THE GREAT BLACK HOPE
In his state-of-the-NFL conference last Friday in San Diego, commissioner Pete Rozelle acknowledged that the league should have a black head coach: "I can't say I like us being called a racist league, but if all the media attention on the problem leads to equal opportunities...then I guess it's good." Rozelle pointed proudly to the fact that there were 14 black assistants in 1980 but 41 at the end of last season. Now roughly 14% of the assistants are black; more than 55% of the players are black.
Two NFL clubs currently have coaching vacancies: the Packers and the Raiders. George Perles, the head coach at Michigan State, who is white, turned down the Packer job, which apparently will go to Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Lindy Infante, who's also white. Black assistants Tony Dungy of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnny Roland of the Chicago Bears and Dennis Green of the San Francisco 49ers interviewed for the job. Raiders chief Al Davis is considering two of his own black assistants, Willie Brown and Art Shell, and Green for the Raiders' opening, but none is apparently on Davis's short list.
At least the Packers and Raiders have considered some black candidates. Shame on any club that hangs on to its coach to avoid being put on the spot, as a couple of them are rumored to have done. And shame on people who grasp at feeble arguments such as the one heard in San Diego that Dungy, for instance, has never run his own program. It should be pointed out that neither did the Super Bowl rivals, Dan Reeves and Joe Gibbs, before they got their head coaching jobs.
Among 16 passengers stuck for 90 minutes on an elevator at the San Diego Marriott, the Super Bowl headquarters hotel, last Friday were ABC announcers Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf, several Super Bowl referees, NFL supervisor of officials Art McNally and—we always try to bring you on-the-scene coverage—SI senior reporter Linda Marsch. Her report:
At 11:40 a.m. the elevator car became stuck between the third and fourth floors as we were going down to the lobby. The officials and I were headed for the commissioner's press conference, while Gifford and Dierdorf were on their way to meet Al Michaels and a limo that was to take them to lunch with Dan Reeves.
Fortunately, one of the officials, Bob McElwee, had had submarine training at the Naval Academy, and he immediately assured us we would be fine in such a confined space.
Somebody found the intercom that connected us to the hotel operator, who immediately said, "Hang on." She kept asking us if we were all right. At first we told her we were fine, but when she asked an hour later, she heard a resounding "No!"
The mood was pretty cheerful, with SI contributing photographer Tony Tomsic providing most of the jokes. He also claimed responsibility for our predicament since he weighs more than 290 pounds and was among the last to get on the elevator. When Tomsic commented that we might eventually turn on one another, Gifford said, "We all hate you now, Tony." Also taking a lot of ribbing were McNally's daughter Rita who works for the Marriott Corporation and was on the elevator, and Jerry Markbreit, yet another NFL field official, who stationed himself just outside the door on the fourth floor and shouted comforting words. Dierdorf told Markbreit that if he rescued us, he—Dierdorf—would forgive Markbreit for a holding call in a long-ago Cardinal-Cowboy game.
Finally, an elevator repairman was able to pry the door open, and at 1:10 p.m., we all climbed out. Dierdorf suggested we have a reunion next year.
Postscript: Many of the same crowd ended up on the same bus returning to the hotel from the Super Bowl party that night at the North Island Naval Air Station. The driver got lost.
Denver's ballyhooed wide receivers were so inconsequential in the game they may as well have been called the Three Amoebas.
When 2,500 journalists with seven days to kill before the Super Bowl descend on the 100 poor souls preparing for the game, there are bound to be a lot of strange questions asked. Terry Chick of CNN, for instance, went from player to player, asking, "If you were an animal in the San Diego Zoo, what would you be?" Denver Bronco wide receiver Vance Johnson said he and his two Amigos, Mark Jackson and Ricky Nattiel, would be ostriches, "because they run fast and have eyes on both sides of their head, so they can see everything." When Chick pointed out that ostriches have no hands, Johnson replied, "What's this, a trick question?" No, just a pretty silly one.
Here are some other questions that were asked in San Diego.
"If you were a tree, what kind would you be?" (Walt Bowyer, defensive end for the Broncos, said he would be "a cheese tree." A cheese tree? "Yeah, I like cheese.")
