Joe says he will always remember the applause given to his family “I’d never heard anything like it,” he reports “It wasn’t loud It had a soft, but very deep quality. I’ll never forget that.”In another Super Bowl, and without the family connections, Joe Andruzzi might have earned a fleeting mention for his stalwart work in the Patriot offensive line. He might have been praised for his over-achievement, the fact that despite three bouts of surgery on knee injuries he fought his way back from the boundaries of the professional game while playing for the Scottish Claymores in the European League and is now an impressive cog in a team which against heavy odds last week upset the formidable Pittsburgh Steelers But, in normal circumstances, guards do not get headlines. If they are lucky, the quarterback they protect all season takes them out for an end-of-season dinner and perhaps slips a gift under their napkins. Walter Payton, a legendary running back, explained why he presented his offensive linemen with Rolex watches at the end of one memorable season. “I just wanted to thank them for giving up bits of their body on my behalf.”That was the kind of football imagery which sailed beyond inspection before 9-11.
As did the behaviour of Super Bowl stars like the late John Matusak, of the Oakland Raiders, and Frenchy Fuqua, of the Steelers. In 1981 Matusak – who earlier in his career had told a highway patrolman “I like to be prepared” when questioned about the magnum revolver and machete in his glove compartment – came late to an early morning press conference. He explained that the barman in Bourbon Street had been slow to call a taxi. In 1976, Fuqua paraded through the French quarter wearing a skintight lavender jumpsuit, full length pink cape, white musketeer hat with plumes and patent leather shoes with goldfish in the built-up fibreglass heels.
Eventually, Fuqua abandoned the shoes because of protests that the goldfish kept dying.Given time, such irreverence may re-emerge but plainly levity is low down on the agenda of Super Bowl XXXVl. It could hardly be otherwise in a game which believes so ferociously that it represents the heartbeat of the nation. Certainly the resurrection of the old voodoo queen Marie Laveau, a staple of the hype preceding the eight previous Super Bowls staged in New Orleans, is conspicuously absent this time. The local theory, allegedly, is that the spirit of Madame Laveau, aggrieved that her tomb was disturbed by the building of the Superdome – it is said to have occupied what today is the middle of the 50-yard line – rises up and causes all kinds of trouble, not least the regular imposition of a “blow-out”; a one-sided game. Another voodoo coup, it is claimed, came when a Super Bowl extra in the half-time show, blew off several of his fingers while helping to re-enact the British defeat in the Battle of New Orleans.Reproducing war is, understandably enough, not a high priority on Sunday’s menu – at least until a defensive lineman sniffs the blood of the opposing quarterback.As the security man said, America believes it is in a state of war – and for the first time since the Civil War – on its own soil. Still, sport must go on after its unprecedented weekend off last September. That it has reasserted its role in the building of national morale was perhaps confirmed the other day when a spokesman for the American special forces in Afghanistan revealed that one servicemen had been given the task of reporting to units around Kandahar the day’s sports scores The appointment was explained cogently enough.