Super Bowl XXV – From an Inside View

Featured Photo Credit: Ed Kilgore personal collection.

The Vault

Will the Bills, with Josh Allen now 28 and heading into his 7th season, make THIS the year the Bills not only reach the Super Bowl, but actually WIN it? Fans are fickle, everywhere btw, and many have already decided the Bills SB “window is closed”. But many others, and I’m in that group, feel optimistic even though the AFC East has improved and the Bills have had to part with some popular veterans to get under the salary cap.

Jim Kelly told me a few years ago he’s never seen the replay of Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, and I seriously doubt if that has changed, or ever will. Despite the scar tissue Bills fans 40 and over still carry, it should be remembered as the finest moment in Buffalo Bills franchise history for many reasons.

Admittedly I can’t watch it again either, but time – over 30 years now – has helped erase the excruciating memory of Wide Right to reminisce about many exciting aspects of covering my first Super Bowl. There was a lot crammed into a week, and the situation Andy DeSantis, my Ch2 photog, and I found ourselves in was a nightmare nobody but us knew about.

Here I’d like to mention my sponsors: Atwal Eye Care, the Bills official eye care team. Atwal did cataract surgery on both my eyes several months ago, and the result was incredible. 

Also thanks to BluTusk Tech of Orchard Park, which specializes in refurbishing Mac computers – they did a super job on my old MacBook – and they’re reliable and fairly priced.

Now back to Super Bowl XXV.

This look back at that week in Tampa (the last week of January 1991) isn’t to rehash the Bills 20-19 loss to the NY Giants, when the Bills came into the game as a touchdown favorite, but rather share the crazy circumstances that started early and ran right through the eerily silent Bills locker room after the game.

We have to go back to the Bills shocking 51-3 blowout win over the Raiders in the AFC Championship in Orchard Park to set this up. The Bills had 44 points at the HALF, and most of us in the press box were madly making hotel and travel arrangements, because we’d be leaving for Florida the next day with the SB in one week. You know this is a big deal when people in the parking lot were offering crazy $ for tickets, as most of us received two tickets for the game. Face value then was $175 per ticket, and I was offered 3 times that amount hours after the Bills/Raiders’ game was over.

Tempting, but it would have been a messy divorce from my wife Deb, and who needs that?

Here’s where the bizarre situation Andy and I found ourselves in hit home. Ch2 then had a GM named Tom Hartman, a tough boss who came with a new ownership group trying to cut corners. I actually had to heatedly persuade him that Ch2 should even GO to cover the biggest event in Buffalo sports history, and he finally decided I could go with one photographer. That’s it. Both Ch7 and Ch4 had small armies of reporters, photogs and producers, and Andy and I would crank out sports AND news packages every day.

Making it even better, Ch2 was going through a camera and tape system change, which meant our cameras and tapes weren’t compatible with anybody else’s. That meant when we worked with our Cleveland affiliate – sharing a small editing room – we had to redub our tapes to their format to even edit. Not only that, we edited in one truck, then had to feed the tape via satellite from another location, then go to yet ANOTHER location to do our live TV hits back to Buffalo.

We were constantly nervous about deadlines, traffic, audio, picture, you name it. The stress was wilting us, and yet the excitement of it all kept the adrenaline flowing. Because of technical issues, we had to change editing stations and satellite trucks twice, which caused even more chaos.

One day Andy, always special to me as a friend and co-worker, was ready to punch my lights out as we pushed a live shot deadline to the limit. We were crammed together into this small van, editing our package, and needed just one more shot. We still had barely enough time, if traffic cooperated, to get to Ybor City in Tampa for our live shot. Andy, who was good because he was a perfectionist, was looking for that “perfect” shot to finish the package. All I’m seeing is time ticking away, and finally I’d had it. “Andy!!!” I screamed “PICK A SHOT!! ANY F—-G SHOT WILL DO!!!” We’re now face to face screaming at each other, and the truck operator jumps out of the truck because he thinks an explosion is coming! But both of us remained professionals, and we somehow got it done and have laughed about it for years. Just 2 years after that, Andy was my photographer for a series on sports autograph collecting that won a NY Emmy for Best Sports Reporting, and it was the first NY Emmy won by a Buffalo market TV station at the time. We got to put on our tuxes and rub elbows with the Big Boys in NYC to accept our trophy.

I digress.

Photo from Ed Kilgore’s personal collection.

