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Jim Murray

It May Get Even More Devastating

February 04, 1988|Jim Murray

The 1929 World Series, like the 1988 Super Bowl, was a highly forgettable non-event--except for one thing. An inning. The Inning.

The overmatched Chicago Cubs were being systematically dismantled by the superior Philadelphia Athletics, much in the way Sunday's Denver Broncos were succumbing to the overpowering Washington Redskins, when the Cubs managed to put together an 8-0 lead in Game 4.

Up until the seventh inning. . . . In that inning the Athletics scored 10 runs on 10 hits, a walk, a hit batsman and a terrible misjudged fly ball that went for an inside-the-park home run with two on.

It was the most devastating single inning in World Series history. The Series was nothing. That inning rates its own wall at Cooperstown.

Before we confine Super Bowl XXII to the ashcan of history as another non-event on the order of, say, the 1983 World Series, the Tyson-Biggs fight, or a trash-sports festival in South Florida, it might be well to dwell on whether 45 minutes of it might be disposable, but 15 minutes belong to the ages.

The whole game was forgettable but, it occurs to me, my colleague, Rich Roberts, might have hit on something when he suggested that the second 15 minutes of that game may some day find its way to the Hall of Fame at Canton.

Parts of events have often survived the larger contexts of their time on stage and, at San Diego Sunday, The Quarter may have been one of these.

Thirty-five points, 5 touchdowns in 18 plays is an incandescent burst of point-making you don't see unless one of the teams is Nebraska and the other is Ivy League. It is probably historic.

It survives for its sheer flawless brilliance.

Of all Joe Louis' matchless fights, I suppose his career is best remembered for The Round. That would be the eye-popping 2 minutes 4 seconds of Round 1 it took him to destroy Max Schmeling in June 1938.

People who saw that were afraid to open their doors at nights for years. It was probably the most awesome two minutes of fist- fighting ever put together.

Then, there is The Punch. This would be the tremendous right hand Rocky Marciano landed on Jersey Joe Walcott's jaw in Round 13 of their title fight at Philadelphia in 1952.

It was as if someone hit Joe with a chunk of sidewalk. It almost had him permanently facing backward the rest of his life.

There have been sets of tennis from the likes of Bill Tilden or Bjorn Borg which should go intact to a highlight film. There was Jesse Owens' last jump at Berlin in 1936 when he already had two fouls.

But nobody ever had any brighter burst of brilliance than Washington's Doug Williams did Sunday. One touchdown pass for 80 yards, one touchdown pass for 50 yards, one for 27 yards and one for 8 yards is Frank Merriwell-George Gipp style heroics.

Maybe he saved Super Bowl XXII, but did he save Super Bowls generically? It should be obvious the great game is in trouble. The aggregate scores of the last 5 Super Bowls show the victors scoring 203 points, the vanquished, 65. What's so Super about that?

The last 4 Super Bowls and 6 of the last 7 have been won by the NFC portion of the NFL. If you extract the Raiders from the equation, a "true" AFC team, i.e., one that came over intact from the old AFL in the merger, hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1974.

When a thing keeps happening there are usually immutable forces at work. What they are is not that obvious.

When one league, the American, used to dominate the other, the National, in baseball, it was ascribed largely to a difference in philosophy. The one league believed in power baseball, the big inning, the three-run homer, the long ball. The other believed in speed, defense, pitching.

The AFC, too, puts forth the image of a league that relies on individual brilliance, finesse football. I mean, it's a league of John Elways, Bernie Kosars, Three Amigos, Dan Marinos.

The other league seems to run more to Refrigerators, Butzes, Lawrence Taylors--motorcycle gangs, swat teams, mob muscle. It makes the Elways and the Tony Easons look like preppies who got lost from their chauffeurs.

Perhaps these things are cyclical. But, for the present, what the Super Bowl needs is an AFC team that doesn't consist of a flashy player or two and a nonchalant defense but a 45-man cast of street thugs who like to take the game down a dark alley or into a locked cellar.

If they don't get one, one of these years some team is going to have four quarters like the one Washington and Doug Williams had.

Even the NFC better hope the Raiders or Pittsburgh Steelers make a quick comeback or some day we may be looking back wistfully on the days when they only ran up 35 points a quarter and only won by 32 to 36 points.

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