Welcome to football’s zombie week, the languid intermission where we take sips of amaro or calvados and rummage for things to talk about. Soon they’ll herd us all back for the grand finale.
In the meantime, no, I won’t spoil your brain with another one of those tedious Ranking o’ the Super Bowls columns. What about a top 10 defiled living-room scenes from "Hoarders," or…? Oh, never mind.
But it is a fine time to reminisce. There’s a little quiet in the house. We can hear ourselves think. So please, allow me to welcome back a few old friends to the room, folks who are well acquainted with the subject at hand.
HIT MAN: Cliff Harris, Dallas Cowboys, XII — “I said something in the papers I came to regret. I said, ‘We’re gonna beat Denver. I know we are. Craig Morton is going to be knocked out and he won’t finish the game.’
“I didn’t say that maliciously but, heck, we were gonna come after him. That was no secret. Craig wasn’t very mobile to begin with, and I knew he had a big bruise on his leg from the first time we played them.
“We were knocking him on his ass. I’m sure he was hurting; that’s why he was getting rid of the ball early. When a quarterback goes down on the hard Astroturf it hurts. It’s not like falling on a bed.
“Anyway, Coach Landry got upset for me saying that, but sure enough it came true. We did knock him out."
UPSET: Curt Gowdy, NBC Sports, SB III — “I remember coming down the lobby in the Americana Hotel in Miami before heading over to the Orange Bowl for the game. Howard Cosell was sitting there. He was a figure in New York at the time but not nationally. Anyway I hear him yelling out, ‘Cowboy! Cowboy!’ That was his nickname for me.
“He came over and said, “You know, Cowboy, I hate to see it today. The Colts will break Joe Willie’s legs.”
“I said, 'Well, there are other teams that have been after him. And nobody has broken them yet.' "
“They’ll kill him,” he said. ‘It’s a disgrace, matching these two teams up.'
“That started getting me mad. I said, ‘C’mon, Howard. I think the Jets will give them a helluva game today.’
“He said, ‘Cowboy, you’re just a shill for the commissioner.’ ”
VIKING GROUND GAME: Manny Fernandez, Miami Dolphins, VIII — “First we stopped it. Then we went to the sidelines to discuss the adjustments we had to make.”
DARK AGES: Steve Sabol, NFL Films, XII — “The Super Bowl moves indoors … to the Superdome. Dallas and Denver and black out the sun. Artificial light, electric light. The mood was destroyed. It sterilized everything our cameras were trying to convey.”
BRICKS IN THE LOAD: Art Rooney Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers, various numerals — “After the ’71 draft was over, I was talking to Uppie Bell, who was the GM of the Patriots. He was looking over the names of the players we had picked and giving me his opinion on them. He started right at the top.
“Frank Lewis — Good player, I like the pick.
“Jack Ham — Not strong enough to play linebacker in the pros.
“Gerry Mullins — Don’t know much about him.
“Dwight White — Who’s Dwight White?
“We had also had taken Mike Wagner and Ernie Holmes and Larry Brown in there. And his overall opinion of our draft was, Who the hell are these guys?
“Talk about feeling your heart sink. Here’s a real good friend of mine, a very solid personnel guy, looking over my players and basically just shaking his head. At the time I thought, ‘Boy, I really screwed this one up.’”
METAMORPHOSIS: Charlie Jones, NBC Sports, I — “I did the pregame interviews in Santa Barbara for Super Bowl I. One of the things NBC wanted me to do was ask Jerry Kramer how he prepares during the week for the game. So I’m standing in front of him with a camera over my shoulder. Jerry starts talking to me and says, ‘We come back to work on the Monday after a game and check with the trainer, maybe do a little light weights, then take the rest of the day off. Tuesday we go over the gameplan. It’s the day you start to put your game face on. Then on Wednesday …’
“As he progressed through the days of the week, his eyes got bigger and his face more taut, and then he finally growls, ‘By Saturday, I don’t talk to anybody! I don’t want to see anybody!’
