Joe Bonsall Writes About The Super Bowl

Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys.

It’s the biggest time of the year for any sports fan in North America this week. The Super Bowl takes place this weekend, and even country music’s latest Grand Ole Opry members the Oak Ridge Boys are taking part in the excitement. Joe Bonsall of the group shared his thoughts on this year’s match-up and his prediction for who will take home the title. Read what he had to say below and let us know if you agree:

Ban-Joey Football Blog…. The Super Bowl Shuffle

by Joseph S. Bonsall

With Super Bowl XLVI quickly approaching it is hard to imagine that Super Bowl XX, or 20 for you non-Latin speakers, was actually played twenty-six years ago on January 26, 1986, when the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffling Chicago Bears creamed the then-Bradyless, Steve Grogan New England Patriots, 46-10. The Oak Ridge Boys and our girls were all inside the Super Dome for this one and here is how it happened.

In 2012, there will be a ton of talk surrounding the 30th anniversary of The Oak Ridge Boys’ mighty1982 Cookin’ Tour, because it was the biggest country music arena tour of its day and age, featuring production that had never been seen before on a country stage. I, in fact, wrote a whole chapter on this magical piece of Oaks’ history in the book, An American Journey, in the chapter called Glory Days.

In actuality, the American Made Tour of 1983, the Deliver Tour of 1984, and the Step On Out Tour of 1985 did not take much of a back seat to the aforementioned Cookin’ Tour, because The Oak Ridge Boys were a hot commodity throughout the 80‘s and everything was going our way . . . hit records, big shows, cool stages and production, lots of pertinent television show appearances, and overall success at every level of the music business. 

Now, we have never taken anything for granted, and we have never used our success in any way to garner a favor that I can remember . . . except for this one time! The Ford Motor Company asked us to do a private show for them the night before Super Bowl XX in New Orleans. The Ford event was a big deal affair, and they were paying us a sizable amount of money, plus expenses, to provide the entertainment. As it has always been (and still is) we were taking a vacation in January and several of us would be basking in the sunshine on some mysterious island earlier that month, so we knew that, if we said ‘yes’ those expenses would be a bit high (logistically, there would be some real hoop jumping in order for some of us to get there).

It was about time to get back to work anyway, so we threw in a extra special request nonetheless . . . We will do to the show if Ford can come up with good Super Bowl tickets. Well, Ford said ‘yes’ and came up with the tickets. So, on or around January 24,1986, we were all New Orleans bound.

Mary and I had been in the Virgin Islands for about ten days and changing flights was not an easy—or a cheap deal—back then. But our good friends at Ford made it all happen. We flew to New Orleans via Puerto Rico, Miami, and Dallas, and then wearily arrived at a hotel way out of town on the evening of January 24th. Our fancier rooms by the Super Dome would not be ready until the next day, so Mary and I put our suntanned bods to rest in the Fleabag Hotel in Somewhere, Louisiana, and waited for the Oaks’ bus to come pick us up the next day and take us in to N’Orleans.

We put on a big show that night for Ford, and the next day we found ourselves sitting right there in the Super Dome, about forty rows up on the 50 yard line on DA BEARS side of the field.

My wife is not a big football fan but having grown up around Freeport, Illinois, she was stoked to see Chicago in their first ever Super Bowl. (Note: They would be in one other, on a rainy night in Miami in 2006, where they proceeded to lose to the Peyton Manning Colts. But on THIS day, they clobbered the Patriots, as you know.)

After the game we all boarded the tour bus and trekked back to Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Looking back now as I am doing, a few things stick out to me about the game itself.

Jim McMahon hitting Willie Gault with one bomb after another. What made Jim a good QB in his day was that he could throw the ball a long way, and the world-class speed of Gault could always catch up to it, while outrunning the entire secondary. The huddle must have been like kids in the park. “Go long, Willie, and I’ll just put it out there!”

Then there were the Monsters of the Midway Defense. Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan had introduced the 46 D that year, and players like Super Bowl MVP Richard Dent, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, and defensive player of the year, middle linebacker Mike Singletary, who only lost one game over the entire 1985 season under head Coach Mike Ditka, held New England to just 123 yards which included minus nineteen yards in the first half.

But seeing the man called “Sweetness” run the football was the highlight of the game for me. We had met Walter Payton once at a charity event, and I have never forgotten that moment. I have a signed picture on my wall to this day (thanks to Mary) to commemorate that event.

Seeing Walter run across the Super Bowl turf was really something. I had watched OJ Simpson in his hey days with the Buffalo Bills, and he was pretty amazing. And I have seen many great RB’s since. But there was just something special about watching this man do his thing.

There was also one negative event that transpired, which I have never forgotten. With the game well in hand and just a bit of time left on the clock, the Bears found themselves on the two-yard line. Now, up to this point Payton had NOT scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl, but instead of giving the ball to his star running back, Coach Ditka went circus on us and installed the “Refrigerator” into the backfield.

McMahon handed Perry the ball and, yes, it was very funny to see the Big Guy rumble across the goal line with five Patriots hanging all over him, but it was also very sad that Coach Ditka did NOT decide to give the ball to Sweetness so that he could score a touchdown in his only Super Bowl. I have actually held this against Ditka all of these years!!

So a few final thoughts…

– Walter Payton died at a very young age and will never be forgotten!

– The Oak Ridge Boys have played inside the Super Dome three times. Once with Kenny Rogers in 1979, and once on our Cookin’ Tour in 1982. The only other time was at the Republican National Convention in 1988, when our friend George H. W. Bush was given the nomination of the party to run for President. We were right there on the stage singing when the balloons and confetti fell, and this was also incredibly memorable!

– Mary’s father Albert Bell died in a boating accident in July of 1985 and missed his beloved Chicago Bears winning the Super Bowl by just six months. He loved Mike Singletary, but he was pretty old school. I don’t think he would have approved of The SHUFFLE!

– Being the football geek that I am, I have only ever been to one other Super Bowl. That was in Miami on January 29, 1995. We were way up in the nosebleeds and watched a very small Forty Niner team dismantle an even smaller San Diego Chargers!

– The halftime show at Super Bowl XX was provided by Up With People. I think I was getting hot dogs.

– I have always been a Chevy truck kind of guy, but next time . . . I think I’ll buy a Ford.

– SUPER BOWL XLVI pick . . . They say defense wins Super Bowls, however The Big D Ravens and Niners are now ice fishing. That does leave the Giants’ defense, which is really cooking. But, to me, it will be the quarterback who makes the difference. So, with all due respect to Eli (who just happens to be the only Manning who will play in Indianapolis this season), I am going with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to overcome the New York football Giants and WIN this SUPER BOWL!!! (Howard Cosell voice).

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