Friday, November 9, 2007

"They Died Old"--Volume IV

Tomorrow will mark the end of an era as the Univ. of Miami plays its final football game ever at the venerable Orange Bowl, as the Hurricanes prepare to move in with the Dolphins in Broward County next season.  The stadium has two more football games scheduled after this weekend, one involving another college and another for local high schools, and subsequently it will more than likely be demolished sometime next year.

Kinda sad to see the place go, as I’ve watched many a football game on the tube from the O-Bowl, like Doug Flutie’s "Hail Mary" in ’84 for Boston College, Nebraska going for two points to win the national title (and missing) in the ’84 Orange Bowl game, and the wild Chargers-Dolphins OT playoff game in ’82 when they had to drag Kellen Winslow off the field because he was so exhausted.  I also remember always looking forward to seeing the Orange Bowl game halftime shows back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which were usually pretty impressive spectacles for that time.  Another cool feature in the early '70s was the live dolphin who retrieved Dolphins footballs after field goals in his big pool behind the goal post at the open end of the stadium.  I also loved how some football card photos taken during games at that time featured the palm trees in the background from that end of the stadium.  And of course, this is where the Dolphins played their famed undefeated season in 1972.

I was too young to remember seeing Namath and the Jets win Super Bowl III, but I remember all the other ones played there, including Super Bowl V when Jim O’Brien won it for the Colts on a last-second field goal, as well as Super Bowl X between the Steelers and Cowboys when Lynn Swann bedazzled everyone with his great catches.  That actually turned out to be the last game ever played on one of the most hideous football fields in history, the dreaded ratty-looking PolyTurf artificial surface at the O-Bowl, which resembled a big ugly green shag carpet (see above video clip) that had been vacuumed one too many timesit was mercifully replaced by real grass the following season.  S.B. X was also the basis for the infamous disaster flick Black Sunday, which was filmed at the O-Bowl, as was Smokey & The Bandit 2 and numerous other movies and TV shows.  One dark memory of the Orange Bowl for me was December 8, 1980 when Howard Cosell broke the news about the murder of John Lennon from the "Monday Night Football" broadcast there.  I still get a chill whenever I hear the audio replay of it, especially the way Howard uttered the words, "...DEAD on arrival."

Potential plans for a new Florida Marlins ballpark nextdoor to a renovated Orange Bowl keep falling through, and the place is becoming pretty decrepit in its old age, plus it’s not located in the best of neighborhoods, thus a date with the wrecking ball is sadly inevitable.  The Orange Bowl has certainly served the football world well throughout the years, so its place in history is secure.

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