Super Bowl XXIII. The date was January 22, 1989.
It's a constant memory that sometimes fades, but then floats to the surface with the buoyancy of a super-float at the shallow end of a public swimming pool. Vivid, like shuffling from a waking dream in the middle of the night. I was 10 years old. My mother, a stanch football antagonist, was younger than I am today and my siblings were even years away from existence.
The Cincinnati Bengals just took a 16-13 lead following a Jim Breech 40-yard field goal with 3:20 remaining in the game. San Francisco 49ers returner, Del Rodgers hauled in the ensuing kickoff at the seven-yard line, returning it to the 15. A holding penalty pushed San Francisco back at their own eight. It felt perfect. Defense was winning the day and Cincinnati had the advantage on special teams.
There was a maroon couch with an itchy surface in the living room with cigarette burns on the arm rest. I was bouncing like a money around the room. The pillows, marked with the same color and texture took a beating.
Only a year prior to the game, we lived in Minnesota. Imagine my joy when I found out that my new city had a Super Bowl team and the Cincinnati Reds, who were kind of a big deal. Life was good for a 10-year old sports fan. Joe Montana completed an eight-yard pass to Roger Craig and then an seven-yarder to tight end John Frank -- who would later become an otolaryngologist. Whatever. Prevent defense. Right?
Montana applied the west coast offense brilliantly and the over-confident Cincinnati Bengals defense became obsessed with deep passes that left underneath routes wide open. Jerry Rice snagged a seven-yarder in the flats, and another 17-yarder on the sidelines. OK? Before we knew it, San Francisco crossed midfield and continued marching down the field.
It was tense. Gripping these matching maroon-colored pillows, equally as itchy as the couch that they belonged to, it became evident that... 1) the 49ers were going to tie up the game and send it into overtime or 2) they were going to score a touchdown to win the game.
With 39 seconds remaining in the game, Joe Montana took the snap and won the game on a well-placed pass to John Taylor for the touchdown.
Normally you'd say it's a horrible memory to have. It's the last time that Cincinnati made a Super Bowl appearance and despite that, the game was fun. It's a memory I won't forget.
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