1982 in Quotes: Year of the Strike
NFL Offseason - Guest column by Jeremy Snyder
AND NOW WE FIND OURSELVES IN '82
“Strikes in sport are so bitter because the people involved are competitive by nature. That makes the negotiations tougher. They aren’t willing to compromise.”
—Yale labor law specialist Jack Getman. The 1981 Major League Baseball strike had cost two months of the season and yielded little meaningful change.
“If the NFL Management Council takes the position of management in baseball, Super Bowl XVI could be the last game for a long while.”
—NFL Players Association executive director Ed Garvey, late in the 1981 playoffs. The collective bargaining agreement between players and management was set to expire on July 15; barely any negotiation took place before that date.
“As a union, the only weapon we have is to withhold our services.”
—Redskins safety/player representative Mark Murphy.
“The owners couldn’t have found a better man. If they want to break the players, Donlan is the tool to do it.”
—Machinists Union head Wilbur Spurlock, who had battled with now-NFL Management Council executive director Jack Donlan during a 14-month strike at National Airlines.
“Look at me, I’m 32, I’m the oldest guy on a team. You’re older than I am, and several guys on the Angels are older than you. That turnover protects Garvey. If we had more guys who’ve been around, more of us would be familiar with what a bad job he’s done and he’d be out on his ass by now.”
—Vikings wide receiver Ahmad Rashad, breaking down to Reggie Jackson why the players hadn’t gotten rid of their unpopular union head and unknowingly hinting at why a football union is inherently weaker than those in other sports.
“We have the right issue. When we talked about free agency in 1974—and we took surveys afterward—a lot of our people thought that free agency wouldn’t help them. This time they can see a percentage of the gross will help virtually every player.”
—Ed Garvey, who was fighting for players to receive 55% of gross revenue. The 1974 training camp strike had fractured the players before any agreement was reached.
“It’s socialism to the nth degree, and I can’t agree with that. I also think that if we as a union stick to that as our basic demand, the public is not going to stand for it.”
—39-year-old Broncos quarterback Craig Morton, giving an April interview to the Denver Post in which he stated that players getting a defined share of revenue was against American tradition.
“You were a scab in Dallas [in 1974]. I think you were one of the first ones across the [picket] line. Now you say you can’t support percentage of gross. If you couldn’t strike for pension, free agency, or percentage of gross, I wonder if you could strike for anything?”
—37-year-old Raiders left guard / NFLPA president Gene Upshaw, upbraiding Morton.
“One thing about this game, we get to see you on the field next year. We will have a little additional incentive when we do.”
—Upshaw, unsubtly threatening his division rival.
HUB FAN BIDS DRAFT ADIEU
“Other than the Super Bowl, this is the biggest day in pro football. It means everybody has hope. Even the Patriots.”
—David Singer, skipping work at Massachusetts General Hospital to attend an official draft-day party at Quincy Market. The Patriots, an unlucky 2-14 in 1981, took Texas defensive lineman Kenneth Sims first overall.
“If this doesn’t get any better, I’m walking the Freedom Trail.”
—Party attendee Russell Meade, already bored during the first round.
“He was standing in line to register when I got there. Bert started yelling ‘Yippie!’ and ‘Yahoo!’ and all this. He hugged me, and all these businessmen in line were looking at these two men dancing around. It was really something.”
—Rams assistant general manager Jack Faulkner, greeting disgruntled quarterback Bert Jones in the lobby of a Los Angeles hotel after acquiring him in a trade with the Colts.
“In the personnel files of most NFL teams, Bert Jones is listed as a player of declining skills.”
—Anonymous NFC general manager, questioning whether the 32-year-old was really worth the trade cost of the fourth overall pick plus a second-rounder. Indeed, Jones lasted just four games with the Rams before suffering a career-ending neck injury.
“He never got any better. In fact, he went downhill. If you take him now, he’s not a One. People are saying they saw him as a sophomore when he was great and they might get him back to there, but they’re gambling.”
—Falcons general manager Tom Braatz, no fan of Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter. The Colts used the fourth overall pick to take Schlichter but ended up starting fourth-round pick Mike Pagel over him all season.
GOTTA MAKE A MOVE TO A TOWN THAT’S RIGHT FOR HIM
“There has never been a team that has played in a domed stadium and has won its division. Not one … now that’s got to give you something to chew on. So since 1978 we’ve been drafting an ‘indoor’ team.”
—Vikings general manager Mike Lynn, who concentrated on speed over durability when building a roster to play in the opening-in-1982 Metrodome.
“Minnesota is the only team I sent a letter to telling them that I didn’t want to be drafted by them. I’m a very outgoing person—I like to go to discos. I don’t want to go to a disco and listen to country music.”
—Speedy Stanford running back Darrin Nelson, drafted by the Vikings with the seventh overall pick.
“This isn’t a disco town. It’s a polka town.”
—Vikings head coach Bud Grant.
“I had a round-trip ticket [to Minneapolis]. But I had two going-away parties and I figured if I came back, my friends would beat me up.”
—Nelson, who held out longer than any other first-round pick in his draft class but eventually signed a two-year contract.
NOT THE ONLY TIME THE EQUIPMENT MANAGER WOULD COST THE BUCS IN 1982
“I said, ‘Listen, Pat, you’ve got two names there. We’re not going with Sean Farrell, we’re going with Booker Reese. Turn it in.’ But he didn’t hear the Booker Reese part of it because of the noise. He took it that we were going with Sean Farrell and turned it in.”
—Buccaneers director of player personnel Ken Herock. Tampa Bay drafted the wrong player with the 17th overall pick due to miscommunication with the equipment manager representing the team in New York.
“We told him, ‘Listen, Pat, you turned in the wrong name. Get up there and get the thing changed, OK?’ But the league said once the name is turned in, you’re done, that’s it.”
—Herock, who along with the rest of the Buccaneers war room only learned of the erroneous selection when the Farrell pick was announced on ESPN. The Buccaneers eventually traded their 1983 first-round pick to the Bears so that they could draft Reese early in the second round.
TO EACH TEAM ACCORDING TO ITS NEEDS
“I’m against these socialistic workouts. Teams that didn’t know about Bobby Watkins found out then.”
—Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard, annoyed that his draft sleeper went to the Lions 42nd overall after making a name for himself in cooperative workouts for the top 150 prospects.
“How does [Beathard] think Watkins got invited to these camps in the first place?”
—Anonymous NFL personnel director.
PERHAPS THE MOST APPROPRIATE NAME IN NFL HISTORY
“The Oklahoma coaches say he is the nearest thing to Joe Don Looney they’ve had. They say he’s nuts.”
—Anonymous scout assessing Oklahoma linebacker Mike Reilly, who had, among other things, beaten up a police officer, assaulted multiple fellow students, and been thrown off the team after drunkenly falling off a dorm room balcony. Reilly, drafted in the eighth round by the Rams, capped off his rap sheet by committing drunken vehicular homicide in the preseason.
THE HIGHEST HURDLE
“It’s a calculated investment. We talked to his high school coach, he played wide receiver three years and quarterback one year.”
—49ers head coach Bill Walsh, signing world-record hurdler/two-time defending Superstars champion Renaldo “Skeets” Nehemiah to a four-year contract despite Nehemiah never having played football at the college level.
“When I finally decided to go all the way with football, it was because I just wasn’t getting enough out of my talents in track and field. I wasn’t being rewarded enough, and it was humiliating to me. I looked at the other sports and I realized that if we had the same pay scale, I’d be getting over a million dollars a year.”
—Nehemiah, kept from gold by the 1980 U.S. Olympic boycott and prevented by IAAF amateurism rules from competing both in track and another professional sport.
“It’s good to be back home.”
—Quarterback Vince Ferragamo, returning to the Rams after a disappointing season with the Montreal Alouettes. The Alouettes, who went into debt spending big money on NFL players with little on the field to show for it, went defunct in May.
“Hey, I didn’t come to the NFL with a big red ‘S’ on my chest. I’m human. I’m no superman. I sweat. I work out. I put on one cleat at a time. And I need time to get to know our defense. Right now I’m still a virtual rookie in this league. You don’t just step into a uniform and absorb total command of a defensive system. That takes time … maybe a few games, maybe a few months.”
—Browns linebacker Tom Cousineau, acquired from the Bills for three future draft picks and signed to the largest contract in NFL history. Cousineau had opted to play his first three pro seasons with the Alouettes after the Bills drafted him first overall in 1979.
