John McClain: Super Bowl memories that withstand the passage of time

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (6419167a) Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake Singers Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson are seen during their performance prior to a wardrobe malfunction during the half time performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. The Supreme Court decided Friday not to consider reinstating the government’s $550,000 fine on CBS for Janet Jackson’s infamous breast-bearing “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl Supreme Court CBS Janet Jackson, Houston, USA

John McClain: Super Bowl memories that withstand the passage of time

Waiting for Super Sunday brings back a lot of memories from the 40 Super Bowls I covered for the Chronicle, most that can be written about but some that are too spicy for public consumption and shall remain private to protect the perpetrators. But what stories!

When creating a list of my most memorable Super Bowl moments – three that happened in Houston — I’m using ones I witnessed and not some that happened before I started covering the NFL. So here are 10 of my most intriguing memories I’d like to share with you, in no apparent order. Not the best or most memorable, but 10 that stand out for different reasons.


Radio Row is a gargantuan event at the Super Bowl. You see so many current and former players and coaches promoting products and making the rounds of national and local stations. There are also some celebrities every year hawking appearances, whether it’s in films, on television, or on streaming services. I do weekly shows with stations in Houston, San Antonio, Waco, Nashville, Knoxville, and Las Vegas, and some make the trip to Radio Row every year.

I’ll never forget during one Super Bowl week I received a call from a longtime Houston friend, Jim Edgeworth. He was enjoying Super Bowl week, and he asked me a strange question: Would I be interested in having a friend of his appear on my Houston station, Sports Radio 610, and my other stations? I asked who the friend was and what he’s doing that would make him an interesting radio guest. I was stunned when Jim said, “It’s Rob O’Neill, and he’s the SEAL Team Six leader who killed Osama bin Laden.” I almost fell over. I told Jim, of course, and to give me a minute.

I rushed over to where Sports Radio 610 was set up with the afternoon crew at the time of Sean Pendergast, Rich Lord, and Ted Johnson. I asked if they’d be interested in having on the SEAL Team Six leader who killed bin Laden? They were flabbergasted but couldn’t wait to get O’Neill on. He was a terrific guest who captivated and mesmerized the hosts as well as their listeners. If I remember correctly, he was promoting a book he’d done about that experience in Pakistan.

Then I took O’Neill to my Nashville station. The hosts were blown away. Word started to spread that I was getting the SEAL Team Six leader who killed bin Laden on stations around the country. I was besieged by producers pleading to get him on their station. O’Neill, who was calm and cool throughout the harrowing process of Radio Row, couldn’t have been more cooperative. After all, after leading Operation Neptune Spear to assassinate the world’s most notorious terrorist, of course, Radio Row wouldn’t faze him. He was an incredible guest for every station.

I still have friends from stations around the country tell me no matter who they have on each year as their guests on Radio Row; they’ll never have one as interesting and captivating as Rob O’Neill.


The first overtime game in Super Bowl history was played at NRG Stadium, where the Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl 51. Tom Brady engineered the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Patriots trailed 28-3 late in the third quarter, scored 25 consecutive points, and tied the game as time expired. On the first series of overtime, Brady led New England to a touchdown and the victory.

What’s even more unusual about the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl title and record-setting comeback was the case of Brady’s missing jersey. It disappeared after the game, and nobody had an explanation. A jersey hunt was initiated to find out what happened to Brady’s jersey. The FBI even got involved in what became an international incident. Eventually, the stolen jersey was traced to Mexico, where a journalist, Martin Mauricio Ortega, had other stolen Super Bowl merchandise. Brady agreed that if he got back his jersey, he wouldn’t file charges.


At Super Bowl 41 in Miami, Peyton Manning and the Colts defeated Lovie Smith and the Bears 29-17 in a driving thunderstorm. There was nothing special about the game, but during the 12-minute halftime extravaganza, Prince stole the show with the most incredible and unforgettable performance in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl officials asked Prince if he wanted to cancel because they were worried that he could be electrocuted in the storm, but he refused, saying the show must go on, and his performance was one for the ages – the most memorable in Super Bowl history. Despite the rainstorm, Prince and his bandmates and dancers played on. When he played “Purple Rain” in the rain – with NFL officials praying he didn’t get electrocuted – everybody in the stadium and watching on television was blown away.


Before Super Bowl 23 in Miami, where the 49ers defeated the Bengals 20-16 on Joe Montana’s winning touchdown pass to John Taylor, there were riots in the Overtown and Liberty City sections of the city. The riots were getting national attention, of course, and with the Super Bowl being in Miami, there was even more coverage of these neighborhoods and the fires that were destroying so many buildings and residences.

I’ll never forget a quote from Cincinnati defensive back Solomon Wilcots, who attended a movie the night before the next morning’s interview with the media. He said something like, “Last night, I saw ‘Mississippi Burning’ and came back to my room, went on my balcony, and saw Miami burning.”


Bengals running back Stanley Wilson was a sad story at Super Bowl 23 in Miami. He’d suffered through problems with cocaine use that caused him to be suspended by the NFL. Before the game against the 49ers the Bengals lost on the Joe Montana-led winning drive, Wilson had a relapse. He was found in the bathtub in his hotel room unconscious. Coach Sam Wyche deactivated him for the game. Wilson had been suspended for two different seasons, and under the NFL’s three-times-and-you’re-out policy at the time, he was suspended for life. He later went to prison for robbery to feed his drug addiction.


Safety Eugene Robinson was one of Atlanta’s best defensive players and a team leader. One day during Super Bowl 33 week, Robinson won the Bart Starr Award presented by Athletes in Action and Starr, the former Green Bay quarterback and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The award went to a player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”

After winning the award and getting a lot of recognition for his work in his community, Robinson was arrested during the week when he tried to solicit a prostitute who was an undercover police officer. Talk about embarrassing. Robinson’s arrest received coast-to-coast attention. The Falcons allowed him to play, and Denver obliterated Atlanta 34-19. Robinson and his defense were terrible.


The Ravens and Niners played a terrific game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at Super Bowl 47. There was a power outage during the game, but officials got the lights to come back on before fans panicked and tried to stampede for the exits. Baltimore won 34-31.


The night before Super Bowl 37 at San Diego – the Buccaneers’ 48-21 victory over the Raiders – Oakland center Barret Robbins went to Tijuana, Mexico to celebrate. When he wasn’t at the team hotel at 8 p.m., he was taken off the game day roster. Before, during, or after the game, the Raiders refused to give an explanation for his absence.

Robbins, a Houston native who played at Sharpstown High School, later told his family and friends he thought the Raiders had won, and that’s why he went to Mexico to celebrate. Robbins had mental health issues and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He spent time in rehabilitation and jail after his nine-year career ended.


During the halftime performance at Super Bowl 38 in Houston, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake collaborated on what was called a “wardrobe malfunction” at NRG Stadium – Reliant Stadium at the time — that few believed. It was later disclosed that Timberlake exposing Jackson’s breast during the performance was her idea.

The firestorm of criticism generated so much national attention the Patriots’ 32-29 victory over the Panthers was almost lost amid the controversy that infuriated the NFL. By the way, it was the second consecutive Super Bowl victory for the Patriots, and they would go on to win three in four years. They’re the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions.


During that Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake scandal at Super Bowl 38, a fan somehow got on the sideline and streaked onto the field, but he got very little attention. Unlike Jackson and Timberlake, he was not shown on television, and officials quickly got him off the field, ruining his opportunity to go down in Super Bowl history.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and  Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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