Fred Faour: My first Super Bowl? Rice Stadium in 1974, creating lifelong memories

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Htw/AP/Shutterstock (6611682a) Csonka Siemon Krause Miami Dolphins’ fullback Larry Csonka (39) plows through the Minnesota defense to score the first touchdown of Super Bowl VIII, in Houston. Hanging on are Minnesota Vikings Jeff Siemon (50) and Paul Krause (22 SUPER BOWL VIII CSONKA 1974, HOUSTON, USA

Fred Faour: My first Super Bowl? Rice Stadium in 1974, creating lifelong memories

With the Super Bowl this week, it’s a good time to reflect on past games. Having been to the big game numerous times, you never forget your first.

Mine was 1974 at Rice Stadium. The Miami Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 on a dreary day in Houston before 71,882 fans on Jan. 13.

I was a whopping 9 years old.

The NFL was a lot more liberal with press credentials then. My mother was sports editor at the Texas City Sun – the first female sports editor in Texas – and got credentials for both herself and her son.

We sat in a press area, eating boxed lunches and enjoying the game.

Larry Csonka, the Dolphins battering fullback, won the MVP with a 145 yards on 33 carries. The game itself was not great, but for a young boy getting his first Super Bowl experience, it was magical. Growing up, I had a board on my wall with buttons that had the result of every Super Bowl. I was able to add Super Bowl 8 a few weeks after the game.

It is an experience I have never forgotten. I collected stats for my mom so she could write her story (we did not have that pesky internet back then). I felt like a real journalist. Between her and my dad (over 30 years in journalism), my path in life was pretty clear.

The other most memorable one came in New Orleans in 2002, the first after 911. U2’s halftime performance was astounding, and the Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf 20-17 in an amazing game, and it is where the Brady/Patriots legends were born. By then, the Super Bowl had become the biggest spectacle in American sports.

But Super Bowl 8 was not that. Still, over 50 million watched the game. Commercials were just $103,000 for a 30-second spot. The game was held at Rice because the Astrodome was considered too small – at the time it had just 50,000 seats.

Charley Pride sang the national anthem. The halftime show was the University of Texas Longhorn band.

I would find out much later that this was the game where one of my later inspirations, Hunter S. Thompson, was covering it, gonzo-style.

The big controversies? Dolphins owner Joe Robbie flew the wives of players to the game, but not the significant others of single players. And the Vikings complained about having to practice at Delmar Stadium, a high school field where I had just been part of a state champion football team a few months before with the La Marque Tigers. The prior year, we also won a state title, ironically enough, at Rice Stadium.

So Super Bowl 8 was my coming out party as a young football player and fan and as a journalist. I don’t remember a lot from those years, but I will never forget the experience of sitting on those metal seats, watching a game that had become something special for me, helping my mom create a story under gray skies in massive Rice Stadium. The Dolphins, a year removed from an undefeated season. The Purple People Eaters of the Vikings. Sixteen Hall of Famers, including coaches and general managers.

The Super Bowl has changed so much since, but for me, this will always be one of my favorite moments, the launching point of a career that has taken me to so many wonderful places.

I’ve always said the greatest memories and players you respect most in sports happen when you are 10-12 years old. And after dozens of Super Bowls and every major sporting event you can imagine after my Rice experience, my favorite will always be that day, sitting next to my mom and surrounded by real journalists.

This is what sports is all about; making memories.

The 1974 Super Bowl will always be my favorite one.

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