In 1989, the Cincinnati Bengals gathered for a team meeting the night before Super Bowl XXIII. Running back Stanley Wilson was missing, though. He left his hotel room with the others, then told a teammate he forgot his playbook.
He returned to his room, but pulled a bag of cocaine -- not a playbook -- out of his gym bag.
About 20 minutes later, an assistant coach found Wilson lying on the bathroom floor of his Holiday Inn room, the victim of an overdose. Coach Sam Wyche was in tears as he told his players a few minutes later.
"It was as if the whole team got kicked in the groin," says Reggie Williams, a linebacker on that team and now an executive at Disney's Wide World of Sports. "Instead of a confident, assured group of competitors, the night before the biggest game of our lives we had the wind knocked out of us."
Williams roomed with running back James Brooks, and Williams spent the night before the game trying to reassure Brooks all would be well.
"I was Bundini Brown to Muhammad Ali the night before the game," Williams says. "[Brooks] was so distraught about not having Wilson.
I had to pump him up all night. I told him, 'James, you can outrun them. They can't see you.'
"All night long, I was telling him how great he was and this would be the game the world would find out what a phenomenal athlete he was."
The story only got worse. The Bengals took Wilson from the Holiday Inn to the Omni Hotel in downtown Miami, but Wilson sneaked away from team officials, fleeing down a fire escape. Later he admited to visiting Biscayne Boulevard, purchasing liquor, more cocaine and checking into a motel.
The Bengals took the field the next day and had no idea where Wilson was. He surfaced the day after the Bengals lost to the 49ers 20-16, a game in which Cincinnati's offense failed to score a touchdown.
"The distractions give you an excuse not to own the final result, and I don't want that excuse. But it crept into our consciousness," Williams says. "We would have won the game with Stanley. There is no doubt in my mind."