THE DAYS OF CHAMPAGNE
“I kind of made up my mind after the Super Bowl that I was going to enjoy some of the things that came along with it. You’ve got to make the bar exam a total priority if you’re going to pass it.”
—Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, the 1981 NFL MVP, who took the Ohio bar exam six months after losing Super Bowl XVI. The Bengals had lost by 5 points; Anderson failed by just 2.5.
GREEN BAY, NOW JUST FORTY YEARS BEHIND OTHER NFL CITIES
“We’re going to bring the band into the 20th century.”
—John Torinus, head of the Packers entertainment committee, addressing the annual stockholders meeting.
“They want all swing numbers now. There’s not going to be too many of us back.”
—Packers band director Wilner Burke, 71, whose duties no longer included selecting the music.
RAIDER IS THE CENTERFOLD
“It was the first time that a big man had shown he can look good.”
—280-pound John Matsuzak, baring his bear body for Playgirl.
CAN YOU LIVE THE FANTASY LIFE?
“Game Day. This is the fun part. Or the maddening part. Or both. No doubt this is what you paid your money for. You sit in front of the TV, praying for cut-ins, cursing updates when they don’t tell you who scored and generally working yourself into a frenzy. Invariably, most franchises can’t resist putting Monday Night players in their weekly lineups. The tube rules.”
—Inside Football, in a chapter entitled “How to Own Your Own NFL Franchise, Play General Manager, Coach the Team, Embarrass Your Colleagues and Friends and Win Big Money.” The ensuing paragraph listed newspaper hot lines in all 26 NFL cities for those who couldn’t wait until the next day to find out what their players did.
EAST BAY TO SOUTH CALIFORNIA
“It won’t hurt the NFL one bit if we bring this rule—as we brought the draft and we brought the compensation rule—in conformity with the rules of the country.”
—Raiders owner Al Davis, celebrating a May jury verdict that found that the NFL had violated antitrust laws when it prevented him from moving his team from Oakland to Los Angeles.
“My immediate concern is the effect this verdict and the court’s rulings will have on the basic structure of the league.”
—NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, planning an immediate appeal.
“We didn’t have to go this far; we could have settled this thing a long time ago by letting me move my team to Los Angeles and putting an expansion team in Oakland. A man in the public eye, in a decision-making position, must be able to accept defeat along the way as he maintains his purpose. I’ve had some defeats along the way, but I’ve overcome them. But it’s too much for [Rozelle]. He can’t accept it. It’s not the league that loses; it’s him. It’s his defeat. His ego can’t accept it. He’s lost control.”
“I feel as if I’m arguing in the Rosenberg execution. Do we execute the Raiders while appeals are pending?”
—NFL attorney Patrick Lynch, futility arguing for an injunction from the Ninth District Court of Appeals.
“We realize the harassment, bad faith, and unfair dealings on the part of the NFL will continue. These guys are the most massive media-control and power-hungry group in America. What they could not win in the courtrooms of the United States they’ll now take to the next step and try and bribe Congress to overturn the court system and have the NFL lawyers rewrite the Constitution of the United States.”
—Davis, fighting the NFL’s attempts at lobbying Congress. Legislation that would allow professional sports leagues to prohibit team movement was debated but never passed.
“If [the rule on moving franchises] can be successfully challenged, then it’s probable any other rule, including the revenue-sharing rule, might be successfully challenged. And that would be of significant importance to the Packers.”
—Packers president Robert Parins. Over half of the Packers’ 1981 income came from revenue sharing.
“They’re always crying doom. They’re always crying that it’s the end of the world.”
—Davis, constantly on the losing side of 27 to 1 owners’ votes.
“The game contract we signed is with the Los Angeles Raiders. The tickets just say ‘Raiders,’ but the media credentials say ‘Oakland Raiders.’ The flip cards in the press box will say ‘Los Angeles Raiders.’”
—49ers spokeman George Heddleston, preparing to host the Raiders in their first preseason game.
“I think we’ll just ask the pilot to fly a little farther north.”
—Packers head coach Bart Starr, asked if his team would have any problems if the Packers-Raiders preseason game were switched back to Oakland at the last minute.
“It’s sort of our symbolic light in the window—‘Come home, fellas, we’re waiting with open arms.’”
—Ray Ward, general manager of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Commission, which had the field lined and the goalposts erected just in case.
“The guys asked me what it would be like here. I tried to tell them. It made me feel good, them coming to me. They kidding me, saying, ‘We’re going to Marcus’ backyard.’ Did I ask them what the atmosphere at the Oakland Coliseum had been like? No, it never came up.”
—Marcus Allen. Unlike the rest of the Raiders, Allen didn’t have to switch home stadiums between 1981 and 1982.
“If we go back to the Bay Area, there are bound to be some negative feelings. So it probably would be best if we stay here [at our Santa Rosa training camp] a few extra weeks.”
—Raiders fullback Kenny King. The Raiders’ prospective practice field in Los Angeles was currently an asphalt playground at a junior high school; the team ended up spending the 1982 season practicing in Oakland and commuting downstate for home games.
“Everybody wants to be between the 40s at the games. The reason there’s so much complaining is that nobody had season tickets at one point—and everybody thought they had a shot. I think every club owner wishes he could do his seating plan all over again. I guess getting your friends in is part of the fun of ownership.”
—Dallas Talley, spokesman for the software company that built the system to process the Raiders’ season ticket requests. The Los Angeles Coliseum sat 92,516 but fewer than 30,000 of those seats would be considered “quality”; none of the Raiders’ preseason or regular season games came close to selling out.
REESE’S HIT PIECE
“As of this writing, I owe drug dealers $30,000, and there’s a bullet scar in my home in New Orleans because one dealer tried to scare me into paying.”
—Former Dolphins, Saints, and Chargers defensive end Don Reese, confessing to Sports Illustrated his and other players’ drug use.
“The lady is a monster, a home wrecker, and a life wrecker. In the body of a skilled athlete, she’s a destroyer of talent. Right this minute she’s spoiling the careers of great athletes you pay to watch on Sunday afternoon. Even the super ones like Chuck Muncie, who I think potentially is the greatest player in the game. Muncie has to be a superman to do what he does on the field and use coke the way he does off it.”
—Reese, backhandedly complimenting the Chargers running back who had led the NFL in touchdowns in 1981.
“I look at it two ways. First, we’re not animals, a horse you check after a race. The other way to look at it is if a guy has a problem it is good to have it detected, if nothing happens to the player. But I don’t like to be singled out because of what we do. It’s no different than anybody else at their job. Let’s go down to the Press-Gazette and see how many druggies they have down there.”
—Packers right tackle Greg Koch, who like the rest of his teammates consented to a consequenceless urinalysis during his preseason physical.
“Sure, such tests are dehumanizing. But when you think about it, the game of football is at times.”
—Lions defensive end Doug English.
JUST COULDN’T MAKE IT ON TIME
“I’m stunned, in a state of shock. I told the Colts that I had some personal things to clear up and that I’d be here [Wednesday]. It took me five hours to drive from Pittsburgh, and then I find out I don’t have a job.”
—Linebacker Zack Valentine, traded from the Steelers to the Colts on Tuesday and then immediately placed on waivers when he didn’t show up to the Colts’ Maryland training camp until 4 p.m. the next day.
“I told him I’d see him that day. He said ‘OK’ and I thought he knew I meant practice. It was his responsibility to be here and he didn’t show up in the morning when he was supposed to.”
—New Colts head coach Frank Kush, a self-described “strict disciplinarian” who’d been fired three years earlier by Arizona State for allegedly punching one of his players.
WHAT WERE THE COLORS OF THE ORIGINAL COLTS TEAM?
“I’ve made up my mind I don’t want to play here. It’ll be a long, hard year for everybody if they don’t trade me. I’ll be nothing but a thorn in their side.”
—Colts wide receiver Roger Carr upon arriving at training camp. The Colts soon sent Carr home and suspended him for the maximum-allowed three weeks.
“Unless Baltimore has changed the color of its uniforms without informing me, then, yeah, he was out of uniform.”
—Frank Kush, who threw the returning Carr out of practice after two minutes because Carr was wearing red Louisiana Tech shorts instead of the team-issued blue ones. Carr, who had brought only an overnight bag back to Colts camp and was “trying to get out of here quickly” to make a flight home, was suspended for another three weeks and eventually traded to the Seahawks.
