MIAMI -- So close and yet so far.
That's been the story of kicker Gary Anderson's quest to make a Super Bowl.
Three times in the past five years, he's been the kicker for the home team in the conference championship game.
All three times -- in Pittsburgh in 1994, in San Francisco last year and in Minnesota two weeks ago -- his team lost.
The Vikings' overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons was the most frustrating for him because he missed a 38-yard field-goal try with 2: 07 left in regulation that would have wrapped up the victory. It was his first miss all year.
Anderson's missed kick was not the only reason they lost. Among other things, their offense produced just seven points after halftime as quarterback Randall Cunningham reverted to the erratic ways that were his trademark in Philadelphia.
On top of that, coach Dennis Green seems destined to become another Marty Schottenheimer in the playoffs as his postseason record dropped to 2-6. Green made two controversial decisions -- gambling at the end of the first half and then taking a kneel at the end of regulation -- that will be debated in Minnesota for a long time.
But Anderson's miss is the one that will be remembered longest.
After the game, Anderson drove the family car 24 hours straight to his family's new home in Sarasota, Fla. "There was plenty of time to think and contemplate," Anderson said. "And I definitely didn't have any problems staying awake."
It was the first time in 17 years that he experienced a costly miss on his final kick of the year.
"I'm surviving," he said. "Certainly, it's getting easier, a little easier, day by day. It's certainly been a struggle. I wouldn't say I'm on top of it."
Anderson, who said he's looking forward to kicking in the Pro Bowl next Sunday, has been in the playoffs 11 times in his 17 years but still doesn't have a Super Bowl ring.
"I'm the oldest guy on the team," he said. "I've come awfully close to the Super Bowl a few times. I think that's what has been really hard for me personally. Just to deal with that failure."
Even though the Super Bowl is in Miami, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino won't attend.
"I'll watch it. But I went to the game a couple of years ago in New Orleans, and there was something about being in the stadium but not in the game, that affected in the wrong way. I just didn't feel comfortable. I just felt like I should be playing," he said.
Marino made the Super Bowl in his second year and lost. He assumed he'd be back several times. He never made it back.
"I want to know the feeling of what it's like to play and win a Super Bowl," Marino said. "If it doesn't happen, it won't affect my career. But personally, inside, I want to know what it feels like."
John Elway savored that feeling last year. "He won't ever know what he missed. Not ever having felt what it was like, I wouldn't have known. But now that I do know, I can say, 'Yeah, I would have missed it,' " he said.
Life not so simple
Former Ravens tackle Tony Jones, who's now starting for Denver, has had a difficult year.
During the last off-season, he lost a cousin in a traffic accident. In November, an uncle he knew as an older brother died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. His mother will undergo open heart surgery after the Super Bowl.
But Jones is preparing for his second straight Super Bowl, and his wife, who's had nine miscarriages and one child, is due to deliver twins in March.
"I've been through the storms. There is nothing I can't go through. I can deal with it all. I get my strength from the Lord. This football game is very simple to some of the things that I've had to deal with off the field," he said.
Guess which college football factory has the most players in the Super Bowl? Would you believe Stanford?
Stanford isn't noted as a football factory, but has four Broncos (Elway, Ed McCaffrey, Darrien Gordon and Justin Armour) and two Falcons (Bob Whitfield and Lester Archambeau) in the game.
Although four kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns in the Super Bowl -- the last one by Desmond Howard two years ago -- there never has been a punt returned for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons are attempting to become the second team to win a Super Bowl after having a losing record the previous year. The 1981 San Francisco 49ers are the only team to do that.
Atlanta has only four players who've ever played in a Super Bowl, but only one -- Eugene Robinson -- who's won it. The other three -- Cornelius Bennett, Randy Fuller and Tony Martin -- lost Super Bowls in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
Either Bennett or Denver's Mike Lodish will become the second player ever to lose five Super Bowls. Backup quarterback Gale Gilbert suited up for five Super Bowls -- four times with Buffalo and one with San Diego -- but didn't play in any of them.
Dan Reeves can become the third man to win Super Bowl rings as a player, assistant coach and head coach. The first two were Tom Flores and Mike Ditka.
The highest ticket price for the first Super Bowl was $12. As recently as Super Bowl XIX, they were $60. For this game, they're $325.
"I'd have to bring Tonya Harding down here."
-- Falcons reserve cornerback Darren Anderson on what it would take for him to have a chance to play in the Super Bowl. He said that before he was put on the inactive list Friday.
Pub Date: 1/31/99