Andre Reed induction eases a fan's prolonged pain

The Morning Call's coverage of the Super Bowl extravaganza was just great, with one glaring exception.

The 43-8 Seattle Seahawks victory over the Denver Broncos, said one of Monday's stories, was "the biggest blowout since the Cowboys trounced the Bills 52-17 in 1993."

Was it really necessary to bring that up again? Has Tribune (The Morning Call is part of the Tribune news empire) reporter Brad Biggs no mercy? Haven't we Buffalo natives suffered enough?

It was bad enough to lose four Super Bowls in a row. It was bad enough that the last two defeats were at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, the most despised team from the most despised city in the universe, as far as we normal people are concerned.

Fortunately, the pain of that passage by Biggs was eased by the first paragraph of Keith Groller's analysis on Monday, which said XLVIII was "the best Super Bowl of Andre Reed's life."

Reed went from Allentown's Dieruff High School to Kutztown University to the Buffalo Bills, including all four Super Bowl games during the (almost) glory days.

On this year's Super Bowl Eve, it was announced that Reed would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, after seven years of being a finalist. The formal induction will be in August. The only other Lehigh Valley native in the Hall, former Philadelphia Eagle Chuck Bednarik, made it in 1967, when Reed was 3 years old.

Reed had 15 seasons with the Bills, with 941 receptions as wide receiver, mostly from Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

I first met his parents, Joyce and Calvin Reed, at their Allentown home when the family was working to help disadvantaged families in the Lehigh Valley around the time of that first Buffalo Super Bowl in 1991. It's sad that Calvin did not live to enjoy Saturday's announcement; he died in 1996.

In all, Reed played 15 seasons with the Bills, then one with the Washington Redskins, before retiring and moving to San Diego, my other hometown. (The Chargers made it to the Super Bowl only once, but that was not so painful because they lost to a team from another of my favorite cities.)

Actually, I cannot claim to be much of a fan of football, which is only a little less boring than baseball, which I consider to be a sure cure for insomnia. (Just try falling asleep during an ice hockey game.)

During the halcyon days of the early 1990s, however, my wife and I were energized by Reed and the rest of the Bills. The early 1970s were fun, too, and it's a danged shame that subsequent problems overshadowed the dazzling feats of another Bills Hall of Famer.

As for Sunday's game, I decided to root for Denver, because I spent the better part of a year in that wonderful city while attending an Air Force tech school. (My wife also cheered for the Broncos, but with five minutes left in the game, she decided to switch to the Seattle Seahawks.)

We were happy that all four teams in the final playoffs were from places we like and not from some wretched antebellum dump like Dallas or Tennessee.

It also was gratifying that the Super Bowl was played in East Rutherford, N.J., which called attention to the fact that New York State has only one National Football League team. We Buffalo natives refer to certain other teams as the New Jersey Jets or the New Jersey Giants.

When Monday's coverage told of how the XLVIII game started with a balmy temperature of 49 degrees, which was fine for wimps, it made me hope that a future Super Bowl might played in the no-roof Ralph Wilson Stadium.

I have gone to only one Bills game at The Ralph, in Orchard Park., N.Y., not far from where I grew up, and we had a blizzard. Now, there is a stadium and a climate for hardy football players and fans. I bet a team accustomed to playing in that sort of weather would have a good shot at winning.

Even better would have been the wonderful old War Memorial Stadium in downtown Buffalo, where the Bills played in their first few years, but they tore it down.

If you saw "The Natural," a baseball movie, you know what the "Rockpile" looked like. (Why is it there are many great movies about a sport as dull as baseball but only one fairly entertaining one about ice hockey? "Slap Shot," filmed in Johnstown, Pa., was based on a real team there.)

Also, all the other scenes in "The Natural" (including New York City's Grand Central Station and Wrigley Field in Chicago) were filmed in and around Buffalo — but not in the winter, of course.

That brings me to one final outrage. As I have reported before, the four-Super-Bowl debacle can be blamed on the decision to replace the classy standing buffalo logo on the Buffalo Bills' helmets. It was like the buffalo (make it "bison" if you're a fussbudget) on the old buffalo nickel. O.J. Simpson wore such a helmet as he rushed for a then-record 2,003 yards in 1973, much of it on snow-covered fields, long before he attracted notoriety for other reasons.

"Then they came up with an idiotic leaping buffalo," I wrote several years ago, "with a big red streak from its horn, which … represents the Bills going down in flames in the Super Bowl." To this day, the Bills still have that silly logo.

I have a feeling that if Andre Reed had played in a standing buffalo helmet, he would have starred in at least four Super Bowl championships, and we would not have had to wait so long for his induction.

paul.carpenter@mcall.com 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays

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