Super Bowl Brings Super Memory
Growing up in northern Ohio and watching fullback Jim Brown rip through defensive lines every week gave me a lifelong fascination with the Cleveland Browns. So, I can’t promise to root for the Cincinnati Bengals in this Sunday’s Super Bowl. However, I will be pleased for the friend who adopted them after they formed as an expansion club in 1967.
I texted him a “congrats to your team” after Cincinnati upset Kansas City in the American Conference Championship tilt to make the big game.
He called me the next night to apologize for failing to respond, since he received a couple calls after the game and got distracted. Football fever will make you forget what you’re doing.
While not a Bengals fan, my interview with a former star player—whose name has surfaced often in media coverage lately—is one of my all-time favorites in freelancing.
A Christian sports magazine had asked me to write a story on Anthony Munoz, a 6-foot-6, 284-pound offensive tackle, for its 1992 Super Bowl issue. Backed by outside funding, thousands of extra copies would be published and distributed at the big game.
I can’t remember how, but I connected with a radio reporter who covered the Bengals. He supposedly could set up a telephone interview with Munoz, which would save considerable time and expense.
Trouble is, week after week, the interview never quite came together.
Finally, I had to take drastic action or miss my opportunity. So one day I hopped in my car to make the three-hour drive to Cincinnati. The radio guy had said I could probably get an interview if I just showed up at the practice facility.
Along the way, something quite interesting happened. Twenty miles from home, I saw a guy hitchhiking. Though I don’t often pick up hitchhikers, this day I did.
As we talked, it became obvious he had lived a hard life, which is why he was thumbing a ride north to Columbus. I took him to where the Appalachian Highway intersected with U.S. 23, and then had to turn west.
Then I did another thing I don’t often do. I shared how my wife and I had decided to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. Every time he tried to steer the conversation in another direction, I steered it back to Christ.
Finally, as it came time to part ways, I gave him some lunch money. Then I grabbed a magazine with a couple stories I had ghostwritten about men who had made a similar spiritual decision.
“Here’s something for you to read,” I said.
Plenty of Time
After that encounter, landing the interview with Munoz was the icing on the cake. He said he couldn’t take too long once team meetings were over since he had to get home.
I told him I’d take whatever time he could spare, then listened to my stomach growl as I waited.
That’s when I got the surprise of my career. Expecting to get five minutes with Munoz at best, he sat down in a nearby chair and chatted for 30, giving me plenty of material.
Until I pulled out the story last week and re-read it, I had forgotten the way it ended. This mountain of a man exclaimed, “Being a Christian is fun!” followed by my question, “Who’s to argue with Anthony Munoz?”
If Cincinnati wins the Super Bowl, I’ll be happy for him too.