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January 31, 2013

Former and current football players and coaches share Super Bowl memories before the big game

After Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens will meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, sports fans will have one less ball to juggle as basketball, hockey, golf and baseball carry the baton until a new NFL season kicks off in September.

After Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens will meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, sports fans will have one less ball to juggle as basketball, hockey, golf and baseball carry the baton until a new NFL season kicks off in September.

Roger Carr, an NFL wide receiver for 10 years through 1983 – including eight with the Baltimore Colts, just before the Irsay family moved the team to Indianapolis – said just reaching this big game requires “good football teams” and “luck to get there.”

The pastor of Chapel By The Sea in North Myrtle Beach’s Cherry Grove community, Carr said football reigns by far as his top sport to watch, with nothing to match, and the Super Bowl represents the culmination of another long road to reach this peak.

Having coached in high school and college ranks in retirement from the pros, Carr said how a team copes with injuries to key players also matters mightily in a team’s endurance to gain berth in a championship.

Although as a Colt, he played in playoffs amid strong Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders teams, but could not reach the Super Bowl, Carr said even in the 1970s, just like today, the game remains the biggest event for “football players and fans around the world.”

“It gives us something to all look forward to,” he said, aware the victors get all the glory.

“It’s a shame either one of the teams has to lose, because just to get there is a major accomplishment, a wonderful honor.”

Carr said although many Super Bowls turn into blowouts, he expects an interesting matchup between the Ravens and Niners, but he won’t cheer for either.

“You’d think I’d be rooting for Baltimore,” he said. “I think San Francisco’s pretty tough.”

Carr also thinks the 49ers’ strong, mobile, athletic signal caller, Colin Kaepernick, represents where the league is headed in field generals.

“When you have that kind of quarterback,” Carr said, “it’s hard to beat a team like that.”

Carr said he has enjoys spending Super Bowl Sunday watching the game with a group of friends, and he has spent some such nights with youth groups, even giving a testimonial at halftime. He said he also has been to some churches that have a Sunday night service, where afterward folks head home to turn on the game on television to salvage watching whatever time remains in the game.

Appreciating an art

Mickey Wilson, head coach since 2009 for the Myrtle Beach High School Seahawks – winners of the Class AAA state title in 2010 – said he shares Super Bowl Sundays at home with his family.

Still, “it’s kind of a sad time,” he said, knowing this closes this whole season for the sport.

Wilson remembered rooting as a child for the Dallas Cowboys when Tony Dorsett was the running back.

“I even had the little Cowboys uniform,” Wilson said.

Yet, as he got older, he became more of a fan of players, the high school quarterback and point guard on the court said, naming retired Green Bay Packers icon Brett Favre and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots as favorites to watch play.

“It’s pretty neat seeing this year what Colin Kaepernick is doing,” said Wilson, who just loves witnessing an offense – not any particular team – at work.

“I appreciate the art,” he said, “no matter what the colors.”

He can’t help framing any game on TV – college or pros – through his eyes as a coach, even after another Friday night game at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

“You come home for the weekend, and watch your job,” Wilson said. “It’s on-the-job training.”

For him, though, it remains leisure time.

“I’ve always been a big football fan, and I always will be,” he said, happy to relax in a reclining chair and “see everything so well” on a high definition TV, even with a late night, “then going back to work the next day.”

Wilson also remarked how both Baltimore’s and San Francisco’s respective head coaches – brothers John and Jim Harbaugh, respectively – impressed him, for he’s read how they stay in touch regularly, “asking each other questions.”

“They really know what each other’s thinking,” Wilson said. “That adds another dynamic to this Super Bowl.”

Mic’d up for football

Since mid-1997, Matt Hogue has provided the radio play-by-play voice for Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers football, basketball and baseball – now heard on CBS Sports affiliate WSEA-FM 100.3 “The Team.” He also calls some games on the Big South Conference TV package.

