Bands running onto the field. A blimp overhead. A filled stadium. And just a few miles from the Washington Redskins’ home ground of RFK Stadium, the first sporting event to lean upon the Super Bowl to help draw an audience, a lead-in showdown of college basketball powerhouses N.C. State and Maryland, both of which were in the top five at the time.
Super Bowl VII was the game that demonstrated the rapid growth of pro football’s spectacle from post-championship-Sunday dessert to the main course on the annual American sporting menu. It’s almost as though this highlight film seeks to remind the viewer that the Super Bowl is still about the game and the teams in it — especially since the winner would cap the only undefeated season in the modern era of professional football.
Ironic, then, that the stars of such an event should be dubbed “no-name,” as in the Miami defense whose key players have their names brought forth towards the viewer — particularly safety Jake Scott, linebacker Nick Buoniconti and defensive lineman Manny Fernandez, all of whom are introduced to the viewer. The film usually rises above what was a mostly dull but occasionally unusual game, given the preponderance of oddball occurrences such as Garo Yepremian’s hilariously botched pass and Billy Kilmer’s toss into the crossbar.
Speaking of Kilmer, he is the focal point of this film’s best sequence — a montage of plays in which he attempts to bring the Redskins back. The narration perfectly describes Kilmer’s style not just for this day, but for his whole career:
“At last, this was Bill Kilmer’s kind of game. Tough, brawling, rough-hewn — but crudely effective. Helmet askew, belly protruding, socks sagging around his ankles, Kilmer was once again spiritual leader of the Redskins.” (Of course, nowadays, the socks around the ankles would be corrected by an on-field observer lest the player incur a fine for non-compliance with the league’s strict guidelines of garb.)
Some interesting choices for the film, however, rest in the sound. The music which accompanies the first live-action game sequence is a little too mellow, almost as though it sounds a little like the television theme songs of the age. A second-half sequence is set to music that sounds like it was straight from The Fat Albert Show. The music ensures that the film is not timeless; it is very much a work of the early 1970s. Another curious choice is in the decision to give Sam Spence’s music and John Facenda’s voice a rest for the endgame sequence, leaving the sound in the hands of a play-by-play that has always sounded to me as if it was recorded four months following the game in a studio.
BEST NARRATION: “The computerized No-names and the romanticized Over-the-Hill Gang.” … “The probing eye of a nation focused on a nine-inch strip of Coliseum turf, control of which would determine the game’s outcome.” … “Miami’s cold persona had extinguished the fires of Redskins spirit.”
Gorgeous cinematography and some classic sequences, but the Yepremian pass and the Redskins’ subsequent last-gasp comeback cries out for Spence and Facenda’s collective touch.