The Patriots cheat.

Roland Williams's Mother:  Ode to Super Bowl 53

 

            So I have this cousin Suzie.  She was a few years older than me and had grown up in the same house as my Mother.  That’s a story for another day, but she was like my Mom’s little sister.  Growing up I would see Suzie every few years.  She eventually matriculated at the University of Florida and I only saw her a couple of times in the next decade.  She got married and her and her husband Javier moved around.  Arizona, Texas. Maybe California.

            The only specific moment I remember with her as a youngster was when I was about 14 and she was in college.  I hadn’t seen her in years and was excited to be taking a trip over the summer with her and my grandmother Charo. We were going from Fayetteville to my grandfather’s farm somewhere between Nashville and Memphis.  We were in a beat up old Volkswagen Bug that I think was my grandmother’s.  I was going to spend a week at the farm to kill off some of my summer break and learn the meaning of hard work.  My grandfather was really my step-grandfather and though he was divorced from Charo and remarried, he was still my grandfather.  He was a big dude, about 6’4”, who had been a basketball star in Indiana.  My mother had told him that I liked to play basketaball so he had built a basketball goal for me on a flat piece of dirt near the barn where he kept his tractor.  He dropped a giant telephone pole into a hole and bought a new basket and had it set at exactly ten feet. I’ve never seen a better shooter than I saw that week, and everything was a hook shot.  And he was probably 60 at the time.  That's what we call a digression and I’m not only prone to them, I have a certain affinity for the little buggers.  

            Anywho, as we’re driving somewhere through the godforsaken Tennessee countryside, a van pulls next to us on the interstate.  It’s a bunch of guys who appeared to be on some type of guys gone wild excursion. They were waving and smiling at Suzie, who was driving.  Eventually one of the guys mooned us.  Butt right on up against the window.  Suzie and Charo were howling laughing.  Then the guy’s partner held up a sign that said, “Show tits!” I have some vague memory that one of the two women in the car was considering it but was talked out of it by the other one.  That’s really my only concrete memory of an event with Suzie until we're grown-ups, or at least older.

            In 2000 Suzie had two young daughters and I had four young children.  Suzie and Javier were living in St. Louis at the time and unbeknownst to me had become friends with Dick Vermeil, the St. Louis Rams coach. The Vermeils had given Suzie and Javier tickets to the NFC Championship game.  The Rams won and the Super Bowl happened to be in Atlanta.  Vermeil told them he had too many ticket requests and couldn’t get them a ticket.  Suzie and Javier wanted to be in Atlanta for the Super Bowl so they brought the kids down for the week.  We were catching up on the past 15 years or so when my mother said, “Have you seen Nicky’s video from the World Series?”  The video, which is now firmly entrenched in family lore, was an NBC broadcast from when Your Humble Narrator went onto the field when the Braves won the World Series.  I did some interviews and said Hi to my mom.  That sort of thing.  Suzie watched it a dozen times.  She said it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. 

            Flash forward to Super Bowl Sunday 2000, and we had decided to go downtown and participate in the pre-game parties and then watch the game on the big screen at CNN Center.  Suzie had brought a Kurt Warner poster with her from St. Louis and she had decided that I looked like Warner and should wear the poster for the festivities.  Remember mullets?  Yeah, it seemed a decent idea at the time.   We went down to the big city and we partied with the Rams fans for a while before we decided to go grab a bite to eat in the CNN Center.  It was a few hours before game time and everyone was jacked up. Suzie said something like, “Wouldn’t that be great if we could sneak into the Super Bowl like you snuck onto the field for the World Series?"  Sounded like a challenge to me.  Seemed she was implying I got lucky back in 1995.  The rest of the story goes like this:

 

You and Javier go over to the ATM and get out as much money as you can.  We’re getting in. 

Oh my God are you serious!

Go.

They get in the ATM line and come back with a glum look.

The machine only allows us to get out $250.  That’s not enough.

Give me a hundred and follow me. 

