercising their freedom of expressions.
Personally, my thoughts and admiration turned to Pat Tillman, an athlete like the kneelers. Tillman gave up a fine NFL career to join, voluntarily, the Army. He was killed serving in Afghanistan.
And I felt shame and pain because multi-millionaire athletes did not care enough about their nation to respect the American flag and The National Anthem. They responded to a just cause in an undignified and disrespectful manner.
I regarded it as an insult to any of us who served in the Armed Forces and are forever veterans. Time and again, in airports while wearing one of my Navy caps, strangers said to me “Thank you for your service.” I thank them back.
When Kaepernick started his campaign as a one-man rebel, I delivered my own one-man response. Every game I attended in 2017 — Tigers, Lions, Michigan — I put on a camouflage Navy cap, saluted toward the flag as permitted for veterans, and sang the Anthem’s words.
I sang in my hearty monotone, nowhere close to Ms. Fleming beautiful kick-butt rendition.
But I was pumped and emotional. And so very kick-butt proud!
Jerry Green, a retired sports writer, has covered every Super Bowl for The Detroit News.