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Columns

January 31, 2011

Locals were eager for all-New York Super Bowl in 1991

Green Bay and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. Sure, I'll be watching as these two historic NFL clubs duke it out this weekend, but I think I'll be more curious about what the commercials will bring to the overall entertainment value of the big event. In other words, my team didn't make it to Dallas this year.

My team didn't make it in 1991 either, but it sure was a lot of fun watching the upstate-downstate rivalry heat up as the Buffalo Bills played the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, in Tampa, Fla.

One of the radio stations I worked at in the Binghamton area was a Giants affiliate at the time, and the station put on a Super Bowl party in Endicott. So as to not annoy station management or our advertisers, I put on a happy Giants face for the day, Sunday, Jan. 27. Our sales manager was a Bills fan, so he came at his own risk.

Gary Hurba owned The Baseball Card Shop on Main Street in Oneonta, but stocked up on Bills and Giants sports memorabilia just for the occasion. Being a die-hard Giants fan, Hurba said he'd be spending that Sunday on his knees about two feet away from the television set, "like I'm praying to the TV," as he watched the game.

Hurba had been invited to a Super Bowl party at a friend's house _ all Bills fans _ so he gracefully declined. Hurba had been a Giants fan since 1958 when he went to his first game at Yankee Stadium, where football was also played at the time. Later that year he recalled listening to the NFL Championship game on the radio, long before the Super Bowl arrived, and enduring the heartbreak as Alan Ameche scored in overtime as the Baltimore Colts defeated the Giants, 23-17.

The 1991 game was good for some friendly family feuds. Kaye Coates of Sidney, a self-described sports nut said she had backed the Bills since O.J. Simpson set rushing records in the early 1970s. Grant Coates, her husband, had been a Giants fan having grown up in Westchester County and weathered many lean years prior to the Giants' recent successes.

"I've always wanted a New York Super Bowl," Kaye Coates said. "I think we'll make a bet that the loser cooks dinner. He makes a great franks and beans. He's going to have a great dinner if I lose."

"I'm not going to give her a three-course spaghetti dinner," Grant Coates said. "I tell you what, I win, you wash all the dogs."

Good luck in getting game tickets if you wanted to make the trip to Tampa. Donald Blylington of Oneonta came by his tickets through his son-in-law winning them in a raffle. Bill Lewis of Oneonta was picked in a Giants' lottery of season ticket holders. Lewis paid $300 for a pair. A visit to nfl.com shows ticket prices in 2011 ranging anywhere from $2,444 to $22,729 each.

Albert "Sam" Nader, also a Giants season ticket holder, wasn't so fortunate in the lottery.

"I've been waiting since 1954," Nader quipped.

There were gatherings all over the area on game day. The Monday Night Football Club of Otego gathered at a member's home. The American Legion Hall in Laurens was packed. In downtown Oneonta, the Old Spanish Tavern, Copper Fox and Paradise Lost were crowded, noisy bars, split fairly even with Bills and Giants fans.

Steve Magistro of Oneonta was at Paradise Lost, then on Water Street, and told the Daily Star, "What I'd really like is a good football game. I was sick of the California teams." Many Super Bowls leading up to this one were total blowouts, sometimes a done deal by the end of the first quarter.

Magistro got his wish in 1991. This was Buffalo's first of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. At the time this was called the closest Super Bowl in history. Bills fans will probably groan, recalling how Buffalo had the chance to win the game with eight seconds left, but placekicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, wide to the right.

Surprisingly, the Super Bowl TV ratings were the eighth lowest ever at the time. The champion New York Giants turned down all victory celebrations, saying it wouldn't be right with war raging in the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, Kaye Coates was probably getting out the washtub.

This weekend, with the football season nearly over, we'll look forward to baseball in Oneonta, as it was in 1921.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.

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