Morrall & Shula: the 1968—1977 Brady & Belichick?
Some things never change: NFL Playoffs begin this weekend with 12 teams’ fans certain this is their super bowl year. Football is surely the strangest team sport of them all—tons of athletic talent bubbles up from high school and college levels, watched, fanatically boosted, and bred, in a nation-wide industry of bone-jarring frenzy, continually fired up into the highest reaches of life-threatening and extremely well-paid, passionate competition, to arrive at the professional level where dozens of teams collide in a relatively short season (baseball plays 162 games, football, 16) of high-speed Xs and Os, only to have the game dominated for its entire (super bowl era) 45 year history by a handful of quarterbacks and franchises.
Since turnovers (fumble recoveries and interceptions) are more important in football than any other factor by a wide margin, you would think there would be an ‘anything-can-happen’ element in football, not to mention injuries, blitzes, coverage mistakes, tipped balls, missteps, penalties, clock-erros, ball placement-errors, catches that are not really catches, penalites that are not really penalties, to add to the randomness and the confusion. But, no. The same small number of franchises succeed. Whole eras are dominated by one or two quarterbacks, and one or two teams. How can this be?
One breakout actress in 2011, Rooney Mara, (who looks like a female Elijah Wood on the cover of the January 6 issue of Entertainment Weekly—the shamelessly jackass, fan-dumb, magazine which pretends objectivity in its coverage even though it’s published by Time Warner) has a name that encompasses nearly a quarter of all super bowl victories.
Rooney and Mara have something in common: they founded their iconic teams (Steelers, Giants) with gambling winnings. Art Rooney is U.S. ambassador to Ireland, and I’m sure it won’t be long before the NFL puts someone in the White House, in exchange for one half-time show and two fixed Super Bowls as payment.
Football mirrors politics: Americans know 2 things for sure: 1) Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy, despite what Walter Cronkite and CBS told us, and 2) Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III victory over the 3-touchdown favorite Colts was fixed—so the laughing-stock AFL could gain respect, opening the door for billions in revenue with the NFL/AFL merger. The newly formed AFC in 1970 saw success for the Baltimore Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers (old NFL franchises happy to mingle with the lowly AFL clubs in a new AFC division) and let’s not forget the Miami Dolphins, whose suddenly successful head coach, Don Shula, and his quarterback Earl Morrall, were losers in Super Bowl III’ s fix. Earl Morrall, who played for both the Giants and Steelers before being traded to the Colts in August of 1968 as a back-up quarterback for Johnny Unitas, proceeded to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1968, leading the Colts to a 13-1 record and two crushing wins in the playoffs before playing a strangely terrible game in Super Bowl III (January, 1969) and losing. Earl Morrall’s work in Super Bowl III was rewarded, however; after the NFL merger, playing for the now-AFC Colts in Super Bowl V, Morrall earned a Super Bowl ring! Not only that, Morrall was reunited with his Super Bowl III Colts’ coach, Don Shula, and proceeded to win another Super Bowl ring (along with 1972 NFL Comeback Player of the Year) with the ‘perfect record’ AFC Miami Dolphins in January of 1973.
The NFL is a business first, theater, second, and a sport, a distant third. Sexy quarterbacks, dynasties, and Joe Six Pack defenses are so important to the first two that the NFL rarely lets the third get in the way. (There’s only one thing better than a sexy quarterback: a quarterback willing to ‘throw’ a game—see Earl Morrall.)
Athletes are naturally competitive, and intentionally losing goes against their nature, so cases like Earl Morrall are very rare; but fortunately for NFL owners, there are easier ways to fix games: referees, those gentlemen protected from public scrutiny who can change the momentum of a game not only with a call, but with a non-call—calls that cannot be challenged by anyone—are happy to oblige. Throw as many things at the TV set as you want, the ref can do whatever his bosses tell him to do.
Tom Brady and the Patriots’ cheating scandal is a significant and interesting piece of corruption inside an already-corrupt game. A back-up quarterback at Michigan and a head coach (whose father’s job was to spy on other football teams) are the most succcessful NFL quarterback/coach pair of all time. Their quest for a perfect season, just as it happens, was derailed only after a U.S. senator threatened to investigate New England’s cheating, just before Mara’s team defeated Kraft’s team in the Super Bowl, the same Kraft who, despite all his public charitable giving and untold wealth, is personally pushing for a gambling casino in the sleepy town that contains his football stadium.
We hope “your” team goes all the way this year!
Did Carole King get the melody for her “You’ve Got A Friend” (1971) from Burt Bacharach’s “Trains, Boats, and Planes (1966)?”
Shakespeare’s book, known as the Sonnets, is not the story of a ‘young man’ and a ‘dark lady;’ these poems are nothing less than the world writing to itself—these poems are “we” writing to “us;” and to believe this work was Shakespeare writing to some particular youth is the height of folly. We find that dividing the 154 poems into 11 chapters of 14 poems works well for the ‘first chapter,’ since the first 14 have procreation as their theme, and then sonnet 15 introduces the new theme of immortality through poems, plus the so-called ‘dark lady’ sequence which ends the book (if we include that last 2 ‘cupid’ poems) is exactly 28 poems; but we also like the division of 14 chapters of 11 poems each, which fits much better later on—the turn in sonnet # 100, for example (“Where art thou Muse?”). The universal insistence of calling the first 17 sonnets the ‘procreation’ sequence, reveals how mistaken scholarship is, and has been, regarding this masterpiece.
J.S. Bach happily followed the advice of the Sonnets, procreating often; Bach’s children, as their daddy’s music fell out of favor in the 18th century, influenced Mozart and the Romantics. There are moments when I listen to J.S. Bach and think: Bach is music.
Changing how we think of Shakespeare’s Sonnets is one of Scarriet’s on-going projects; another one is solving the mystery of Edgar Poe’s murder, whose birthday is only 12 days away. We have the 12 days of Christmas, followed by the 12 days leading up to Edgar Poe’s birth, and 12 days later we are out of January, and days are not so dark.
The facts that we have to keep in mind is that not only was Poe found in a state of distress, in someone else’s clothes, but he was found in a place many miles off from his itinerary—which, by chance (?) happened to be two blocks from the home of a Mr. Snodgrass, a Baltimore Sun editor. The Sun was part of the major newspaper network that covered up Poe’s whereabouts as he lay dying. Furthermore, years earlier, in correspondance between the two that abruptly ended, Poe confessed to Snodgrass his intense dislike for his cousin, Neilson Poe. Who, by chance (?) happened to come by in the very small window of time in which Snodgrass was alerted by another Sun employee, Joseph Walker, that Poe was suffering in the place where he (Poe) was found? Neilson Poe! Who then saw to it that Poe was carted off to a slummy hospital, away from all public notice, where days later he (Poe) mysteriously perished—to then be buried quickly without an autopsy, while the Sun and Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune (leading the way) made trivial remarks of the author’s passing? Which two saw this operation through from start to finish? Joseph Snodgrass and Neilson Poe.
Scarriet is pleased that Poe scholars visit and discuss matters with us, from time to time.
We are looking for more excitement in 2012!
Happy New Year!