THE CURTAIN CLOSES
“I didn’t say anything when I came in, and I’m not going to say anything when I get out.”
—Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood, cut late in training camp after 13 years in Pittsburgh.
WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE
“What we did is not an act of defiance. It’s just an act to show we’re 100% pro-union. It’s not anything against Art Modell or any of the owners.”
—Browns wide receiver Dave Logan, after the Browns players had unanimously voted to shake hands with the Rams as a pregame solidarity gesture despite a threatened $100 per player fine from team owner Modell. The handshakes became a regular practice throughout the league.
“I feel very good about this. The players said they would stand behind me and they have. It’s very gratifying.”
—Outspoken Seahawks player representative Sam McCallum. Every Seattle player signed a petition calling for McCallum’s reinstatement after the veteran wide receiver was unexpectedly cut after training camp.
“It was like something out of an Abbott and Costello movie. They lined up everybody and said, ‘All those who want to be player rep, take one step forward.’ Everybody took a step backward but me.”
—Accidental Giants player representative Beasley Reese.
“It started in training camp when I told our young offensive linemen before a practice, ‘Okay, you Hogs, let’s get started.’ Those guys have some good looking bellies.”
—Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel.
“[Bugel] came up with the name, strictly for practices, and it took off. Now we’re getting sausages from Iowa and all these things. Holy God, it kind of exploded. And I think right now it’s in the back of the players’ minds that they have to go out there each week and live up to it.”
—Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs.
“‘Hey, I just finished seeing you guys on TV. Aren’t you the Smurfs?”
—Redskins running back Terry Metcalf, yelling at short-of-stature wide receivers Alvin Garrett and Virgil Seay during a Saturday morning practice.
“You have to be under 5-foot-9 to be a Smurf. Virgil and I are under 5-foot-8, so we definitely qualify.”
—Alvin Garrett, excluding 5-foot-10 rookie Charlie Brown from the classification.
“What I really want to be is a Hog. I block pretty well but I don’t think I’ll ever be that big. I guess I’ll have to throw some real physical blocks and show the Hogs I belong. I’m definitely at least a Piglet.”
—Charlie Brown, hinting at a Peanuts/Winnie-the-Pooh crossover.
“The Fun Bunch has to be earned. We [tight ends] are one of the Hogs do-or-die. That’s our trade. The Fun Bunch is more or less like a reception committee.”
—Redskins tight end Rick Walker, leader of the pass catchers’ coordinated touchdown celebrations.
THE ROUGH TIMES ARE SHOWING
“It was a lousy game. We gave it away, it was a gift. Our offense, especially the line, was very poor. If you want me to say that Detroit is a good football team, I won’t.”
—Mike Ditka, magnanimous after losing his first-ever game as Bears head coach.
“How’s this? ‘A rose in a dandelion garden.’”
—Frustrated Bears running back Walter Payton, suggesting a theme to the reporter profiling him.
“I don’t carry any money. I never have to pay for a drink.”
“You do here.”
—Conversation between new Saints quarterback Ken Stabler, claimed off waivers from the Oilers for $100, and a New Orleans bartender, who poured the drink down the drain after Stabler refused to pay the $2.50.
“I had someone tell me it was the greatest outpouring of tribute they’d ever seen, and I’m not even dead.”
—12th-year Saints quarterback Archie Manning, comforted by the fan outcry after he was traded to the Oilers a week into the regular season.
“The hard part is for Archie to leave his friends, to say goodbye. That’s the saddest part. Then on the other hand, I didn’t think I could go back to the Superdome and sit there anymore…. The kids are aware of it, but they’re so young. They handled it well, all of it, even the little comments that were made at their school. They’re super. I used to be, but I’m losing that.”
—Olivia Manning, who heard the Superdome crowd boo her husband for the final time when he substituted for Stabler in the season opener.
SAY NO GO
“This announcement comes with no pleasure whatsoever. At the conclusion of tonight’s game between the Giants and Green Bay, all NFL training facilities will be struck. There will be no practices, workouts, or training. No games will be played until management abandons its unlawful course and engages in good-faith bargaining and executes a fair and equitable agreement. We are prepared to withhold our services, however long it takes.”
—Gene Upshaw, declaring that the players would be going on strike after Week 2’s Monday Night Football.
A FATALISTIC WARNING
“I thought for a while the electricians were on strike.”
—Packers head coach Bart Starr. In the final game before the strike, Giants Stadium lights failed twice during the second quarter, causing 25 minutes worth of delays.
“We haven’t written off anything. We will continue to plan until the league informs us there will be no game.”
—Bart Starr, who arrived at the office at 8:45 Tuesday morning. The only football game Starr would end up coaching over the next eight weeks would be an electric one against Mike Ditka as filmed for content-starved “The Bart Starr Show”; they tied 14-14.
“With three people, they can’t play anybody. They’re going to be hurt by the blitz.”
—Steelers backup quarterback / union representative Cliff Stoudt, pretending not to be bitter that longtime veterans Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Donnie Shell showed up for Tuesday practice.
“The loyal Packer fan is committed to a game and has bought the bratwurst for the tailgate party. I would imagine there would be some tailgate parties in the Lambeau Field parking lot, even though the main event may be off.”
—Green Bay Visitor and Convention Bureau tourism director James Van Matre, who organized an emergency meeting with local motel owners. The strike would cost the Green Bay economy an estimated $10 million.
“Things were just starting to roll.”
—Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, whose team was 0-2.
“My family has five season tickets. I don’t even know if we get our money back, but I don’t give a damn.”
—Packers fan Bill Wanie. Season ticket holders around the league were not refunded or credited until the strike ended.
“It’s too bad, really. Some of these guys who are out of work come in for the game and a couple of drinks to forget about their problems for a while. Now, they have their football taken away. But I suppose we’ll all get the urge to come down here, anyway, for a few drinks and talk. What else are we going to do?”
—Pittsburgh steelworker Joseph Yarkovsky, watching Giants-Packers in a local bar.
“Our lives will go on if we don’t have football for a week, two weeks, or even six months. Maybe, just maybe, the Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Thursday football addict will discover some of the things which life is really about. It is quite possible that a Sunday picnic lunch in the fall woods with their children, an unexpected visit to dad or grandma in the nursing home, or a family visit to the wildlife sanctuary will become more important aspects of their daily lives. These things will certainly increase and enhance the meaning of our existence on Earth.”
—Wisconsin Green-Bay graduate student Michael Kaczmarzinski.
HANGING ON BY THE SKIN OF THEIR TEETH
“The volume was very, very, very poor. Very little on baseball, nothing to speak of on the Canadian games. It was like people took a week off. Including me. I didn’t even bother to go in.”
—Sonny Reizner, manager of Las Vegas’s Castaways Sports Book, estimating that the betting handle for September 26 was about a fifth of the typical fall Sunday.
“Only the degenerates wanted some action today. … The doctor, the lawyer, the stockbroker was gone. Must have been out with the kids looking at the foliage. Wasn’t calling us.”
—West Boston bookmaker “Sal.”
“I thought about going down to watch the Pop Warner game. Never saw one because they play on Sundays. Never had one off before. Hell, I should go down and see the kids. When I had a good day a few years back I gave ‘em a grand to help pay for their uniforms.”
—South Boston bookmaker “Denny.”
“We can’t put a line out because of the Nevada gaming commission. Once, we put out on the board a 'Who Shot J.R.,' and they told me not to do it again because it’s not a sporting event. It did great, though.”
—Reizner, unable to give odds on when the strike would be settled.
“You come out to the track and get nine shots. At a football game you get only one.”
—Steve Schwartz, director of publicity for the New York Racing Association. Sunday attendance and betting at horse tracks in NFL cities went up by about 20% during the strike.
THEIR PREDICTION? NO PAIN.
CAN’T SEEM TO GET THEIR MINDS OFF OF FOOTBALL
“Last weekend was the first one in 25 years I wasn’t involved in a football game. I was thinking, ‘I’m on the Hudson River when I should be in Three Rivers.’”
—Giants wide receivers coach Pat Hodgson, who went sailing with friends.
“I played a round of golf Sunday, and it was the first time I ever played fall golf in my life. Unfortunately, it was a beautiful day; what was really shattering was that it was a perfect day Sunday to play a game of football … and we really had a chance to win.”
—Ron Meyer, who shot a 90.
WHAT THEY DID ON THEIR FALL VACATIONS
“What’s the phone number of the New Jersey Generals? How about if I call the president of Skoal and see if he needs a president pro tem or a vice president? Any of you guys got any jobs for me? Maybe I can be an editor-in-chief or something.”
—Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
“He’s a terrific housekeeper. The first night I came home [from work] he had cleaned the whole house and ironed more than 20 shirts. He did a great job.”
—Ann Wooten, wife of Patriots right guard Ron.
“He’s one of the most conscientious people we had. He was more involved with his job here than many of our regulars, and I think we have a lot of good people here.”
—Seaside Restaurant owner Bob Hilson, complimenting temporary floor manager/Patriots defensive lineman Steve Clark.
“I play it by myself; I start the defense, and I plug in the offensive play, and here I go. It’s amazing that I can just about control two controls by myself—it becomes a challenge, like guarding myself. Sometimes I’ll say it’s third-and-30, and I say ‘Fouts is back to pass,’ and I let the receiver go deep and I just throw it and let the receiver just catch it … and Chandler goes all the way.”
—Chargers wide receiver Wes Chandler, getting reps in via Intellivision Football.
“He does play a Gary Cooper type of figure, someone who represents all that’s good and true. I guess it was absolute perfect casting. He knows how to ride a horse. And he knew his lines cold. He made no mistakes, and we actually finished the shooting early.”
—Jed Bernstein, account manager at Ogilvy and Mather, praising Tom Landry’s performance in a strike-filmed American Express commercial.
ONE PLAYER WHO DIDN’T NEED WORK
“I didn’t want the Oilers to be lock, stock, and barrel. I’m thankful now I can take care of my family.”
—Oilers tight end Tim Wilson, who a year earlier had spent $2,000 for insurance that paid him 75% of his salary during a strike. No other NFL player had such foresight.
“He said, ‘Why now?” or something to that effect.”
—Seahawks owner John Nordstrom, who fired head coach Jack Patera by telephone two weeks into the strike.
FOR SALE: CREAMSICLE CLOTHING, LIGHTLY WORN
“[The dealer] was getting as much as $175 for Lee Roy Selmon and Doug Williams jerseys. They started at $35. That was a pretty good profit because he bought them at $20 apiece.”
—Tampa detective Chris Milano, who arrested Buccaneers equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo on grand larceny charges after game-used uniforms showed up on the memorabilia market.
BE COOL OR BE CAST OUT
“I think once the mediator comes in, I’m pretty confident they can resolve this thing. We’re not going to back down on the wage scale. We’re not going to die with it, either.”
—Saints punter/player representative Russell Erxleben, a constant break in the union ranks.
“The players still don’t realize how statements like [Erxleben’s] damage their position. Every time a player says something like, ‘I’m solid now but I don’t know how I’ll be in two weeks,’ he’s just prolonging the strike. When we were on strike last year I figured the owners had an automatic multiplier in their heads—for every player who spoke out against our position, they figured 85 others were in silent support.”
—Major League Baseball Players Association head Marvin Miller.
THE GENTLE PERSUADER
“My tactic is to wear them out before they wear me out.”
—Mediator Sam Kagel, brought in to aid negotiations three weeks into the strike.
“We are spinning our wheels. I plan to get on a plane tomorrow. I’m tired, I want to go home, I gave it my best shot.”
—Kagel, who went back to San Francisco after 12 fruitless days on the job.
IMAGINE IF EVERY GAME WERE THE PRO BOWL
“We regret very much that the regular NFL season is in jeopardy. However, we remain committed to providing fans across the country with top quality professional competition through these NFLPA all-star games.”
—Cable television mogul Ted Turner, who planned to broadcast 19 all-star games on TBS during the strike.
“The way I understand it, each division will have its own all-star team and play against other divisions. There would be six teams, but I think they only play nine games before the playoffs. The players get paid according to winning and losing, $6,000 per game for being on the winners and $4,000 for the losers.”
—Patriots tight end/player representative Don Hasselbeck.
“It is illegal and will go to court to get an injunction to prevent it if they try to play them. It states clearly in paragraph three of the standard player’s contract that the player cannot play football for anyone else other than the National Football League while he is under this contract.”
“When I read that we had eight players on this so-called All-Star team … to have eight players from a 2-14 team was somewhat unusual in my mind.”
—Patriots owner Billy Sullivan, who called three of his participating players before the first game and threatened to void their contracts.
“This game was just supposed to show that we could do it. No one is saying this was an NFL-caliber game. It was like a preseason game when only the veterans are playing, like the last exhibition game before the regular season.”
—NFC East All-Stars quarterback Gary Danielson, normally a member of the NFC Central’s Detroit Lions. A nominal 8,701 fans at RFK Stadium watched the NFC East edge the AFC East, 23-22.
“We did not come close to covering costs, but we’re committed to next week’s game.”
—Robert Wussler, vice-president of Turner Broadcasting, which paid the NFLPA $500,000 per game. The AFC East was set to play in Toronto against the winner of the next day’s game between West All-Star teams.
“I’m never concerned with money. Our company lost $15 million on Cable News Network last year.”
—Ted Turner. Companies were supposedly reluctant to advertise during the All-Star games due to threatened payback from CBS, NBC, and ABC.
“I don’t care about the crowd. I played at Cal Lutheran in front of 500—and that’s if everybody brought their dogs along.”
—Chargers/AFC West running back Hank Bauer. 5,331 people, only 681 of whom paid to get into Los Angeles Coliseum, saw the AFC West beat the NFC West 31-27 in what was the final All-Star game before the NFL’s injunction request was granted.
ELSEWHERE IN THE VAST WASTELAND
“It’s the most exposure we have ever received and will be great for both schools as well as Division III football.”
—Wittenberg athletic director Bob Rosencrans, who gladly moved his school’s game against Baldwin-Wallace from Saturday to Sunday so it could serve as CBS strike programming. CBS showed that and three other Division III games on the second Sunday of the strike to fulfill its entire contractual obligation for the year.
“This should adequately cover revenue ‘lost’ because Wesleyan, rightly, didn’t let CBS interfere (hooray).”
—Anonymous Wesleyan alumnus, so pleased with his alma mater’s decision not to move its game with Tufts to Sunday that he sent in a $34,000 donation.
“We had to spend three solid days of looking at films, meeting the players, talking to the coaches. The thing that strikes you the most is that they’re smaller than you are.”
—CBS play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall, a former NFL player himself.
“Obviously, we started from scratch; like, where’s Springfield?”
—John Madden. In this case, it was Ohio.
ESTA INDECISIÓN ME MOLESTA
“We have to know by next week to do. Naturally, we would speak against having the games in February, but I guess it’s said that anything can be done. But we have 50,000 hotel rooms that have to know if they are going to be used so the managers can cover their losses. We have to know by next week. We can’t continue going day-to-day, week-to-week.”
—Ralph Arnhym, executive vice president of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, as the strike dragged into its seventh week. The Rose Bowl was scheduled to host the Super Bowl on January 30.
“Advertisers gear towards Christmas. You’re not going to generate the same revenue from January games as you would for games in the fall.”
—Jim Spence, senior vice president of ABC Sports. Spence also cited February sweeps programming as another reason why the games lost to the strike couldn’t just be tacked on to the end of the regular-season schedule.
“We can’t play more than 12 games. We have played 11 games in three days before, but I told the league we gave up barnstorming 40 years ago.”
—Art Modell, rejecting the suggestion that teams could play two games a week instead.
“If we say we have a championship game and we have playoffs but that’s all predicated on the games played before, to see who gets in those playoffs, at some point any rational person would say, ‘You no longer have work available.’ It’s like the Cranberry Case. Some cranberry workers went on strike and they ultimately decided to come back to work about a week before Thanksgiving. The employer said, ‘Forget it, because 80% of my product is sold before Thanksgiving. I can’t get it picked, processed, packaged, and put on the shelves in time. So it doesn’t make any sense.’ And the court agreed with him. It’s the same thing here.”
—Jack Donlan, threatening to cancel the season.
MET THEM ALL THE WAY
“It’s like looking for something around your house. Once you find it you don’t continue to look, do you?”
—Packers wide receiver James Lofton, failing to clarify exactly how the strike unexpectedly came to a negotiated conclusion on its 57th day.
“I was pretty well pleased with the agreement three weeks ago. I like it better now than then, but I don’t think this strike had to go this long. Everybody realized that you can’t change this system. They couldn’t this year and they won’t be able to in the future.”
“This is what we struck eight weeks for? This is the same system. What did we gain?”
—Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert, upset with the lack of full free agency under the new five-year agreement.
“I’m sure several player representatives will be re-evaluating their position and considering their futures. I will be doing the same thing.”
—Ed Garvey, who ended up with guarantees of $1.28 billion for the players over the span of the agreement, nowhere near 55% of gross revenue.
THE MAKERS OF RULES
“Dan [Rooney] suggested it, and it would create interest in the playoffs. I don’t particularly favor it, but it is one of the most fair ways for teams to make the playoffs. It would also focus the attention in a positive way for a change. We need it. You can’t have three-way ties and have them be decided by tiebreakers.”
—Pete Rozelle, justifying the new format for the 1982 season. Divisions were eliminated, a week of makeup games was added to the back of the schedule, the pre-Super Bowl bye week was eliminated, and the top eight teams in each conference would make what would be termed the “Super Bowl Tournament.”
“Everyone had to have at least four home games [for the season], we also considered the competitive attraction, and the weather was also a factor.”
—Rozelle, on how the ad hoc Week 17 schedule was created.
“I went to the bathroom, came out and found I had Pittsburgh, which proves one thing. Weak bladder, strong opponent.”
—Art Modell. Members of the Competition Committee with stronger bladders found their teams scheduled against Baltimore and Houston.
GET ON WITH THE GAMES
“Now, even the teams that are 2-0 will have the chance to be even with us, who are 0-2.”
—Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, still on a roll.
“It’s like the NHL. If you can’t make the playoffs in this setup, you have a major rebuilding job ahead of you. You have to evaluate your entire program.”
—Bills left guard Reggie McKenzie. Buffalo was in a four-way tie for the top of the AFC with just seven games left.
“It’s going to be fun. There will be mistakes and missed assignments and probably more touchdowns scored, but it’ll be exciting.”
—Oilers head coach Ed Biles, who had just five days to get his team prepared to play the Steelers.
“This is a charade. This won’t be football—it will be pickup football, just like the Kennedys used to play. … There’s no way we can be ready physically. There is a certain degree of contact needed in football. The players have been working out and I’m sure some may have some basic conditioning. But there’s no way because the real thing is for the players to have their pants on and make contact with other players.”
—Frank Kush, considerably less eager.
“I was deep in the woods. Some guy from Jackson, Michigan, just happened to be walking by. He had seen me the last couple of days and he told me. So I was busting brush and blazing a trail to get back to the cabin and pack up.”
—Packers defensive end Byron Braggs, who didn’t learn the strike was over until Wednesday morning because he was hunting in an Upper Peninsula state forest. Braggs managed to make it to Packers practice four hours later.
“I can’t believe we are going to come right back and play twice in four days. Of course, in our business we owe a great deal to television and they want a game on Thanksgiving Day. So we will play the game. I just hope we can be in some kind of shape by the time the second game gets here.”
—Tom Landry, making the best of things.
“I don’t know, I ain’t weighed him. I’m not planning to auction him off.”
—Saints head coach Bum Phillips, asked how heavy the noticeably-gutted Ken Stabler was post-strike.
“I don’t think it’s dangerous in terms of life-threatening or career-ending injuries. But it’s dangerous in terms of the minor injuries likely to occur. I’m talking about the joints, muscle strains, and contusions.”
—Dr. William Southmayd, medical director of Massachusetts’s Sports Medicine Resources, Inc.
“It’ll be a truly incredible scene. It’ll be like watching Guadalcanal at first hand.”
—The Physician and Sportsmedicine editor Dr. Alan J. Ryan.
IT’S LIKE A JUNGLE SOMETIMES
“It was a game between the moderates and the militants, good against evil, right against wrong. You saw some tempers out there on the field. We’ll we’ve been away eight weeks and you don’t want to take out your feelings on people.”
—Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams, following a season-resuming 18-14 win over the Eagles. The Bengals had already voted 47-1 in favor of accepting the new CBA; the Eagles’ leaders were urging a no vote.
“There was no message in that, other than I did it. Any time I get a sack, I do something like that. They said it looked like I stuck a knife in him. My sacks are too few and far between. When I get them, I react.”
—Buccaneers defensive end Dave Stalls, who made a downward gesture towards Cowboys quarterback Danny White’s back after sacking him in the first post-strike game. White had taken numerous ownership-friendly actions during the strike, including staying at the owners’ New York hotel instead of the players’.
THE JET SWEEP WAS STILL A GENERATION AWAY
“We gave the shot to Mel Gray because we knew he needed one. It was a bad pass, but it was a safe pass. That [incompletion] was a sour note.”
—Cardinals head coach Jim Hanifan, who opted not to run clock with a three-point lead and instead called for a screen in a failed attempt to extend Mel Gray’s 121-game streak of games with a catch.
“This is it for me. I am finished with football. I hope I can come back to football as a coach.”
—Mel Gray, announcing his retirement after the game. Gray, who caught exactly one pass in each of the Cardinals’ first four games, came up six games short of Harold Carmichael’s then-record.
NO HIDING PLACE
“I played bad, but I can live with it. I’ll be back.”
—Lions cornerback Wayne Smith, burned for three touchdowns by the Jets’ Wesley Walker.
“That’s the epitome of the attitude I want to stamp out.”
— Lions head coach Monte Clark, releasing Smith the next day.
“That type of act is the act of a hoodlum. And hoodlums shouldn’t have the privilege of being in our game. I’m going to push and I hope the league sees fit to suspend players like that because they have no place in our game. This is a blatant cheap shot and there is nothing else to say about it.”
—Bart Starr, angered by Jets linebacker Stan Blinka’s forearm to the head of wide receiver John Jefferson. Jefferson had done nothing other than start his route over the middle.
“I had battles all day with [6-foot-3 Packers tight end] Paul Coffman. When I hit [Coffman], I was hitting him up on the shoulder pads. When I took a shot at [the 6-foot-1 Jefferson], I hit him in the head. It certainly wasn’t intentional. But he’s shorter than Coffman.”
—Stan Blinka, who became only the second player in NFL history to be suspended a game for an on-field action.
GET INTO A PLOW AND DRIVE TO THE OTHER SIDE
“Ron Meyer told me he was gonna call a time out so I could clear the field. It was obvious that if I cleared a spot I’d be OK, so I went out and cleared it. Then this little fella comes by with his tractor and pushed snow on the spot I had already cleared. It worked out just fine, though.”
—Patriots kicker John Smith, whose 33-yard fourth-quarter field goal during a blizzard provided the only points in a 3-0 win over the Dolphins.
“That timeout we took gave me time to think. I looked out on the field and I saw John chipping away at the ground, and I saw [holder] Matt [Cavanaugh] chipping away and I thought, ‘Let’s get the sweeper out here.’”
— Ron Meyer.
“That’s certainly something the officials shouldn’t have let happen. That’s not the way it should be. I said to the official, ‘Why did you let it happen?’ and he said he didn’t see it in time.”
“We have no control over that. However, we very clearly told Coach Shula that we also would have swept their area.”
—Referee Bob Frederic.
“The field was messed up. The conditions were the same for both sides, but they had a plow, didn’t they? I guess that’s the advantage of playing at home.”
—Dolphins running back Andra Franklin, whose 107 rushing yards made up the bulk of his team’s offense that day.
“I only hope that this might win me an early parole and help me get a good job outside.”
—Snowplow driver Mark Henderson, serving a 15-year sentence at Norfolk State Prison for a burglary conviction but free during daytimes thanks to a work-release program.
“There was absolutely no reaction here. Nobody knew anything because the game wasn’t on TV here. Mark just came in, signed in, and went to his room.”
—Norfolk State correction counselor Wayne Burt, asked if Henderson received a hero’s reception that night.
“Some of the guys [on the grounds crew] are upset because I have been given so much time by the press that I haven’t been out there shoveling snow during the week. It has taken me away to an extent. Sometimes I have to make a phone call. My supervisor gets upset when he doesn’t see me in plain sight all the time. But I have my responsibility to my fans.”
—Henderson, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame.
“Didn’t I tell you? Favorite sons get taken care of. Dallas and Miami don’t run into problems. It’s amazing. Get a guy from Miami who is on the Competition Committee and get his nose tweaked. Now he’s got all sorts of things in case he goes somewhere it snows again. Now we got four pages of rules in case it snows.”
—Bud Grant. New rules prohibiting clearing the field were put into place in just a week’s time, circumventing the normal offseason rule-change process.
THE FALCONS LOST THEIR NEXT TWO GAMES BY A COMBINED SCORE OF 73-13
“We’re number one. You know it, you see it.”
—Falcons center Jeff Van Note, holding up his index fingers to the Candlestick crowd after a win brought the team’s record to 5-2 and virtually eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers from playoff contention.
RISING UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF THEIR RIVAL
“Like in Rocky III, we hope that the Browns have the eye of the tiger.”
—Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano, who had rented out a theater for his team during preseason.
“It’s really helped. Remind me not to take my team to see the movie.”
—Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, mocking the Browns’ 2-4 record before their Week 15 matchup.
“I’m gonna savor the moment. I’m gonna go home to my wife and three kids, eat some pizza, and drink some beer.”
—Rutigliano, celebrating a 10-9 win in the Cleveland mud.
CHECKING IN ON THE FIRST OVERALL DRAFT PICK
“I think I let myself get dragged into a mode up here with a team that had a rough season last year. I think I got sucked into that mode of almost thinking of myself as a loser. This last two weeks helped my confidence but I think the strike let me go home, pull myself together, and re-evaluate the things that were most important to me.”
—Kenneth Sims, whose play improved somewhat after the strike.
“Every time I looked, [Steelers offensive tackle Larry] Brown was eating Sims up. When that is happening, I don’t think a kid picked as No. 1 in the draft needs the pressure of being singled out.”
—NBC color man Bob Trumpy, who successfully pleaded with his director not to put an isolated camera on the struggling Sims.
BEAR:____ :: ____:TUNA
“There comes a time in every profession when you need to hang it up and that time has come for me as coach at the University of Alabama. We played only four or five games like a Bryant-coached team. I love the players, but in my opinion they deserve better coaching than they’re getting from me.”
—All-time winningest NCAA head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, 69, stepping down after a disappointing four-loss season. Bryant passed away just a month later.
“It’s simply something that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. If it was anyplace else, any other college team could not lure me from the New York Giants. Nothing could have, I don’t believe, kept me from making this decision.”
—Giants head coach Ray Perkins, whose team was still in playoff contention, confirming that he would be taking over for Bryant at his alma mater once the NFL season ended.
“Bill was first on my list. I don’t wear thick glasses for nothing. I can see what the guy does.”
—Giants general manager George Young, immediately tabbing defensive coordinator Bill Parcells as the Giants head coach for 1983.
“One day some [1980 Patriots] players pulled a practical joke on me and I asked them if they thought I was Charlie the Tuna—you know, a sucker-type guy. … Beasley Reece wanted to know if he has to call me Mr. Tuna now.”
MOST VALUABLE PLACEKICKER, AS LONG AS YOU ADJUST FOR IMPORTANCE AND ACTUAL KICKING CONDITIONS AND DON’T CONSIDER KICKOFFS
“Why? Because I had a gut feeling about him. I told everybody, ‘Hey, if I’m going down, I’m going down with Mark Moseley.’”
—Joe Gibbs, opting to keep the 34-year-old straight-ahead kicker over rookie training camp sensation Dan Miller. Gibbs was immediately rewarded for his faith when Moseley hit a last-second 48-yarder to send the season opener to overtime and then a 26-yarder to win.
“My foot would not penetrate the football and I couldn’t get it to go up. It was a circus out there—90% luck and 10% skill. The only difference between the kicks is that I was lucky on the field goals. There is no other word for it.”
—Moseley, who made all three of his field goal attempts but missed both of his extra point attempts in a Tampa rainstorm in Week 2.
“Mark’s been kicking on everything for us—ice, mud, and rain—everything. The guy’s like steel. He just goes in there and pounds them through. He’s been the margin of victory for us all year.”
—Gibbs, after Moseley hit four short field goals off the frozen Busch Stadium turf, accounting all of the team’s points in a 12-7 win. Through six games, Moseley was a perfect 15-of-15 on field goals.
“I slipped. My plant foot doesn’t have Astroturf cleats. The ball was near the pitcher’s mound, and I was about six inches away from a crack.”
—Moseley, saved from imperfection when his miss from 37 yards was negated by a Cardinals’ offside.
“I don’t guess there’s a better way to break a record. I said earlier in the week that that’s the way I would like it, dramatic.”
—Moseley, whose 42-yarder through the Washington snow beat the Giants 15-14 and set a new NFL record for consecutive made field goals.
“I didn’t even think kickers were eligible. Most kickers never really think about this kind of award. You just go out each week trying to do the best job you can.”
—Moseley, after edging out Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts for the Associated Press MVP. Fouts, who averaged an NFL-record 320 passing yards a game, did win the equivalent UPI and PFWA awards.
THE DISGRACE OF FOXBOROUGH
“If we’re in the playoffs, we’ll drink the wine, but we’ll need help from the other teams to stomp the grapes.”
—Sam Rutigliano, whose 4-4 Browns needed only a non-tie in the Week 17 Bills-Patriots game (or an unlikely win or tie at the Steelers) to make the playoffs.
“There might be a temptation to sit on the ball for the last eight or nine minutes to force a tie. And while a tie would get both of them to the playoffs, it would be at the expense of a third team, us. … I asked [Rozelle] to examine his power as commissioner to order both teams to play until one wins, even if it takes until midnight.”
—Art Modell, seeking an immediate rule change to prevent the Bills and Patriots from colluding.
“A lot of players are unhappy. Management is the main problem and a lot of players aren’t happy, some for contract reasons, others for other little picky things. That doesn’t help contribute to a championship team and that’s why we were so ho-hum out there. This was my last game as a Bill.”
—Bills running back Joe Cribbs, whose team was unable to preserve a 16-16 tie going into the fourth quarter and thus missed the playoffs for the first time since 1979.
“How can he say those types of things? You’ll always find guys with problems on a team, but I can’t believe Joe said that.”
—Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson.
“I was offered an extension of my contract, but I decided that I should resign and be relieved of any contractual obligations.”
—Bills coach Chuck Knox, quickly taking the open Seattle job.
“This team is going to fall, and it’s going to fall next year because there will be too much resentment towards management.”
—Bills nose tackle Fred Smerlas, putting full blame on owner Ralph Wilson.
STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE OHIO BAR
“He was smoking. He was so relaxed and loose. If we could get him to loosen up his tailbone more, he’d do that every game.”
—Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, marveling at Ken Anderson’s 27-of-31 performance against the Oilers in the regular-season finale. Anderson finished the season with an NFL-record 70.55% completion rate, albeit over just nine games.
“With the rules the way they are now, I don’t know how long this new record will hold up. They make it awful rough on the defensive backs, allowing them to hit the receiver only once. They ought to loosen up the rules a little.”
—Former Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh, whose 70.33% mark, set in a 10-game season in the wake of World War II, had stood as a record for 37 years.
10 PLAYERS, 99½ YARDS
“One player thought he heard ‘Jayhawk’ called which means there Is just one back in the backfield so [Ron] Springs came out just before the ball was snapped.”
—Cowboys running backs coach Al Lavan. The Cowboys, trapped inside their own 1 after a botched kickoff return against the Vikings, planned to give the ball to fullback Springs just to get a little further from their own end zone but improvised a handoff to Tony Dorsett instead.
“I was so caught up in the game I didn’t even realize it was a record. I was just out there running for my life. If I had known it was a record, I would have kept the ball.”
—Tony Dorsett, offering a $200 reward for the return of the football he had unthinkingly spiked away after running for a 99-yard touchdown.
“I told my wife there it goes [when] he was at about the 20-yard line.”
—Former Packers running back Andy Uram, whose 97-yard run had topped the record books since 1939.
IF YOU HAVE NOTHING NICE TO SAY …
“I think they’re quitters. They’re content to be losers. I’m amazed at the lack of work habits, the lack of concentration. The lack of devotion to job and responsibility is most amazing to me. It still astounds me that they make all that money and have a lack of responsibility. People on this club are content to lose. They get paid to lose, and they resent anything.”
—Colts coach Frank Kush, who failed to win a game in his first season coaching American professionals.
