Time in a bottle: A bleary-eyed look back at Bud Bowls


In the ice-bucket chill of an Arctic winter, the fearsome foes meet upon the frozen tundra, in a cruel rite of manhood that will determine the champion of the world.

The battles are heroic, the warriors are legend.

Joe Montana. . .Franco Harris. . .John Elway. . .Iggy.

You remember Iggy. He was the guy stranded on a desert island who in 1995 astonishingly appeared on the field in the final seconds to pull down an 80-yard TD pass and lead Budweiser to a come-from-behind victory in Bud Bowl VII.

It was, perhaps, the last, great moment in what Anheuser-Busch unabashedly claims is “the most successful beer promotion in history.”

Never mind that advertising critics and viewers long ago lost their enthusiasm for the campaign. The game itself is no longer even played on TV; it’s mostly a promotional gimmick and Internet contest. Yet the battling bottles of Bud and Bud Light are firmly entrenched in the subconscious of every beer-drinking football fan.

Who can forget the goofy animations, the controversial trick plays, the pun-filled play-by-plays? Once, Las Vegas bookmakers actually set odds on the outcome, and some bartenders took bets on the under/over. Meanwhile, newspapers earnestly reported the final score.

Even Joe Sixpack, who loathes Budweiser, has to admit: Bud Bowl is an American advertising icon.

Sadly, the details of these heroic battles are mostly lost. There is no Bud Bowl Encyclopedia; there are no John Facenda-narrated highlights. Even A-B’s Web site – budbowl.sportsline.com – offers little historical insight.

And so, I’ve spent the last 10 days compiling the first-ever Joe Sixpack Guide to the Bud Bowl. Most of the info comes from a comprehensive search of the Internet and the nation’s newspapers, but thanks go to Rick Oleshak of A-B’s marketing communications department for filling in the holes.

Call it a public service, call it a complete waste of time. Here goes:

1989 – Bud Bowl I

Budski, a nonreturnable twist-off bottle and the smallest man on Budweiser’s team, kicks a 42-yard field goal to send Bud Light to defeat, 27-24.

Announcers: Bob Costas and Paul Maguire.

1990 – Bud Bowl II

Bud defends its title, winning 36-34, on an illegal, game-ending fumble.

One Bud player loses the ball in the end zone during a freak blizzard, and a second recovers for the TD. However, under NFL rules, the offensive team cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a game unless the ball is recovered by the same player who lost it.

In a press release issued a few days later, A-B ends the controversy by announcing that “no such rule exists in the Budweiser Football League.”

Announcers: Brent Musburger and Terry Bradshaw.

1991 – Bud Bowl III

Bud Dry, debuting as quarterback for Bud Light, uses the hidden-ball-beneath-the-beer-label to help overcome “highly flavored” Budweiser, 23-21. The play of the game, according to a post-game report in the Durham, N.C. Herald-Sun, is the last-second runback by kick returner Ralph, who chugs his way through the Bud Marching Band’s sousaphone section.

1992 – Bud Bowl IV

Bud wins, 27-24.

Announcers: Corbin Bernsen and Ahmad Rashad.

1993 – Bud Bowl V

Illuminator, the delivery truck that turns into a running back, is removed from the game by a giant claw mounted to the Bud blimp. Bud continues its mastery of Bud Light, 35-31.

1994 – Bud Bowl VI

Houston Oilers Head Coach Bum Phillips leads his Bud Light squad to a 20-14 victory over Mike Ditka’s Bud team. Marv Albert calls play-by-play in yet another contest decided on the final play of the game.

Here’s the line score, as reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Budweiser..7..7..0..0 – 14

Bud Light…7..0..7..6 – 20

1995 – Bud Bowl VII

The infamous Iggy game. At 5’8″, the stranded island guy is eight times the height of the average Bud Light opponent and has no problem dancing into the end zone while leading Bud to a 26-24 victory.

Game announcer Chris Berman asks: “Where you gonna go now?”

“Sea World,” says Iggy, who is transformed back to the beach and is last seen hugging a palm tree.

1996 – Bud Bowl 8

The first Bud Bowl to abandon the traditional Roman numeral, it is also the first that is not played on TV. A-B merely announces the winning play: a naked reverse.

Sadly, statistical records are gone. Not a single newspaper listed on the Nexis database, nor anyone else on the Web, reported the score.

Oleshak says Bud Light won, 14-7.

After this game, only the scores were announced.

1997 – Bud Bowl IX

Bud wins, 27-24.

1998 – Bud Bowl X

Bud wins 21-7, the only game decided by more than one TD.

1999 – Bud Bowl ’99

Bud wins 14-10. The first game played on the Internet, in Bud Bowl Cyber Stadium.

Announcer: Sportscaster Jim Rome.

2000 – Bud Bowl 2000

Bud wins, 50-45.

Announcer: ESPN’s Stuart Scott.

Other Bud Bowl Trivia:

A-B is the exclusive beer advertiser during the Super Bowl. It will spend between $15 million and $20 million on eight spots this year. The ads will feature those annoying-but-entertaining Whassup guys (including creator Charles Stone III, son of ex-People Paper columnist Chuck).

Budweiser used to hand out cheesy Bud Bowl T-shirts. Now you can buy an official commemorative Bud Ball in an acrylic case, for $119.99.

USA Today once reported the score of a Bud Bowl on Page 1.

In 1990, readers of USA Today voted the Bud Bowl II commercial as the worst of the Super Bowl.

First Bud Light coach: Spuds McKenzie.

Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a glass of Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout. He appears every other week in Big Fat Friday. Contact him at the Daily News, Box 7788, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101, or via e-mail: joesixpack@phillynews.com © 2000 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.