The Art of Sport with Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz — in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine

March 29, 2017 — While I was at the Joe Namath March of Dimes Celebrity Golf Classic last September, I spent some time with Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz, who established himself as one of the greatest offensive linemen in history during his career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

At the start of my interview with Muñoz, for an Art of Sport piece in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine, I asked him to discuss his love of the game of baseball.

“I grew up loving baseball,” he said at a restaurant in the Long Island Marriott. “I actually played one year at USC, and during my time with the Cincinnati Bengals, I got to know Paul O’Neill really well. While Paul was playing for the Yankees, I saw him play at the old Yankee Stadium, and that was pretty cool. More recently, [former Bengals quarterback] Boomer Esiason flew me to New York to play in the softball game he helped set up to benefit the families of a few fallen New York City police officers. Being in the Yankees clubhouse and walking through their dugout and onto the field was an experience I will always remember. I felt like a little kid out there.”

When our conversation turned to the sport that Muñoz made a living playing, he discussed playing in the Super Bowl for the first time, back in 1982.

“When players say that playing in the Super Bowl is just like any other game, that’s hard for me to understand,” Muñoz said. “I woke up early on the day of the Super Bowl, just like I do every day. I had a lot of adrenaline and excitement that I had to temper and unleash when the game finally started that evening. Even during the game, it didn’t feel like any other game I had ever played in. I was conscious of how hard we had worked all year to get there. But after I experienced it for the first time, I wanted to play in it every year.”

Although Cincinnati lost that game, the team returned to the big game in 1988.

“That was exciting because save for five guys from the first Super Bowl, we had a whole new group of players and a new coach,” Muñoz said. “We never thought it would take seven years for us to get back to the Super Bowl, but it made us appreciate it that much more.”

While on the topic of 1988, I asked Muñoz to share his thoughts on that season’s Super Bowl, an epic game that the Bengals lost in the closing seconds to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers.

“That game was very difficult not only physically, but also mentally starting from the night before,” Muñoz said. “We had the incident where [fullback] Stanley Wilson was caught in his room smoking crack, and that hit the team like a bomb. Then, all of a sudden, we’re leading late in the game, and we felt like we were on the doorstep of winning the Super Bowl. But, of course, Joe Montana took his team 92 yards in less than three minutes to win the game. We felt like we played a great game but so did they.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Muñoz what it means to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“When I think about the guys I grew up watching like Joe Namath and Bart Starr, that’s what the Hall of Fame is all about,” Muñoz said. “But somewhere along the way, it started to sink in that I’m in with those guys. It’s a team that I’ll never get traded away from or cut from. I’m on the team forever, and that’s pretty special.”

You can read the rest of my interview with Muñoz in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The April edition will be on sale at Yankee Stadium and on newsstands throughout New York City and the surrounding areas, beginning on April 10.

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— Alfred Santasiere III