“And I’m saying to myself, ‘I just hope he doesn’t hit me. Please, God, don’t let him hit me!’”
PACKER HEROS: Pete Banaszak, Oakland Raiders, II — “They were the guys on the field who were on the bubble gum cards I still had at home. It was like looking at my bubble gum cards coming to life. The first time we broke the huddle and lined up, I looked across at Nitschke, and I can still see him — no teeth in his mouth.”
STAMPEDE: A.J. Duhe, Miami Dolphins, XVII — “Memories? Besides Joe Theismann knocking away the possible interception that Kim Bokamper was about make, or John Riggins running through Don McNeal for the TD, or having 300-pound men pound you for about three hours? Nope, that’s about it.
“Funny how the Hogs were the first team to have these oversized players; now every team in the league has about 10 or more 300-plus pounders on their rosters.”
SUPER BORE: Tom Brookshier, CBS Sports, XIV — “I didn’t think I did a particularly good job on it, the Rams and Steelers. The excitement wasn’t there for me. Pittsburgh was a powerhouse that had been there three times before and the Rams had some good players but had only won nine games that year.
“Pat (Summerall) and I had done the NFC Championship game two weeks before, and all we get are three field goals — nine to nothing, a complete flop. The highlight of that game was watching the sun set over the water that evening. I remember Pat saying to me, ‘Well, there goes a beautiful sunset.’ I said,
‘That’s the best shot we’ve had all day.’
“As the Super Bowl got closer, the more and more it felt like a big letdown. I thought it was going to be a one-sided game, that the Rams didn’t have a chance. My heart wasn’t into it so I didn’t give my best performance. I let those Super Bowl parties get in the way of my preparation. A few hours before the game I realized I didn’t have a single intelligent thing to say about those two teams. And it showed that day in the booth.”
HANDLE WITH CARE: Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins, VII — “I understand (the Redskins) have a drill where they try to rip the ball out of a back’s hands. I guess it’ll cause more opponents’' fumbles. We have that drill, too — for our runners.
“I’ve used the analogy of wrapping your arms around the ball as compared to a woman carrying a baby. I’ve never heard of a woman falling downstairs with a baby in her arms and the baby getting injured.
“The airlines people will tell you that when a mother is holding a child, the child doesn’t need a seat belt around him. The mother’s arms are enough.”
BLOWN LEAD: Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated, XXI — “My lead for the 1986 Super Bowl, Giants versus Broncos is this: Somewhere in every quarterback there is a 22 for 25 day.
“My lead after Steve Wulf, my dearly beloved editor, got through with it: Somewhere in the mind of every quarterback there is a 22 for 25 day.
“I am on the phone. ‘What the hell are you doing? In the mind of…? It has nothing to do with the lead I wrote. WHO BUTCHERED MY LEAD?!”
“His response: ‘Oh, that. That was a line fit.’
“I still don’t know what a goddamn line fit is. How about a fine fit? Which is what I threw.”
ZONE OFFENSE: Tom Flores, Oakland Raiders, XI — “When we played in the ’77 Super Bowl, I was the quarterback coach under John Madden. One day in practice before the game Kenny (Stabler) threw for an hour and the ball didn’t hit the ground once. Madden came over to me and said, ‘What do you think?’
“I said, ‘Put a blanket over him and send him in … this is scary.’”
SIGNATURE RESPONSE: Charlie Jones, NBC Sports, XXVIII — “I had an idea for a book. I was working with a handwriting analyst who knew absolutely nothing about football. The idea was to have this guy analyze a collection of handwriting samples.
“The Super Bowl was in California one year, and Ray Nitschke was at the NFL hospitality room, along with Deacon Jones and a few others. I was talking to Nitschke, and I asked him if he would participate and give me a writing sample. He turned to me with a very sudden change of personality.
“’Nobody is going to read my handwriting!’ he said. ‘You’ll find out what I’m really like, and I’m not going to let you know!’
“I’m thinking, Good lord, what’s this all about?”