DALLAS — I recall as if it had all unfolded yesterday.
It all happened on Sunday, January 31, 1988.
At the time, I was a 14-year-old lad, living in a three-bedroom townhome in the Whitehaven district of South Memphis.
It was the day of arguably sports’ grandest annual event, Super Bowl 22.
From Jack Murphy Stadium in sunny San Diego.
Before a raucous crowd of 73,302 while millions around the globe looked on.
The Washington Redskins versus the Denver Broncos.
An unproven Doug Williams versus surefire Hall of Famer John Elway.
The burgundy and gold clad wearing Redskins squared off against an Orange Crush Broncos team that was looking to atone for a dismal 39-20 setback to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 21.
For me, a devoted sports fan who had become a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fanatic, largely because of the Niners’ display in 1984 that was ultimately culminated with the franchise’s second world championship, I had one valid reason to cheer on the Redskins that day.
The reason: Marlon Johnson.
An avid Redskins fan who had gained a fond admiration for the team back during our snot-nose, childhood days growing up and running the streets of North Memphis, Marlon had instantly become my favorite uncle, in large part because our relationship had evolved to more of that of brothers.
Since the beginning of time, it seemed that we both were virtually inseparable.
As young lads, we resided in the same household.
We ate meals together.
We attended church together.
We attended summer camp at Shannon Park and Memphis State together.
We got in trouble and took whippings together.
We acted like professional wrestlers together in the vacant lot adjacent to my grandparents’ home.
And, because we never owned an actual baseball and bat as kids, we assembled bats out of wooden two-by-fours and batted raw pecans as they went soaring hundreds of yards in the North Memphis blue sky.
Surely, those undoubtedly were yearning memories by which I will cherish for the rest of my life with an uncle, a brother, of sorts who, to his credit, helped shaped and mold my life to what it has become to this very day.
Fortunately for me, this is not an obituary whereby I am left to recall and reflect on the life of arguably one of the closest individuals to me. Rather this is a moment’s notice column whereby I deemed it essential to pause and pay homage to a big-hearted guy who, even though we reside eight hours apart, is still considered one of my life’s biggest inspirations.
Thursday, Marlon will celebrate his 42nd birthday which, ironically, equaled the points total for the Redskins in Super Bowl 22.
Denver was installed as a three-point favorite to outlast Washington and send the Redskins to their second Super Bowl defeat in four years.
But Williams, the first black quarterback to start — and win — a Super Bowl had other ideas.
The Broncos, in fact, had jumped out to a 10-0 lead, a sequence that was highlighted by John Elway’s 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ricky Nattiel just 1:57 into the game.
But from that point, it was all Washington.
The Redskins, behind arguably one of the most remarkable performances by a signal caller in Super Bowl history, scored 42 unanswered points, an awe-inspiring display that ended with Williams finishing the game by completing 18-of-29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns, while being intercepted once.
It was, by all accounts, a tear-jerking moment that not only gave way to something that had never happened on football’s biggest stage — a black man leading a team to victory and being named MVP — but for me, it was a moment that left me in all smiles.
Not because of my deep adoration for sports.
Not because I clung to lofty aspirations of someday interviewing and writing about professional athletes.
Rather because my beloved uncle had adopted a fond admiration for the Redskins back during our snot-nose, childhood days of growing up and running the streets of North Memphis.
Which is to say that his latest birthday essentially ought to be a grand celebration in its own right.
Come Thursday, Uncle Marlon turns 42.
Forty-two as in the same amount of points his Redskins registered in Super Bowl 22, an extraordinary feat that gave way to arguably one of the biggest, most commendable moments in NFL history.
An indelible exploit I recall as if it had all unfolded yesterday.
Here’s wishing you a Happy 42nd birthday, Unc.
Now that you’ve equaled the Redskins’ points total they manufactured in Super Bowl 22, I can finally tell you this: Dude, you are the real MVP.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like to pay homage to your mom, grandmother, wife, girlfriend, friend, loved one, etc., with a unique celebratory tribute that will be designed like this one, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.