MIAMI — First of all, are you sitting down?
Be sure who you tell this to or they'll think you've been drinking.
On Sunday afternoon, the canary ate the cat. The mailman bit the police dog. The minnow chased the shark out of its waters. The missionaries swallowed the cannibals. The rowboat rammed the battleship. The mouse roared, and the lion jumped up on a chair and began to scream for help.
The first thing that's going to surprise you about the Super Bowl game is the closeness of the score. But, hang onto your hat. If you think that's a shocker, wait till I get to the punch line.
The--come closer and let me whisper this--New York Jets are the Super Champions of football! Cross my heart! That funny little team from that funny little league they left on pro football's doorstep a few years back. You know the one--the team whose checks bounced and so did their quarterbacks.
And you know that smart-alecky quarterback they got for $400,000 and the NFL sat down and like to have busted laughing? Well, turns out he was a bargain. You know, they called him "Broadway Joe" and he went around wearing women's fur coats and he closed up more bars than Carrie Nation? A sleep-to-noon guy who had been a model youth. He didn't smoke till he started kindergarten and he never drank in high school till the sun went down. And when someone said the Jets had a "Boozer" in the backfield, someone thought it was a description instead of a name.
They said (Norman Van Brocklin did) that Broadway Joe would be playing in his first professional game in the Super Bowl. Well, he likes it better than that game they play over in that other league. He got beat three times over in that league.
They said the Jets were the third-best team in their own league. If so, it's a good thing they didn't send the best. Everybody would have switched over to Heidi.
I would say, on the basis of what we saw Super Sunday, the NFL is a couple of years away. I mean they have individual performers, but the AFL appears to be better in teams.
Namath said that the Colts' Earl Morrall would be third string on the Jets, but he may have overestimated him. Of the nine passes Morrall completed before his coach invited him to spend the rest of the game resting up for next year, only six went to his own team. He has a good arm, but they might check his color perception.
It could be said to be a contest only if you consider a public hanging a contest. As usual, if you want the executioner, you have to give points. But the funny thing in this game was, the books put their expert eyes on this match and said you could have the Jets and 17 1/2 points and there was no limit to what you could bet. If you wanted Baltimore, you had to come up with 18 points. And they wouldn't take a check. Bookmakers are perched on ledges all over America today. For them, the score of the game at the payoff window was Jets 33 1/2, Colts 7.
I would say the Colts were terrible, but that would be an overstatement. They weren't that good. It's hard to believe this team went through 30 NFL games and lost only two in the past two years.
The Colts started the game as if the other guys hadn't showed up yet. Their first three plays gained 36 yards. It looked as if the only thing that might happen to them is that they might get bored to death, or have trouble staying awake. Then, they gradually lost their poise, their tempers and, finally, the game. Namath picked them apart as though they were a safe he had memorized the combination to. The right side of the Baltimore line was as wide open as a Yukon saloon on a Saturday night. Jet halfbacks were fighting to get to run through it or by it.
The Jets' locker room was awash with the heady bubble of gloat. The Jets wore their names on their backs like all of the teams in the AFL. The other league grudgingly wears numbers. They figure anybody who doesn't know who they are must be as out of touch as Judge Crater.
"Where was their defense? Didn't it show up?" an ex-nobody in the Jets' dressing room named Earl Christy demanded. Larry Grantham, who had been in the league on this team since the days when it wasn't even safe to take cash (without biting on it), was trumpeting, "Let them have the College All-Star game."
"$15,000 apiece!" glowed Gerry Philbin.
Five years ago, you could have bought the franchise for that--maybe the league.
It was like the turkey having the farmer for dinner, the rabbit shooting the hunter, the dove pulling the feathers out of the eagle.
The worm had not only turned, it was chasing the early bird right down the street and up a tree. And Broadway Joe can be singing the old Jimmy Durante tune, "You Know Darn Well I Can Do Without Broadway, But Can Broadway Do Without Me?"
Even at 400 grand, he may be the biggest bargain in Manhattan since they gave those Indians all those beads and started to put in subways. As for the NFL, it will have to start building to catch up.