            So the kid, that being me my brothers, sticks the hundred in the pocket and we walk to the Georgia Dome.  It’s about an hour and a half before kickoff, and I don’t exactly have a plan.  Just a dream.  If this story teaches you anything, it’s to follow your dreams.  As we’re circling the Dome we come upon a security guard who is guarding a long concrete stairway that leads to an entrance that is on the ground level.  We scout it out and can see, from a distance, that the entrance is covered with police.  I glance over at the security guard and notice that he has an Argenbright Security logo on his shirt.  Who, you might ask, was the lawyer handling claims for Argenbright back in 2000?  You guessed it bub.

You’re Argenbright?  I’m Argenbright’s lawyer.  

I still had the Kurt Warner poster draped over me and Suzie said, “Doesn’t he look like Kurt Warner?”

Umm, yeah.  Sort of.

So you know John and Diane?  I’m meeting with them almost every week.  Say, what’s down there where those people are going in?

Celebrities and media mostly.  That's their entrance.

Let us walk down there.

You see all the cops.  You’ll get arrested.

No, if they say something we’ll just say we got lost and come back.

Alright.

             I tuck the Kurt Warner poster under my coat and tell Suzie, who can barely contain herself, and Javier to walk calmly behind me and follow me wherever I go. We begin the long descent down the gigantic concrete stairway into the teeth of the Atlanta PD.  When we take the final step I turn and walk towards the doors near the corner where there are no police.  I notice as we’re approaching the doors that one of them says, Event Performers Entrance.  The door was cracked open.  Bozo must have forgotten to close it.  Clowns.  We calmly walked into the Dome and there are two paths that you can go by.  But in the long run, your stairway lies on the whispering wind. Sorry, it’s a reflex.  One is a walkway leading into the Dome but there are several police standing at the end of the walkway.  The other is a stairwell.  We try the stairwell, stopping on each level to try the door.  They are all locked.  Our only option is to take the walkway and figure it out once we get to the end.  We passed a few offices before the walkway opened up in front of the police.  To the right was an elevator with a smiling older lady sitting on a stool.  We walked to the elevator and got in.  “Which level are ya’ll going to?”

Umm, the upper level please. 

Ya’ll enjoy, she said as we exited.

           Within 5 minutes of arriving at the Dome, we were in the Super Bowl without a ticket.  Suzie started jumping up and down.  I told her to calm her %&$! down or we would get tossed.  Suzie called her friends who were all together at a Super Bowl party in St. Louis.  “We just snuck into the Super Bowl!  We just snuck into the Super Bowl!”  I could hear Suzie's whispered scream as my wife picked up the phone.

So how it’s going?  Is it pretty cool?

Yeah, you could say that.

What are ya’ll doing?

Just getting ready to watch the Super Bowl.

At CNN?

No, inside the Dome.

What do you mean?

I mean we’re inside the stadium.

How did you get tickets?

We didn’t.  We snuck in.

No you didn’t. 

Uh huh.

You'll get arrested won't you?

Suzie!  Myra needs to talk to you.

          Suzie proceeded like a child seeing Santa Claus for the first time, to tell the wife the whole story. Javier and Suzie hurried off to load up on the Cuba Libres and I ran into Bobby Hebert, former Falcons and Saints quarterback. 

Bobby my man, what’s up?

Hey man, how’s it going?

Great, this is pretty exciting.

          Javier and Suzie returned and I introduced them to my new friend, Bobby, without telling them who he was.  About 15 minutes later I had to excuse myself.  Hebert was the nicest guy ever, but he was talking our ear off.  As I was chatting with him Fred McGriff walked by, John Franco, Brett Saberhagen.  It was brilliant.  So we watched the first half moving between various portals in the upper deck.  It was a form of guerilla sports watching.  Stick and move so the enemy can’t get a bead on you.

            At halftime we decided to walk down to the lower level to try our luck.  As we’re passing the nice glass entrance to the Lexus level, or whatever it was called, Suzie says, “What’s that?”

It’s the Lexus level.  Free food and all.

Well I want to go in there.

No way. The only way in is through those doors. We snuck into the Super Bowl and I’m not getting kicked out.

