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We’re Just Bowled Over

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s Super Bowl Day and you can just feel the suspense building, right? All over the world, viewers will tune in to ABC to see whether an incredible feat can be pulled off by one individual, facing overwhelming odds.

San Diego quarterback Stan Humphries against awesome San Francisco?

No, Indiana Jones against the nasty guardians of the Temple of the Forbidden.

Jones, the star of the Disney-produced “Doritos Halftime Show,” will sky-dive onto a replica of the temple, which--surprise!--is a new attraction at Disneyland. Jones’ pressure-packed assignment, in the words of a spokesman, will be “to retrieve the stolen Super Bowl trophy from the temple thugs without looking into the eye of the temple god, Mara.”

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Let’s hope that Jones can pull it off--especially considering all the bad luck Orange County has had lately. Have a heart, Mara.

But, of course, there’s more to the Super Bowl than the “Doritos Halftime Show.”

There’s also the “Pizza Hut Pregame Report,” not to mention the “Ford Explorer Countdown to Kickoff” and the “Doritos Kickoff.” The kick in the “Doritos Kickoff” must be one of those extremely high, end-over-end boots because it starts at 2:30, 48 minutes before the ball is expected to land in the arms of the kick returner.

These preliminaries will be anchored by Brent Musburger, and you can depend on him to delve into every fascinating angle of the game during the 2-hour, 18-minute warmup. For instance, who can forget the dramatic highlight of the 1987 pregame show, when Musburger mulled during a lull: “And if you’re wondering about the length of the grass here today ... “

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The pregame culminates, of course, in the Doritos national anthem, which will be warbled by Regis Philbin’s sidekick, Kathie Lee Gifford. She got the nod despite reports that some novice named Barbra Streisand also wanted the assignment. Oh, did we forget to tell you that the Gifford-Philbin show is on ABC and that she is the wife of ABC broadcaster Frank Gifford?

Historically, the Super Bowl games themselves have often proved forgettable because of lopsided scores. But the games’ pageants--being live and therefore unpredictable--have gained the spotlight in surprising fashion.

Herewith our pre-pregame extravaganza--the Weird, Comical and Undistinguished Moments of Super Bowl Sideshows (we couldn’t find a sponsor that would attach its name to it):

Worst End Zone Seats: Two rockets, fired from outside Tampa Stadium during Super Bowl XVIII’s halftime show, veered off course and landed in the stands, slightly injuring one spectator (1984).

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Most Shameless Propagandizing: Before Super Bowl IV, held during the height of the Vietnam War, the New Christy Minstrels were introduced as “young Americans who demonstrate--with guitars” (1970).

Greatest Day for Piano Movers: The halftime show at XXII featured Barry Manilow, Chubby Checker and 88 pianos. “It took longer to move the 88 grand pianos on and off the field . . . than it did to decide the winner of the game,” writer Shelby Strother said of Washington’s 42-10 win over Denver.

Biggest Group Participation Rap Song: A crowd of more than 73,000 fans in the Superdome in New Orleans stomped and sang along with the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl Shuffle, which was played over the public-address system at halftime. They belted out such immortal lyrics as: “We are the Bears Shufflin’ Crew, shufflin’ on down, ‘doin it for you/ We’re so bad, we know we’re good, blowin’ your mind like we knew we would” (1986).

The Tune That Viewers Never Heard: Before Super Bowl I, Kansas City cornerback Fred Williamson bragged that he would club Green Bay into submission with his secret weapon, a forearm chop he called “the hammer.” When the Packers knocked him cold in the fourth quarter, en route to a 35-10 win, Green Bay guard Fuzzy Thurston stood over Williamson and softly hummed the tune “If I Had a Hammer” (1967).

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Worst Pregame Imagery: NBC’s Bob Trumpy said that if Buffalo used a man-to-man defense against Dallas in XXVIII, “It’s Dr. Kevorkian for Buffalo” (1994).

Nerviest Request of TV Viewers: Apple took out pregame newspaper ads asking viewers not to go the bathroom in the fourth quarter. Apple didn’t want anyone to miss the computer company’s expensive new commercial (1985).

Most Unusual Coin Toss: Astronaut Roberta Bondar, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, held the coin as she flipped herself in cartwheels during the pregame show for XXVI. She released the coin, which floated away, never landing on heads or tails. The game went on anyway. (1992).

Most Desperate Buildup: San Francisco was considered such a heavy favorite over Denver in Super Bowl XXIV that CBS studded its pregame show with film clips of the Jets’ upset in Super Bowl III, the U.S. hockey team’s “miracle win” over the Soviet Olympic team in 1980 and movies (such as “Rocky”) in which underdogs triumph (1990).

