A super game day memory

Chris Hardie looked like this in 1980.

Chris Hardie looked like this in 1980.

So many Super Bowls have faded into my memory, but there is one Super Bowl Sunday that I will never forget.

It was Jan. 20, 1980. Los Angeles Rams vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers won, 31-19, after trailing at halftime for their fourth title win in six years. It’s not the game that lives in infamy in the Hardie household but what happened during.

It’s a story that my late father loved to tell – and retell – with greater embellishment each time. Since he’s been gone for nearly three years now, I suppose the duty falls to me.

I was a high school sophomore and my girlfriend Sherry — who is now my wife — had come over to watch the game with my parents. Dad was positioned in his favorite spot, sprawled out over a bean bag chair on the floor.

The house was heated in those days by a wood stove in the TV room and by another in the basement. We were always cutting wood, stacking wood and hauling it into the house. The split-level ranch built in 1971 had electric baseboard heat but it was used minimally because of the cost.  So we burned wood. And the wood box was empty.

“It’s your turn to carry in wood Chris,” Dad said from his comfortable spot. I grumbled a bit — I was a teenager, after all — but headed out the back door. I came in with an armload that would have filled the wood box in one trip — had it all arrived safely.

As I stepped over Dad, I felt a chunk slipping from my grip. “Look out,” I warned him, but I was too late. A large chunk hit Dad directly on his nose.

This is where Dad would recite the precise measurements of the log — something like 30 inches long, 6-inches in diameter … blah, blah, blah. I swear the size of the log grew over the years.

My response was that he probably cut it too large in the first place and if his nose wasn’t so large the log would have missed it. But some say on a still morning the resounding bellow that emerged from his diaphragm still echoes throughout the hills today.

“Are you all right,” I asked, knowing that he wasn’t but I had to say something.

Chris Hardie looked like this in 1980.

“Am I all right?” he yelled. “You nearly cut off my nose.”

I knew my dad well enough to know that it was time for a strategic retreat, so I skedaddled to the kitchen, where Mom was making some food. I was soon joined by Sherry, who said the roar coming from Dad had such force that she could feel her chest vibrate.

The bluster soon quieted a tad and Dad realized he was alone in the TV room with no one to commiserate with.

“Where is everybody?” he asked.

“In the kitchen,” Mom said, where I was genuinely feeling remorse. “Think of poor Chris.”

That comment refueled the storm.

“Poor CHRIS… I’m the one who almost lost his nose,” Dad shouted back.

Dad cooled down when Mom announced that the food was ready and he ended up with a good-sized scab on his nose. Of course I reminded him often that he was lucky he had a substantial probiscus or the damage could have been worse.

A few days later Dad and I were feeding heifers by tossing hay bales into their feed rack. One of the boards on the rack was loose and Dad had his head down, trying to fix it with his trusty pliers.

I misfired on a hay bale and once again yelled “look out” too late as the bale landed on the back of his head. Dad looked up, shook his head and said: “Are you trying to finish the job?”

About a week later we were heading out for chores and the zipper on my barn coat became stuck about halfway up my chest. “I can fix that,” Dad said, reaching for his pliers, squeezing the tab and giving it a mighty yank.

The zipper tab didn’t have a chance and it came loose just as Dad’s hand came up with a massive uppercut to my lower jaw. I saw stars and staggered a little bit but after a standing eight-count, I shook off my profusely apologetic father and said I was good to go.

“I think … we’re even,” I gasped.

Robert Hardie looked like this in 1980.

Somewhere, Dad is smiling.

Did you know?

During the 1980 Super Bowl game, one of the guest analysts on the CBS broadcast for the studio pregame show was former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden. He impressed CBS executives so much that by 1981 he became the lead game analyst with play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall.