MINNEAPOLIS -- The party broke up early again, didn't it?
It's time everyone caught on. The Super Bowl is a one-six-pack and maybe two-bags-of-chips kind of party. If you want to make the evening last, plan to play charades by midway through the third quarter.
Yeah, the Redskins were great. You knew that going in. The name may be politically incorrect, but the team is right on. It even calls up all those old-time verities like teamwork and effort. In a glamour city, where everyone who isn't already a star wants to be one, the Redskins are a team without a single Michael Jordan. What they have is a bunch of guys called Hogs and a group that is clearly better than the sum of its parts.
That's nice, I guess. But what you really want out of a football game is a good football game, no matter if it's Roman numeraled or not. If the Super Bowl is supposed to be a national celebration -- that's what it's become: a midwinter Fourth of July, complete with the song "I'm Proud To Be an American" as an annual staple -- why do they keep forgetting to bring the entertainment? And I don't mean the halftime show.
Six of the past eight games have been what one would generously call lopsided. And all eight games, also 10 of the past 11, have been lost by the team representing the American Football Conference. They took the game to the frozen north, they played it inside a dome for which they built indoor blimps, they played it in the same place where they gave us that wonderful World Series of last October, and still the AFC (Awful Football Conference) couldn't change the pattern.
For the past two years, the AFC team has been the Bills, who at least made it close last time. This time, the players spent most of the pre-game week whining about one thing or another, including that they didn't get enough respect. Actually, I'm thinking they got plenty.
The score was 37-24 in favor of the Redskins, but it was not so close as that. It was 17-0 at halftime and 37-10 before fourth-quarter garbage time, around the same time you probably seriously regretted investing in that big-screen TV.
But since it's the only Super Bowl we've got this year, we'll have to figure out what it means.
Here's what I can tell you about the Bills: Their star runner, Thurman Thomas, who likes to think of himself as the greatest running back of his generation and maybe of yours, too, missed the first two plays of the game because he couldn't find his helmet. This is what we call an omen. It's also what football people call -- and I don't want to get too technical here -- unbelievably dumb. When he did get in, Thomas ran 10 times for 13 yards.
On the Redskins' side, the game was a big-time tribute to the low-key coach, Joe Gibbs, who won his third Super Bowl in the past 10 years. He won them with three different quarterbacks and three different running backs, suggesting that he's the thread that runs though this championship run.
And then there was the making of Mark Rypien, the quarterback and the game's most valuable player. He's going to get some national recognition now. But an ad executive, when discussing Rypien recently, couldn't think of anything more to say about him than that he had a bad haircut.
Now, they can talk about the third-quarter drive. That was the one that broke the game open. The Bills had finally begun to get into the game, twice doing their quick-draw, no-huddle thing, scoring 10 points in about 18 seconds. It was 24-10 when the Redskins got the ball back, and the defense, which was suddenly banged up, was praying for a rest.
Three plays later, the Redskins needed four yards for a first down when Rypien drilled a 10-yard pass to Gary Clark, keeping the drive alive. The Redskins drove to the Bills' 30, only to face third down and 10 yards, when Rypien hit Clark for 30-yard touchdown. It was his day. He had to be the MVP. In the year in which Rypien, still a young quarterback, came of age, so did the veteran Redskins.
Rypien took as much credit as he usually does, saying, "I'm just proud to be a member of this team." No wonder he doesn't get any endorsements.
Nearly all the Redskins had big days. Once again, the offensive line didn't yield any sacks. The defense made Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly throw in a hurry, and he often looked panicked while throwing the ball directly to a Redskins defender.
And so it goes.
The Bills took the defeat philosophically. Their great defensive lineman, Bruce Smith, said, "I'm still in dismay." And the coach, Marv Levy, who was Phi Beta Kappa and got his master's at Harvard, said he was reminded of something Winston Churchill said. And I'm quoting Levy quoting Churchill, so don't blame me if it's wrong: "Defeat, no matter how explained, or excused, is still odious."
And, you know what, Marv, the game wasn't so wonderful, either.