Viewpoint: My Super Bowl memories are made of Mylar

Sam Waltz
founding publisher

Delaware has had little connection historically with the National Football League’s Super Bowls. But, on behalf of the DuPont Co., I actually helped produce the halftime show of Super Bowl XIV!) on Jan. 19, 1980.

The game was another victory for the then-indomitable Pittsburgh Steelers — the Patriots of their day — when they beat the Rams 31-19 with 14 of 21 passing and three TDs by Terry Bradshaw in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. As always, back then, too, part of the story was the halftime show, then done in the All-American way by the group Up With People, in the innocence of the era before Janet Jackson’s ͞wardrobe malfunction.

In the day, I was a young PR guy, helping DuPont plug its globally known Mylar polyester film, the product that when ͞metallized in a vacuum with atomized aluminum is used in balloons, signs, packaging and other products.

I’d fielded a call in late spring 1979 from Sanford ͞Sandy Bain, himself an old-time New York PR guy in the flamboyant NYC tradition. One of Bain’s clients was Pete Rozelle, commissioner of the National Football League, for whom about half of Sandy Bain’s year was spent in producing the halftime show. And Sandy truly was an ͞Insider in the NFL and the NYC media world.

Hollywood was the theme for the 1980 Super Bowl halftime show, he told me, and he’d realized that metallized Mylar film shot by cameras from the blimp overhead would make a dramatic finale to the halftime show for its national and global TV audience.

As a young guy in a mega-company like DuPont, I didn’t have a lot of gravitas at the time, but I could make available to Bain and the NFL rolls and rolls of metallized Mylar with my compliments.

And I did. I gave Bain his Ph.D. in Mylar, so he could help tell its story, and ours, through the media. And I arranged to take him to watch the film metallized at a company called Camvac in Brewster, New York, just up the Hudson River from Manhattan.

Bain obligingly brought along Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith (1905-82), the Pulitzer-winning sports columnist for The New York Times, a man without peer as the most influential sports writer in the second half of the 20th century.

As people with journalism and PR backgrounds know, for a late afternoon Super Bowl on the West Coast, in order to make all the editions of The New York Times, Red Smith would need to have his Super Bowl Monday column written long before the game even was played.

Knowing that, Sandy Bain had pitched his friend Red Smith on a story about Mylar, and like a running back carrying the football through the gap in the line that Bain opened, I told Red Smith the story of Mylar.

I enjoyed a great Super Bowl week in L.A., including the Commissioner’s Friday night party for 2,500 of his closest friends. Before I boarded a plane on Monday morning from LAX back home to Delaware, I grabbed The New York Times at the airport. When I opened to the sports page, Smith’s column on the Super Bowl led the page with a description of DuPont Mylar shining in the waxing sun. But, across America, millions of the Times’ upscale readers were digesting Smith’s eloquence about DuPont Mylar that morning with their eggs and bacon.

We’d arranged to have rolls of Mylar rolled out across the field, and like the mega-football stadium card sections (originated early in the 1900s at the University of Illinois) that spell out cheers, every one of the 100,000-plus attendees was given a metallized Mylar souvenir card to hold aloft at the appropriate time.

The ambition to make the Rose Bowl in the fading sun a huge concave mirror-like structure was achieved, a PR stunt to end all PR stunts.

And I’d spent the week there, meeting Pete Rozelle and his wife Carrie, as well as dozens of legends, in a Super Bowl week I’ll never forget

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