Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rick Cleveland: The Super Bowl's Mississippi Connections

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will play the 51st Super Bowl in Houston Sunday. That's Super Bowl LI if you are keeping score in Roman numerals, which was Pete Rozelle's plan all along.

I've been to XXIX of them, all but one as a reporter. Always, there have been Mississippi connections.

Mississippi – or players with Mississippi connections – have won four Super Bowl MVPs. Eli Manning won two and Jerry Rice won one (and probably should have won two). And do you remember the fourth?

No, not Brett Favre. Deion Branch of Jones Junior College did in 2005 when he tied Rice’s record with 11 Super Bowl receptions in a single game. Rice, you should know, still holds the career Super Bowl receptions record with 33 in four games.

You ask me, Rice's record may stand for another “C years.”

If a Mississippian wins MVP this season, then you can bet favored New England will win the game. The Atlanta Falcons may be closer to home, but New England has a decided Magnolia State flavoring. Madison Central's Stephen “Beaver” Gostkowski could be called on to make the winning kick. Vicksburg's Malcolm Butler (who played at Hinds CC), a Super Bowl hero two years ago, has become one of the league's best cornerbacks and definitely will be called on to “check” Atlanta's other-worldly Julio Jones. That, by the way, is not a task I would wish on anyone, but Butler will have it. Indeed, he wants it, which is the attitude every cornerback must have.

Brandon Bolden of Ole Miss and LaGarrette Blount of East Mississippi CC are two of the Patriots running backs. Matt Slater, the Patriots' special teams captain and all-star, is the son of Jackson State legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.

Vegas oddsmakers have made Tom Brady the MVP favorite this year, but remember what happened when he won it two years ago? Brady gave the loaded pick-up truck, his prize for winning, to Butler who made the game-winning play at the end. And, at the time, Brady also predicted Butler would go on to a long, successful career. Brady said he knew how good the then-unknown Butler was because he had to go against him so often in practice. Butler intercepted Russell Wilson to win the game, and Brady said he understood how Wilson felt because Butler had done it so many times to him in scrimmages.

It was one of the feel-good stories of all Super Bowls. Just a few years before, Butler had worked the pick-up window in a Popeye's in Vicksburg, earning money so he could return to Hinds. From a fast food pick-up window – “Would you like that spicy or mild?” – to Super Bowl hero is not a journey many make.

There have been many, many other superlative Super Bowl performances by Mississippians that haven't won MVP.

When the Green Bay Packers defeated the Patriots 35-21 in the 1997 Super Bowl, Favre threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. In perhaps the the greatest non-MVP Super Bowl performance ever by anyone, Rice caught 10 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns in the 49ers’ rout of San Diego in the 1995 Super Bowl at Miami. Remarkably, he played the game with a separated shoulder and a bad case of the flu, which caused him to have IV treatments twice during the game. (Steve Young was MVP, which tells you how good he was.)

Sportscasters often call the Super Bowl football's “ultimate” game. And I guess it is. But I am reminded that somebody has to lose on the sport's biggest stage. Two of my favorite Mississippi players ever were two of the unluckiest at Super Bowls. Kent Hull (Greenwood and Mississippi State) played in four for the Buffalo Bills. Sammy Winder (Pocahontas and USM) played in three for the Denver Broncos. Neither ever won one. That's VII Super Bowls, no rings if you are keeping score. And that's also seven times when a nice guy finished second, not last.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

And once again, Rick Cleveland's uses his column to talk about himself.

Congratulations for having been to 29 super bowls, Rick. Maybe we'll get you a t-shirt with that tidbit so everyone can see how awesome you think you are.

Ain't Never Been Won't Never Go.. said...

Who paid Rick Cleveland's way to 29 Super Bowls. Would be interesting to see a spread sheet of all those expenses.

robert redd said...

To bad the earlier posts by two jersey got past the censor! His bowl attendance was a small footnote to add to his credibility. Rick said as a reporter & it's good enough for me. I surely appreciate the great info & plug for our state. Rick is my favorite sportswriter

Anonymous said...

Oh, please! Go back and read this guy's weekly brag about how he knew so-and-so and he spent his childhood hanging around with whosiewhatsit, or how young Elbert Finkelsteen is the greatest wide receiver Rick has seen since he interviewed Jerry Rice in 1986.

It's either that or a long-winded piece on Coach Wendell McGillicuddy who led the North Tillatoba Tallywackers to the 1907 Southeastern Ring Toss championship.

Give himself credibility? Bull Hawkey! The guy is incapable of writing an article that doesn't reference himself. Rick may be your favorite sportswriter, but he's DEFINITELY his own favorite sportswriter.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS