Super Bowl X: Up with People? How About Swannie All Day!

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIMay 5, 2010

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Hall of fame player and current broadcaster Lynn Swann on the field prior to Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Of all the sorry…I mean “Up With People?”  Talk about an exciting Super Bowl X halftime show.  It was as if your church’s choir had taken off the robes to reveal Republican fashions and Mister Rogers was the choreographer.

Glad I was 19 and on my fifth Miller High Life.

Don’t sweat it, Generations X and Y.  You didn’t miss a thing even though UWP was pumping it out for the celebration of Our Nation’s Bicentennial. 

Say, what, you say?  The Bicen-what?

What was that thing called the Bicentennial, you Xers and Yers may ask. 

Well, to answer truthfully, the Bicentennial of 1976 was to be a patriotic year-long party to honor the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution.

What actually happened was one lame attempt at ridiculous capitalism gone mad.  Everything was red, white, and blue.  We’re talking Captain America condoms.  I’m not making that up.  It was sick.   

Consider again “Up With People.”  The GOP’s favorite singers can’t possibly rock like The Who, and certainly did not suffer wardrobe malfunctions, although who would have been awake to notice.  And, if you would have been awake, would there have been anything to notice?

Like it or not, those “artists” of the positive mental attitude variety laid out a yawner, but the Tenth Big Game broke the mold of the previous Boring Big Games. 

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Roy Gerela attempted to knock the coke out of the boorish Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson on the opening kickoff.  All Roy got out of it were a) the tackle and b) very sore ribs. 

The irascible Cliff Harris howled at the kicker’s futility, but the Cowboy safety’s patented prickness backfired as he drove Jack Lambert to pop fourteen individual tackles, while psyching himself to greater heights of rage and violence.


Lynn Swann turned in his typical game for the ages.

Swannie in 1975 had the most outstanding season of his career, pulling in 49 receptions for 781 yards and an NFL leading 11 touchdowns.   

I know, I know.  In the professional game of the 21st century, those stats are almost commonplace.   

However, Lynn Swann was the type of wideout who came up huge in huge games.  It seemed that as the television audience was bigger, and the fans in the stands were wealthier, and the trophy was shinier, Lynn could raise his game to levels all other mortals found difficult to achieve.

Interestingly, Swann almost didn’t play in Super Bowl X.  Oakland Raider safety George Atkinson lit Lynn up like a Christmas tree during a reception in the AFC Championship game.  The receiver spent two days in the hospital recovering from a severe concussion.

This is where Dallas’ Cliff Harris and his infamously running yap came in.  Harris insinuated that Swannie should be concerned about getting hammered again.  The Cowboy finished doling out his advice by stating that he wouldn’t blame Lynn if he ran scared.

That did it.

Swann jerked the 88 jersey over his head and surprised many by sauntering on to the Orange Bowl’s hideous Astro-Turf.

In the first quarter, Lynn pulled in a 12 yarder, the significance of which was the fact that he caught it in traffic in that rarefied zone over the middle.  No running scared here.

Later in the opening stanza with Dallas up 7 zip, Terry Bradshaw called a few runs, then crossed up America’s Team by throwing one to Swann down the sideline.  Lynn went vertical for what seemed like minutes as he reached for the ball still over his head.  The 32 yard catch was made as he hovered out-of-bounds, but The Incredible One found a way to miraculously torque his body so that his feet touched within the stripe as he floated down.

Chuck Noll said that catch was the greatest reception he had ever seen.

The one in the second quarter has to be up there somewhere.

A Dallas drive was thwarted at mid-field as the Steel Curtain kept Roger Staubach scrambling and second guessing.  Pittsburgh took the ball on their 10 after a punt.  Bradshaw sent Rocky Bleier sweep left for a couple of yards.  Franco Harris went right on second down to no avail.

That made third and about nine on the 10.  Terry took the snap on a quick count.  With hours of pocket time, Bradshaw stood on the goal line and did what he was built to do, stroke the ball deep.

Lynn streaked downfield, but was covered like a tarp by Dallas’ cornerback Mark Washington.  As the ball arrived at near mid-field, Swann elevated to get it.  Washington’s helmet bounced the football free from Swannie’s hands, sending it up in a second arc nearly ten feet above the turf.  Lynn, with Washington all over him, took one stride up then a diving stride out.  The ball returned to earth the same time as Swann, falling into the wideout’s hands.

The game had not reached halftime, and the Steelers didn’t score on the drive.  The fact that Lynn jumped up to get a few more yards out of the play was lost on most everyone.  It was a wonderful staging of acrobatics, but one of course must consider a) Swann’s fourth quarter 64 yarder for the championship as more significant, or b) David Tyree of the New York Giants and his helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII.  It did set up the winning score.

So, how do you rank Swann and Tyree?

Allow me to propose this: both catches are the greatest.  Lynn Swann’s art form is my generation’s greatest, and David Tyree’s physics-defying grab is yours.

That declaration will not end all arguments, as no sports argument should ever be resolved.  But, as I write on my short list, four catch minimum, Lynn Swann’s 40.25 yards per reception has to be not only the most indelible Super Bowl record, it represents, with due regard to Jerry Rice, one of the most awesome days on the Big Stage.