THEY HAD TO LEARN TO PACE THEMSELVES
“You can classify all National League coaches by personality types. The 'As' are the ones who always look like they’re about to chew up the sideline chains. Sooner or later, the 'As' have to go. … Everything in professional football is ‘next.’ It finally gets to the 'As.' The 'Bs'— a Don Shula—finesses the time pressure. The 'Cs'—a Tom Landry—ignores it.”
—John Madden, an “A,” on the stresses NFL coaches face.
“I’m my own worst enemy. I’m far too intense, far too emotional, and I put too much into trying to get things together. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and probably the most vivid mistake is that I’ve set a pace for 23 years that it may not be possible to keep through the 10 years of the professional contract. That’s why I say I’m burned out … I think it’s time.”
—Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil, resigning after a 3-6 season, his first time missing the playoffs since 1977.
“I say to myself, ‘This is how life is supposed to be for a football coach.’ Right now I’m in the process of trying to convince myself of that.”
—49ers coach Bill Walsh, seriously considering concentrating on the general manager job and giving up his coaching duties after following up a Super Bowl win with a 3-6 season.
“There is a strong feeling on the part of our ownership that we have established a sound program and it is functioning smoothly and that we should not change at this time.”
—Walsh, eventually convinced by Eddie DeBartolo to stay.
PINK-SLIPPED AND PIQUED
“They admire the Raiders here, and I’ve mentioned some of the steadfastness I thought the Raiders showed last year when they had some backsliding. If the Raiders’ motto is ‘Pride and Poise,’ I think maybe we have adopted a third ‘P’ here and added ‘panic’.”
—Marv Levy, fired after never making the playoffs in his five seasons coaching the Chiefs.
“I looked out at the ticket office today expecting to see long lines and all I saw was trees.”
—Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, dismayed at the lack of sales for the Cowboys-Buccaneers first-round playoff game. The Cowboys, who had had a sellout streak going back to 1977, sold out just one of their four home post-strike games; regular season attendance throughout the league declined by more than 5,000 a game from 1981 averages.
“I wasn’t surprised, I was shocked. That’s 50,000 tickets in 2½ days. I don’t think Frank Sinatra or the Rolling Stones could do that.”
—Vikings general manager Mike Lynn, astounded that the Vikings-Falcons first-round game sold out despite just 10,000 season-ticket holders picking up their options for playoff tickets. Other hosts with no trouble selling seats to their first-round games included the Steelers, Dolphins, Bengals, and Redskins.
QBASE PROBABLY WOULD HAVE LOVED LOMAX COMING OUT OF PORTLAND STATE
“It was certainly a shock. Everybody was telling me I was a No. 1. Gil Brandt. Your team. Every team in the league. I learned a lot about this league and the people in it. They don’t tell you the truth, they tell you what you want to hear.”
—Cardinals starting quarterback Neil Lomax, who had dropped to the second round of the 1981 draft. The Packers picked still-third-string quarterback Rich Campbell sixth overall instead; Lomax would have a chance for revenge in the first round of the Super Bowl Tournament.
TOGETHER IN PERFECT HARMONY
“I could see the gleam in everybody’s eyes. I knew we were going to go out and perform well.”
—Packers running back Eddie Lee Ivery, who scored two touchdowns in a 41-16 win, his franchise’s first playoff victory since Super Bowl II.
YOU THINK HE LET IT GO?
“What’s a game without ethics? In golf, the players police themselves.”
—Don Shula, still stewing over the snowplow incident while preparing to play the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs.
“This special acknowledgement is being made in recognition of the Patriots’ invention of a brand new play in the history of the NFL … the snowplow sneak.”
—Public address announcement at the Orange Bowl as a tractor, driven by a man in a prison uniform, circled the field with a sign reading “Patriots’ Secret Weapon.” The tractor then plowed the 5 tons of artificial snow that had been piled in the northeast end zone.
“It’s funny. I saw it all the way. I even saw the guy who threw it. I saw it coming, but I was too far away to help.”
—Patriots’ bodyguard Lou Assad, unable to keep Ron Meyer from being hit by a snowball thrown from the crowd.
LIES, DAMN LIES, AND THE NFL’S GAMEBOOK STATISTICS
“It was only a yard. I said, ‘Let’s give him the yard and get him out of the game.'”
—Walt Michaels, informed by the Jets’ PR department at the two-minute warning of the Jets-Bengals first-round game that Freeman McNeil had tied the NFL single-game playoff rushing yards record of 206. McNeil then gained 5 yards on his final carry.
“It said I carried once for no yards, but I knew I had carried twice. Maybe because our numbers are reversed—Freeman wears 24 and I wear 42—they fouled it up.”
—Jets running back Bruce Harper, who noticed when looking at the postgame stats that the Bengals statistical crew had misassigned his 9-yard run to McNeil. The NFL office noticed too and revised McNeil’s total down to 202.
“It’s a shame he left the field thinking he had the record and then didn’t have it. But he’s a young player. He’ll have other chances.”
—1963 Chargers running back Keith Lincoln, the restored record-holder.
FOR THE PRICE OF A DIME
“[Jets owner] Mr. [Leon] Hess is on the phone. He wants to talk to you.”
—L.A. Coliseum security guard Bruce Fitzpatrick, interrupting Walt Michaels’ halftime talk during the Jets-Raiders divisional-round game.
“Tell Gastineau to calm down and stop acting like an ass. And go out and kick the spit out of them in the second half.”
—“Leon Hess,” giving curious advice for someone whose team was leading 10-0.
“Al Davis, I’ll choke you!”
—Michaels, hanging up about thirty seconds later.
“[Former Rams owner] Carroll Rosenbloom used to call down a lot at halftime, so how was I to know? I feel like a fool now.”
—Fitzpatrick, wishing he was back at his day job as an El Camino College earth science professor.
“Whoever in that organization made that call at halftime is a sick individual, and his initials are A.D. It’s a sick, rotten, cheap way to disturb our football team when the Raiders’ owner calls at halftime.”
—Michaels, not over it even after a 17-14 win.
“Michaels is an insecure man and they are idiots. I don’t even have a telephone.”
“I heard on the radio that they said Al Davis called Michaels at halftime. I don’t want anybody to think this was coming from Al Davis.”
—Queens bartender Larry Hammond, who had made the prank call in a futile attempt to salvage his over-47 bet.
THERE IS NO TOMORROW
“He came to right to me and he just said, ‘I’m really getting down the road, I don’t have many of these left. I’ve been out two weeks and I’m ready. Give me the ball.”
—Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, recounting a conversation he’d had with 33-year-old running back John Riggins before the playoffs.
“You had the Fearsome Foursome, the Purple People Eaters, and the Steel Curtain. But the Killer Bees? They can just swat you at any time and you’re dead. I prefer something a little more powerful sounding.”
—Dolphins defensive end Kim Bokamper, unenthusiastic about the nickname being given to the Betters-Baumhower-Bokamper-Brudzinski-Blackwood-Blackwood defense.
“I guess if you had a lot of bees swarming around they could be dangerous.”
—Dolphins nose tackle Bob Baumhower, the only Killer Bee named to the Pro Bowl.
“You get in there and you look in Fouts’ eye, and he’s just like any other quarterback. He’s scared bleepless running for his life. He doesn’t know if he’s going to get his head tore off or what. He’s not the cool, calm, debonair guy everybody thinks. He doesn’t like to get his uniform dirty.”
—Dolphins defensive end Doug Betters, following a 34-13 divisional win over the Chargers in which the Killer Bees intercepted Dan Fouts five times while holding him under 200 yards.
TIME TO REGULATE
“Somebody told me I broke Danny White’s collarbone. Somebody else told me I gave him a concussion. I didn’t know what to think. This is a violent game and you don’t like to see anybody hurt. I asked their second-string quarterback about it, and he told me it was only a concussion. I was relieved.”
—Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley, who had driven the Cowboys starting quarterback into the ground just before halftime of the NFC Championship Game. The Redskins led 14-3 at the time.
“Danny White’s still in the locker room and still doesn’t remember much. It looks like it’s your job.”
—Cowboys assistant coach John Mackovic, giving untested second-string quarterback Gary Hogeboom a battlefield promotion. Hogeboom would bring the Cowboys to within 21-17, but threw two critical fourth-quarter interceptions that led directly to the Redskins’ final 10 points.
“It’s not fair to ask him questions when he doesn’t know what he’s saying.”
—Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, eventually shooing away the assembled reporters interviewing an admittedly “blurry, dizzy, and disoriented” White in the locker room after the game.
