Ever since the first Super Bowl, the weeks (or week, in some cases) leading up to the Big Game has been super-charged with pressure. Most top athletes can handle the stress of the career-defining moment.
But others have crumbled when faced with the challenges leading up to the big day.
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Some stories are funny. In the first Super Bowl, little used wide receiver Max McGee had spent the entire night out on the town prior to the game. He did not expect to play, having caught only four passes on the season. He told the starter, Boyd Dowler, that “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape,” a reference to his massive hangover.
As luck would have it, Dowler separated a shoulder in the second offensive possession. McGee had not even brought his own helmet to the game and had to borrow a teammates, but now he was hustled on to the big stage. He responded, scoring the first touchdown in Super Bowl history and also had another later in the game. He wound up with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, helping Green Bay to a 35-10 victory.
Other stories are not so inspirational.
Running back Stanley Wilson of the Cincinnati Bengals stands as one of the big disappointments. On the night before the game, the team gathered for a final meeting at their hotel. Wilson did not make the meeting.
When coaches and the team trainer went up to his room, Wilson was found naked in the bathtub, with cocaine scattered about. The coaches got him dressed and paramedics were summoned. As they took him down the hotel stairs, Wilson ran down the hotel steps and sprinted away. He was not seen for three days, missing the big game and leaving a huge hole in the Bengals offense.
One of the stranger disappearing acts was that of Oakland Raiders center Barrett Robbins. He was set to be a key part of the Raiders offensive line in Super Bowl XXXVII. Two days before the game, he was dropped off at the team hotel. His wife remained in the hired car, heading ot the hotel where the players’ families were staying.
That was the last anyone saw of Robbins. He didn’t show for the morning meeting. He finally showed up Saturday night, at nearly 8 PM at the team hotel, but was incoherent and didn’t recognize his coaches or teammates. Despite that, the Raiders still hoped he could play, and they had him out in the parking lot running sprints the day of the game to test him. He was finally suspended for the game when it was determined he was not fit to play.
In 1999, Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson received the Bart Starr Achievement Award, for high moral character from a Christian group on Super Bowl eve.
After the awards ceremony, he was later arrested for soliciting a female undercover police officer, offering $40 oral sex.
”Guys had been going there all week,” a Falcon starter said. ”It’s just that Eugene was the only one who got caught.”
Robinson played in the game, but the lack of sleep stemming from his arrest saw him give up an 80-yard touchdown and missing a tackle on a big run. The Atlanta Falcons ended up losing the game, 34–19.