"When the AFC wins the Super Bowl, the stock market traditionally goes down. Do the Broncos feel any responsibility for the nation's economy?"
"Do you think Sean Penn and Madonna should get back together?"
"What's your favorite Hostess food?" (Bronco guard Stefan Humphries opted for Twinkies.)
"Are you guys playing cards?" (Asked of Denver reserve quarterback Gary Kubiak and linebacker Rick Dennison, who clearly were playing gin rummy.)
"You look kind of lonely. Would you like me to interview you?" (Asked of several Broncos and Washington Redskins who sat unattended at interview tables that had been set up for the media.)
Then there was the dumbest question of all: "What's the dumbest question you've been asked this week?"
It was indeed a super bowl. Fourteen feet long and eight feet wide, it was the site of the world's largest Caesar salad, enough to feed 3,000 Super Bowl visitors at Tijuana's Agua Caliente racetrack. The Caesar salad was invented in 1924 by Tijuana restaurateur Caesar Cardini, and his daughter Rosa Cardini was on hand to supervise the making of the salad. Some Romaine numerals: DCCCXL heads of lettuce, the same number of coddled eggs. MCD ounces of garlic oil, the juice of CLXXV lemons, CMLXXX ounces of Parmesan cheese and CCCL cups of croutons. And zero anchovies (Cardini didn't use them in the original). When the croutons were tossed onto the salad, the spectators burst into applause.
Other offbeat events during Super Bowl week included a lecture by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson entitled "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl," a press party at Sea World and a bullfight in Tijuana. There was also a "Super Boat" competition, with Dennis Conner and a crew of NFC players racing Ted Turner and an AFC crew in 12-meter yachts. Turner's Stars & Stripes '86 was much the better boat than Conner's Liberty, so the race did not amount to much, although the light winds and calm waters did indicate why San Diego would make a poor site for America's Cup competition. Despite the fact that none of his "sailors" had ever sailed, Turner won. "One of the guys has been fishing, though," said Turner.
Washington coach Joe Gibbs said during the week that the Redskins aren't a superstitious team, but there are a few holes in that contention. For one thing, the Skins had 10 dozen lucky doughnuts flown out to San Diego from Montgomery Donuts, a Rockville, Md., outfit that has supplied the Redskins with doughnuts for their Saturday morning team breakfasts for 11 years. The doughnuts, which normally cost $3.76 a dozen, were provided gratis by Montgomery Donuts, and the extraordinary take-out order was shipped free by United Airlines in return for promotional considerations.
According to Ed Koinig, a spokesman for Montgomery Donuts, Washington ordered three dozen honey dip, two dozen chocolate raised, two dozen honey wheat, one dozen toasted coconut and half a dozen each of jelly, chocolate cake, plain cake and a cream-filled variety called Black Cat. Gibbs prefers honey wheat, while his quarterback, Doug Williams, favors honey dip, and 295-pound defensive tackle Dave Butz likes toasted coconut. "If those doughnuts don't get to San Diego, I'm in deep stuff," said Koinig just minutes before he received word that they had arrived.
The Redskins' regular weekly training regime also includes barbecued chicken and hot sausages on Thursdays, pizzas on Fridays and hamburgers and ice cream sundaes on Saturday evenings. All of which lent credence to Los Angeles Times columnist Scott Ostler's claim that "when Dave Butz joined the Redskins 13 years ago, he was a flanker."
JUDGE AND JURY
The back judge for the Super Bowl was named Al Jury.
THEY SAID IT
•Steve Watson, Denver wide receiver, on why the Broncos but not their Super Bowl rivals of 1987, the Giants, made it back to the big game: "I think it comes down to the fact that they wrote more books than we did."
•Darrell Green, Washington corner-back, testifying at chapel the night before the game: "I'm willing to lose friends and to lose even football because I want to go all the way for Jesus Christ, who laid down his life, who laid down his life, for a little 5'8" midget like me."
•Clarence Vaughn, Redskins rookie safety, asked how he was reacting to the pressure of the Super Bowl: "I'm in a state of shockness."