But enough of the conflict and pressure! This is FUN, right? We’re in Tampa for the Super Bowl!

Media Day is on Tuesday, and that’s when it really hit me the Bills are in the SUPER BOWL. Bruce, Thurman, Andre, Kelly and the rest all came out in their white uniforms on the Super Bowl turf that was already painted and ready to go. Bills in one end zone. Giants in the other. Cool. They were dancing, laughing, like little kids as they split up to do their interviews. The media, which has gotten even bigger since then, was from all over the world, and many of them weren’t there for a football game. Downtown Julie Brown was having the Bills flex their muscles, which seemed weird, but the guys were in the moment and loving the attention.

During the week, there were some rumors flying around that Kelly and some other Bills were partying late at night, and I’m here to tell you none of that was true. Marv Levy had the Bills locked down in a hotel with guards all over the place, not to keep people away from the team, but to keep the team from escaping the hotel.

Finally the game. Remember, this was in the opening parts of the First Gulf War, and no matter what your political views are, it was a very patriotic time. Bills and Giants fans sang along with “God Bless the USA”, waving thousands of American flags together. It was goose bump time, and a perfect evening weather-wise. My press seat, luckily, was outside in the stands instead of a press box, and I was up there with a fantastic view. The still talked about national anthem by Whitney Houston was beyond awesome.

I’m skipping the game for the most part. The Giants had a great game plan for the Bills K-Gun, and Scott Norwood missed a 47 yarder from the grass field that would have won it. Giants win 20-19. I was standing in the opposite end zone, and could see right away he’d missed it. The pit in my stomach was a canyon, and my work was just beginning.

The Bills locker room was a tomb. Whispers all ‘round. Norwood stood at his locker and was barely audible as he took blame for the loss, while to a man his teammates all claimed they should have put the game away before it came to that. They weren’t wrong.

I’d mentioned about our logistics problems, and the worst possible moment to have issues again was right after the game. We’d fed the interviews back, and knew we’d have a big audience for our recap on Ch2’s Sports Extra show. Somehow, even though we had permission to stay in the locker room to do our show live, security made us leave. We didn’t have an audio adapter anywhere else, and I’ll always be thankful to former Ch7 photog Mickey Osterreicher for quietly handing us the little box we needed. We would have been totally screwed without it.

Now, as Ch2 was scrambling to find another satellite truck, I had to spring across the field when they found another NBC affiliate that could do it. I ran right up to the truck and had to climb up to the roof, with the stadium behind me. Barely had time to put in my ear piece and attach my microphone. I had NO script or notes of any kind because of the mass confusion, but somehow I managed to keep my thoughts together despite the loss and nasty security guy.

That first Super Bowl will always be the most special of the four, because it was the first one, but also the closest of the four in terms of winning. Marv Levy rightfully deserves his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio, but Bill Parcells and then Giants D coordinator Bill Belichick stole that game imo. They simply dared Kelly to throw the ball from the fast paced K-Gun, by lining up in pass defenses all night. Thurman Thomas averaged almost 10 yards a carry and would have been the game’s MVP had Norwood made the kick, and later Kelly would admit the Bills should have just kept handing off to Thurman to make the Giants adjust.

Another problem was that another HOFer, Bruce Smith, became so focused on sacks of qb Jeff Hostetler, that he often took himself out of the play on some crucial third downs, which helped the Giants control the clock. A big part of Bills D Coordinator Walt Corey’s plan was to maintain gap coverage, and that wasn’t happening.

Bruce did sack Hostetler in the end zone for a safety early in the game, and I’m still amazed the Giants QB held on to the ball as Bruce squeezed his wrist. A TD instead of a safety might have made it a different outcome.

I’ve heard it said many times, now that the Bills have Josh Allen and a SB window that’s still very much alive imo, that it might be better to not get to the SB than make it and lose four straight.

So not true. You’ve got to be in it to win it, but the emotional investment makes coming close quite depressing.

I’m willing to risk it!

Thanks again to Atwal Eye Care and BluTusk Tech, and we’ll be back soon with another Ed’s Vault as we get ready for an NFL Draft that could play a big part in making our BillsMafia dream come true.

Editor’s babble: We are so grateful to Ed Kilgore for sharing his experiences on the blog. Ed is a walking encyclopedia of Buffalo sports, and a gem our community was blessed to have by his tireless effort to always get it right. You can also find Ed on Xwitter @Kilgore2Ed. is sponsored by 26 Shirts

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