NEW YORK — Roger Staubach, ever the stern Puritan, has some advice for the New York Giants and Denver Broncos in the golden land of California.
"It's the biggest game of your life," the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback says. "Don't worry about parties. You can party for the rest of your life. Sometimes people don't have the vision to know how big the event is and how important it can be to you 20 years from now."
Joe Namath vaulted to Super Bowl acclaim with a blonde on one arm and a fifth of scotch in the other. Staubach took the more righteous path, and all but made the Super Bowl his forwarding address.
He played in the NFL's showcase game four times, including one stretch in which he carried the Cowboys there three out of four seasons. Under Staubach, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1971 against Miami and against Denver in 1977.
"It's a big deal," he says. "Anybody who thinks that the athletes think it's just another game is crazy. It'd be nice if were just another game--you play hard and not worry about all the other things. Players that can play well under pressure definitely have an advantage."
Nothing better defined Staubach. Impervious to clock, crowd and climate, Staubach would move the Cowboys downfield in a game's closing minutes as if he were still on naval maneuvers.
"I just prepared so I would not make a mental error," he says. "The physical aspects will take care of themselves. I went into a game totally understanding what we were supposed to do--make sure to throw the ball to the right person, at the right defense. If I threw too high or too low, that's because of a physical error and that's going to happen.
"It would drive me crazy if I came out of a game and said, 'God, if only I'd done this or that.' Teams should go out there mentally prepared. There's no excuse when you have two weeks."
Staubach, 44, is president of a real estate brokerage house in Dallas these days.
"If you try to put in a new game plan it's hard to get the guys' attention," Staubach says of the Jan. 25 game at Pasadena. "You prepare very hard the week before. I don't even think you know where you are--Pasadena, New Orleans, Miami. It's a lot of hype and you've got to get conditioned to it."
Staubach, a connoisseur of quarterbacks, respects Phil Simms of the Giants and John Elway of the Broncos.
"I think he's proven himself--with the years when he was injured and was questioned," he says of Simms. "But all of a sudden he's playing very consistently. He's been stronger as his team's been stronger--like all good quarterbacks. He's played very well in the big games. He's got the physical ability. Now I think he's got the confidence."
In Denver's 23-20 victory over Cleveland for the AFC title, Elway moved the Broncos 98 yards in the closing minutes to force overtime. Staubach, who all but patented such drives, watched on television and called it "classic."
"I think he's a heck of a quarterback," he says. "And he's gotten over the hump of this inconsistency people have tabbed him with. You don't want to get tabbed with anything. . . .
"Elway seems to be the kind of quarterback that might look terrible on a few plays. But you just feel, 'Hey, this guy might do something.' Do not turn your back on John Elway. He's that type of player."
Staubach says that for all the strength of the Giants, he thinks the Super Bowl will be close--a decided break from form.
"Part of it is there's so much pressure on the players," Staubach says of the often lopsided results. "Guys go into the game so worried about not making mistakes and the coaches get a little too conservative. They don't want to take the chances they did during the season. I think the players have got to play with reckless abandon. Start worrying about mistakes, and you'll lose it."