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Don't Laugh, This Just Might Happen

September 28, 1987|MIKE DOWNEY

The date: Jan. 31, 1988.

The event: Scabber Bowl XXII, at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

The opponents: The scab Indianapolis Colts and the scab New Orleans Saints.

The TV coverage: NBC, featuring scab technicians.

The pre-game show: Interviews with some of the original 90 Colts and Saints, who played two games before going out on strike. Plus, film of some of these players on picket lines outside the Super Bowl, tipping over the Indianapolis and New Orleans team buses.

The pre-game press conference: Gene Upshaw and Jack Donlan say they are still talking. Upshaw says something; Donlan rolls his eyes. Donlan says something; Upshaw rolls his eyes.

Another press conference: Relatives of the late Jack Murphy request that his name be taken off the stadium until the strike is settled.

The national anthem: Frank Sinatra, scheduled to sing, refuses to cross the pickets. The anthem is performed instead by the Sullivan Family Singers, of Foxboro, Mass.

The fans: Interviewed inside the stadium and in Louisiana and Indiana restaurants and saloons, fans of the Saints and Colts say they don't care one damn bit how they got to the Super Bowl. They're just happy they got there.

The coin toss: Indianapolis wins the toss. One of its players tries to steal the coin.

The owners: Tom Benson of the Saints runs laps around the field before the game, squealing: "I'm in the Super Bowl! I'm in the Super Bowl!" Bob Irsay of the Colts sits in a stadium luxury box, saying: "Lgfg hfdty djhf swnb."

The opening kickoff: Rob DeBank, a special-teams player for the Colts, who was shoveling steer manure on a farm outside Evansville when the NFL players went on strike, returns the kickoff 25 yards before being downed.

The first quarter: Quarterback Noah Steem, who led Indianapolis to a 12-3 record after rejoining the team (he was cut in training camp because he ran the 40-yard dash in 6.5 seconds), passes for two touchdowns and an early 14-0 lead.

The disappointment: NBC's scab cameramen, deliberately sabotaging the coverage, miss both touchdowns entirely. Instead, their cameras were focused on a woman in the first row with a low-cut dress.

The second quarter: Buncha Finks, a running back from Grambling and no relation to Saint General Manager Jim Finks, goes 65 yards on a punt return and puts the Saints within 14-7 before the half.

The halftime show: The San Diego Stadium crowd of 9,932 is entertained by dozens of musicians and singers who just got back from South Africa and don't care where they perform, as long as they get paid.

The halftime guests: Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets and Mickey Marvin of the Raiders say they think it's been a heck of a good game so far.

The strange development: Gary Hogeboom, who crossed the Colts' picket line and spent the next 13 weeks carrying a clipboard for the other scab quarterback, refuses to come out of the locker room, burns his uniform and claims he has seen the light.

The third quarter: A New Orleans touchdown gets called back by the referees for having too many scabs on the field.

The instant replay check: A check of the instant replay shows that NBC's scab cameramen missed the play entirely, and instead were focused on a kid in the first row waving a banner that read: "Hi, Dick. Hi, Merlin."

The fourth quarter: The game remains 14-7 until the final minute, when Saint defensive back Dewey B. Long returns an interception 45 yards for a score. Neither team gets a first down in the half.

The overtime: Nobody scores.

The second overtime: Nobody scores.

The third overtime: Nobody scores.

The outcome: Scabber Bowl XXII, the longest Super Bowl in history, is still going on, long after midnight. It appears that in a situation like this, there can be no winners.

The aftermath: One day after the game, the NFL Players Assn. announces that it has reached an agreement with the owners. It will give the players limited free agency, an upgraded pension plan, a percentage of the league's television rights, and permission to date the Dallas cheerleaders.

The footnote: Seven members of the New York Giants have disclosed that they have signed book contracts with major publishers, to give their first-hand accounts of the Giants' incredible 0-15 season.

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