            Suzie proceeded to walk over to one of the ushers.  After a brief conversation she walks in.  From the other side of the glass she waves Javier and I to come on.  No way, I say, but Javier is married to her and he’s no fool.  He walks over, says a few words and then they’re both waving me in.

Hello, I said to the young usher.

Hi.  Are you with that lady that had something in her eye and needed to go to the restroom?

Yes I am.

Well go check on her.  I hope she’s alright.

            We watched the second half from the 200 level.  Free food.  Free drinks.  Celebrities milling about.  If this had been a fictional story, I probably would have stopped here.  But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, so here’s the rest of this little non-fiction.  Kevin Dyson reaches for the goal line and comes up inches short at the death.  Rams win! Rams win!

            I somehow found out that the Rams were staying at the Crown Plaza Ravinia, which happened to be a stones throw from the law office for which I toiled at the time.  I told Suzie and Javier, "We’re going to the Crown Plaza for the after party.  We’re sneaking in."  Suzie’s eyes got big again and she said with a confident determination, let’s go. 

            We drove the 30 minutes to the Crown Plaza and tried to enter the building on foot through an underground parking garage.

          "You all get out of here.  Nobody’s allowed down here," an irritated security guard yelled.  We went to the front entrance which was guarded by police. Nobody could get in without a pass.  There was a throng of several hundred fans that had gathered outside of the hotel.  Maybe we could at least get a picture of them waving when they got off the bus, we thought.  After a half an hour a bus pulled up to the front and people started to get out.  It wasn’t players and it became obvious that it was the family of the players.

Follow me, I said.  You know the drill.

          We walked to the back of the line and I started talking with a woman. 

Which one is your son? I asked.

Roland Williams.

           Now not many people who had been to the Super Bowl knew who Roland Williams was.  I had spent most of my youth and early adulthood committing to memory all forms of meaningless sports knowledge.  I’ve been told many times I was a sports savant, but you know how moms are. I said to mother of Roland Williams:

He had a nice catch.

Yes he did.  (Roland had one catch for 9 yards)

You must be so proud. 

Oh I am.  You just don’t know.

He went to Syracuse right?

            She sort of looked at me before she said he did.  I might have been the .1% of people who had been at the Super Bowl who knew that journeyman tight end Roland Williams had gone to Syracuse.  In the next ten minutes, as the line moved slowly into the interior of the Crown Plaza Ravinia, I went on to learn about where little Rollie had grown up, that he didn’t like green vegetables, that he had a younger sister who adored him, and various other Norman Rockwell moments in the life of Roland Williams.  As we approached the security guard checking badges I said, “Hey, do you mind telling them we’re with you?  My cousin is friends with the Vermeils and really wants to say hello and congratulate him.”

            A minute later Roland Williams's mother says, “They’re with me” and we proceed to the Rams Super Bowl party…with the Rams…after they won…the Super Bowl.  We’re drinking beer with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, but most importantly with Suzie’s favorite player London Fletcher.  I took a picture of the two of them.  Somebody asked whose family we were a part of and we decided we had fulfilled our destiny and left.  Suzie’s Christmas card that year was the picture of her and London at the Super Bowl after party. You probably wouldn’t believe any of this story if I didn’t have the pictures to prove it.

          The official attendance listed for Super Bowl 34 (Ricky Williams!) was 50,112.  It was actually 50,115.  My Kurt Warner poster is currently disintegrating in a landfill in Fayetteville, near the homemade baseball field at the end of Quail Hollow.  The Rams will win the Super Bowl and in honor of Roland Williams (and his mom) a Rams tight end will either catch a touchdown or have one catch for 9 yards.

 

P.S. After I wrote this story I went to bed.  I couldn't sleep, which is unusul, so I meandered out of the bedroom in search of something to do.  There was a box of old photos in the basement and I started to go through them.  There was a picture of me, circa 1979, in a Rams t-shirt.  I have no recollection of the shirt or why I possibly would have had a Rams shirt in my clothing line-up.  More importantly, what are the odds that I would stumble upon that photo hours after writing this article.  You see where this is going, of course.