“There are a lot of great salesmen in the world who live on the road and live out of a suitcase.”
—Jets coach Walt Michaels. The Jets had finished the regular season with three road games; the AFC Championship Game in Miami would be their sixth consecutive week away from home.
“I am very much upset. It is in every club’s contract that their playing fields must have a tarp. It’s is Miami’s responsibility to adhere to this regulation. I don’t know who a wet field favors. That doesn’t matter. But we deserve a chance to have a game played in as perfect conditions as possible.”
—Jets president Jim Kensil, angry that the Dolphins had nothing to protect the Orange Bowl grass against the heavy rains that had fallen in Miami since Thursday and continued through the game. The Jets had been forced to buy three $4,800 tarps a month earlier in case they had a playoff home game.
“The Dolphins tell us that the company that tends to the stadium insists that a tarpaulin only makes things worse in case of a steady rain. They say that with a tarp, the ground is inclined to hold the moisture, and when it’s taken off, the field is less playable than if it has no tarp at all.”
—NFL executive director Don Weiss, claiming that the tarpaulin rule was not usually enforced against teams with supposedly drainage-friendly Prescription Athletic Turf.
“We are a drive-blocking team and Freeman McNeil is a cutting-type runner. When you can’t get adequate footing, you can’t drive-block and Freeman can’t run.”
—Jets offensive coordinator Joe Walton. McNeil, who led the NFL in rushing yards in the regular season, was held to 46 yards on 17 carries in a 14-0 loss.
“Yes, that’s the rule, but it’s too late when it’s already not done. Did you ever break a milk bottle … and then try to pick it up?”
—Walt Michaels, who declined to file a formal complaint.
THE BEST QUARTERBACK AT THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WASN’T ON THE FIELD
“I’ve got just two things to say. They played better than us, and we did not play well at all.”
—Jets quarterback Richard Todd, intercepted five times, including thrice by linebacker A.J. Duhe. Duhe, who clinched the win with a pick-six, had just two career interceptions going into the game.
“It makes sense for our football team. Why not substitute if it will help your football team? Just because they are quarterbacks?”
—Don Shula, who all season started the run-oriented inexperienced David Woodley and then brought in the more pass-oriented veteran Don Strock if the situation called for it. Woodley played the entire AFC Championship Game because the Dolphins never trailed, but threw for just 87 yards while being intercepted three times.
“I always dreamed of playing in the NFL, but I’m not so sure that should affect my decision. I don’t know. Just being at the Dolphins-Jets game today, with all that enthusiasm and excitement surrounding an NFL championship game … If I could be a part of that, it’s hard to turn that down. But in the USFL I could come in, start right away and help get something started, and be sort of a pioneer. I could try it out. If it doesn’t work, I can bounce over to the NFL.”
—Pitt quarterback Dan Marino, contemplating his football future after being selected first overall in the inaugural USFL draft by the Los Angeles Express.
DID HE JUMP OR WAS HE PUSHED?
“I’ve spent 32 years in this game and I’ve enjoyed them all, but in that time I’ve never taken a vacation and I’ve never spent enough time with my family. Now I think it is time that I should, so I am retiring as head coach of the Jets effective Tuesday, February 8, 1983.”
—Postseason statement from Walt Michaels, as released by the Jets PR department.
“I don’t believe Walt retired. Walt had heated discussions with everybody—that was his nature—so maybe he just had one heated discussion too many with Kensil. The word on the team was that Michaels and Kensil had a verbal fight on the plane back from Miami.”
—Anonymous Jets offensive player.
“He’s a great coach and it’s unfortunate we’re going to lose him. A head coaching job in the NFL is pressure-filled. And the New York press is tough. When things went bad, Walt took a lot of criticism. Even when he won, it was ‘Why did he do this? Why did he do that?’ Maybe it just got to him.”
—Jets fullback Mike Augustyniak.
“This comes as a complete surprise. I just left Walt at the Pro Bowl on Sunday and he seemed very relaxed and very happy.”
—Jets center Joe Fields.
SUPER BOWL XVII*
“[This season will go into the book] as an asterisk year. But the more I have seen, that asterisk is going to be smaller and be shoved further and further to the corner of the page.”
—Don Shula, about to coach his record-tying fifth Super Bowl.
“We are supposed to be here. Our team had the best record in our conference. We lost only to Dallas, and then we beat the Cowboys in the final to get here. So we earned it, and we feel the same way about Miami.”
—Joe Gibbs, in just his second year as an NFL head coach. Gibbs was 19-4 since losing his first five games.
“If you don’t watch the program, I will personally come in your house and take your TV and give the TV to someone who wants to watch the program.”
—Mr. T, interviewed by Bob Costas during the Super Bowl XVII pregame. T’s new adventure series The A-Team was looking for a boost from a special post-Super Bowl episode before it moved to its regular Tuesday timeslot.
“Any of you guys want to go a few rounds with the fastest hands in the NFL?”
—Rams safety Nolan Cromwell, challenging all comers in a special Super Bowl United Way ad.
“How do you figure it? They just filmed an episode where the bartender spends all his time trying to get the waitress into bed and I can’t say the word ‘bookie’ on television?”
—NBC studio tout Pete Axthelm, running afoul of network censors while shooting a special two-minute segment on the Cheers set.
THE TIPPING POINT
“I saw Charlie Brown sitting in the flat. I started to throw to him but somebody—Bokamper, I think—went up in the air and hit the ball. I saw it in the air and I could see him going for it so I just dove and tried to get into the middle of things. To be honest, I had visions of A.J. Duhe last week and I didn’t want to be in Richard Todd’s shoes. It’s a horrible feeling.”
—Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, able to knock a potential pick-six out of Kim Bokamper’s grasp.
“I thought I had it. As quick as I thought I had it, it was gone.”
—Kim Bokamper. A touchdown would have given the offensively-struggling Dolphins an 11-point lead late in the third quarter.
THE BEST MEN DON’T RUN FOR PRESIDENT, THEY RUN FOR THEIR LIVES
“I think they somehow had a defense in there for a deep play. They saw us adding some people to our lineup and thought they were different people.”
—Joe Gibbs, who decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the Miami 43 down 17-13 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins, who had their base 3-4 in, called timeout when they saw the offensive formation and put in their goalline defense.
“We called the same play before the timeout, the same play after it. Good ol' 70-Chip; they should name an ice cream after it.”
—Joe Theismann. 70-Chip sent Riggins off left tackle.
“It’s a good play for a situation like this. Everyone’s up in the middle of the line and if you can get by that first line, you make a lot of yards.”
“We just block everybody but one guy and that’s the guy who has to bring John down by himself.”
—Redskins left tackle Joe Jacoby.
“[It’s] something I will have to live with. He was like a train. I was confident I was going to tackle him but I just didn’t get the job done.”
—192-pound Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal, easily thrown off by the 230-pound Riggins a yard downfield on his way for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Ron Reagan may be president, but I’m the king.”
—Riggins, named Super Bowl MVP after a four-game postseason in which he averaged 34 carries and 152 rushing yards.
10 comments, Last at 06 Jul 2022, 10:13am
#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jun 23, 2022 - 4:06pm
“I went to the bathroom, came out and found I had Pittsburgh, which proves one thing. Weak bladder, strong opponent.”
—Art Modell. Members of the Competition Committee with stronger bladders found their teams scheduled against Baltimore and Houston.
Al Davis, it appears, simply voided his bladder on Pete Rozelle.
#6 by mehllageman56 // Jun 23, 2022 - 9:35pm
He was about as bad a pick, but unless you know something Wikipedia doesn't, Hackenberg has at least become a high school coach and hasn't spent any time being addicted or in prison. On the other hand, Schlichter has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
#3 by mehllageman56 // Jun 23, 2022 - 4:48pm
Thanks for all of this: the Rush and Grandmaster Flash references, the longer than usual article due to all the stuff about the strike, but also the stuff about Walt Michaels. I always thought Michaels was yelling at the locker room ceiling as if Al Davis was listening, but I never knew the context that someone prank called him at halftime. And yeah, he was pushed out. Otherwise that team might have won it all.
#9 by big10freak // Jun 25, 2022 - 12:28pm
had a dry wit. It's forgotten now, but Starr was legit amusing. It was one of several reasons he was able to work with Lombardi as Starr was very grounded and not one to get too high or too low. The two played off one another very well.