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The Effectiveness of the Desperate Buildup: Viewers weren’t fooled. Ratings for Super Bowl XXIV were the lowest in 22 years. The 49ers romped as expected, 55-10 (1990).

No Wonder San Francisco Was Considered a Cinch: On the pregame show for XXIV, CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg found a New Orleans voodoo doctor named Rev. Ken, who removed a hex on the 49ers and quarterback Joe Montana by performing several rituals, including the spitting of Bacardi rum on a football (1990).

Best Cosmic Analysis: During Super Bowl XXV, which coincided with the Persian Gulf War, ABC cut away to Saudi Arabia, where newsman Judd Rose observed: “It’s hard to take Giants and Bills too seriously when your life depends on Patriots and Jets” (1991).

They Really Needed Rev. Ken: During the pregame show for IV, a giant balloon costumed as a Minnesota Viking rose 20 feet off the ground, then lurched into the stands and crashed--"for a touchback,” one newsman quipped. The mishap symbolized the curse that has settled on the Vikings, who were defeated that year (by Kansas City) and in three subsequent Super Bowl appearances (1970).

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Most Bizarre Living Room Show: As part of a soda pop promotion, stores made 3-D glasses available to TV viewers of Super Bowl XXIII, who donned them for the halftime show. After the 49ers’ 20-16 win, San Francisco residents were observed cavorting in the streets, still wearing the 3-D shades (1989).

Only Former Vice President to Peddle a Product: During XXVIII, a youngster offered Dan Quayle a potatoe--excuse us, potato--chip. (1994).

Heaviest Chorus Line: ABC’s blimp gave viewers a shot of cement mixer trucks arranged in a formation so that they spelled out XXII (22) on a construction site near San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium (1988).

Most Controversial Halftime: During a Michael Jackson concert at XXVII, press box observers counted six occasions where Jackson grabbed his crotch (1993).

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Origin of the Biggest Cliche: As they had during the regular season, Giants players doused coach Bill Parcells with Gatorade after the team’s 39-20 win over Denver in XXI (1987). The ritual has become a boring postscript to virtually every postseason game, college or pro.

A Concept That Needs Expanding: The highlight of Super Bowl XX’s two-hour pregame show for many was a Silent Minute. Broadcasters shut up for 60 seconds. Really (1986).

It’s Surprising They Weren’t Asked to Perform the National Anthem: Jerry Lewis, Tiny Tim and Bo Jackson teamed up to sing a Pepsi commercial during XXV (1991).

Snappiest Retort to a Dumb Question: Before VI, moody Dallas running back Duane Thomas was asked by a broadcaster if the Super Bowl was the “ultimate game.” Thomas replied: “If it’s the ultimate, how come they’re playing it again next year?” (1972).

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Strangest Pregame Accusation: Colts receiver Jimmy Orr told a broadcaster before Super Bowl III that he and receiver Don Maynard of the rival Jets had been “roommates at the Blue-Gray game about 10 years ago. Good guy, but you know what I remember most about him? He used Mexican dimes as quarters for the pay phone.” (1969).

Most Infamous Prediction: Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder picked the Baltimore Colts to beat the New York Jets by 17 points in III. The Jets won, 16-7. The result? Snyder’s reputation suffered so much that CBS later hired him as its NFL prognosticator (1969).

Second Most Infamous Prediction: Snyder picked Minnesota to beat Kansas City by 13 in IV. Kansas City won, 23-7 (1970).

While Everyone Else’s Stomach Churned: Desperate to pad a pregame show, NBC commentators Bob Costas, O.J. Simpson and Bill Parcells served colleague Will McDonough breakfast in bed to celebrate McDonough’s “scoops” (1992).

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A Reason to Go on Living: “Bud Bowl VII,” an empty-headed Super Bowl promotion involving long-necked bottles of beer playing football, will be cut from four commercials to one during Super Bowl XXIX (1995).

The Video That Was Never Recorded: The Pittsburgh Steelers had planned to make a recording after they defeated the San Diego Chargers in the AFC playoffs and qualified for Super Bowl XXIX. Funny thing, though. They were eliminated by the Chargers and quarterback Stan Humphries (1995).

Come to think of it, Humphries did sort of resemble an Indiana Jones--for that game, at least.

Pregame shows begin at 1 p.m. for “Super Bowl XXIX” at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, scheduled for 3:18 p.m. kickoff on ABC.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Apres Bowl

ABC hopes its promos during the Super Bowl will persuade those watching the most popular television event of the year to stay tuned to “Extreme.” The series, starring James Brolin, premieres after the game. It revolves around the adventures of four young “extreme” athletes who make up a search-and-rescue team in Park City, Utah. Approximately 7:15 p.m.


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