An associate vice president in marketing for CCU, Hogue said the Super Bowl has fallen often on a weekend the men’s team plays out of town. This year, though, football’s grand finale happens between Coastal home games on Saturday and Wednesday, so he’s grateful.

“I’ll get to hang out with my family,” said Hogue, the father of girls ages 10 and 7 “with interests in many things.”

He counts several Super Bowls he’s watched while on the road with CCU players, coaches and personnel, “with my extended family.”

“We spend a lot of time together,” Hogue said.

Putting a sportscasting perspective on the Super Bowl, he said with so many innovations in game coverage firmly in place, such as an overhead sky camera, networks have used the occasion to unveil “a new graphics package or other new technology.”

So, tuning into Super Bowl telecasts gives Hogue extra insight to “see how the game is covered.”

Growing up in Charlotte, before the Carolina Panthers began in 1995 as his hometown team to follow, Hogue found plenty for which to applaud as a fan of the Cowboys, which have amassed five Super Bowl rings since the 1971 season. He still laments the sting from Super Bowl XIII, when Pittsburgh edged Dallas 35-31, in 1979.

However, those Tom Landry-coached teams from the 1970s and ‘80s, “that was a great time,” Hogue said.

Super Bowl weekend also lets Hogue revel in looking back in “my biggest tradition,” watching the documentaries of all the Super Bowls replay on television, often in chronological order.

“I’m a big NFL Films fan,” he said of the Sabol family’s pioneering ways of filming gridiron history in old Super Bowls, “especially the ones I didn’t get to see in person or follow as a fan.”

“The best part is,” Hogue said, “is you can follow Super Bowls from one year to the next and keep up to date.”

Hogue hopes the Ravens-49ers matchup thrills everyone in a “close game, settled by a field goal or in overtime.”

With college basketball in full gear and CCU baseball spring training that opened last weekend, Hogue has Feb. 15 circled on his calendar, when the Chants open their season on the diamond against James Madison University, in Florence, before two more games Feb. 16-17 at Field at Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach.

Still, with the Big South Tournament for men’s and women’s hoops March 5-10 “to keep us busy” at CCU, Hogue said he looks forward to again calling a baseball game “here or there until basketball is over.”

CCU graduate in NFL

Josh Norman, who earned many honors playing four seasons through 2011 at Coastal, just finished his rookie season as a cornerback for the Carolina Panthers. He said Monday that playing in the NFL has redefined his meaning of the Super Bowl.

He said Super Bowl Sunday had always meant gathering “at someone’s house” with family and friends, and feasting and “rooting for your favorite team” to win.

Now, watching the game might trigger thoughts of whom he knows taking the field in the Superdome in New Orleans, and a new season for the Panthers in 2013. Carolina played New England in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2004.

With the Cats closing 2012 with four straight wins, Norman said it instilled a “nice momentum builder” for the team “going into this coming year with a full head of steam.”

Norman, who visited his alma mater last weekend and took in the Chants’ 73-59 victory in men’s basketball over Campbell, said he thinks he’ll watch the Super Bowl on Sunday at the home of some friends. He said growing up, he loved watching the Indianapolis Colts, which won one of two Super Bowls in its era with Peyton Manning taking the snaps.

Norman said he had considered an opportunity to go the game this weekend in the Bayou, but he wants to go as a Panther playing in the crown jewel of all football games.

“If I’m not in it,” he said, “I don’t want to be anywhere around it.”

Carolina cheers from Japan

As a Carolina Panthers TopCats cheerleader, Katie Birckbichler celebrates Super Bowl Sunday with her family.

“My mother always makes a stadium cake,” she said. “It truly is in the shape of a stadium.”

Last year, though, she missed that family tradition, because she and five other TopCats flew with Richelle Williams, their manager/choreographer, to Camp Zema in Japan to spend the Super Bowl with U.S. Army soldiers stationed there.

“It was such an incredible and memorable experience,” Birckbichler said, “one I will never forget. “The time change was especially funny, because while everyone in the United States was watching the game on Sunday afternoon, we were watching it early Monday morning.”

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