THE BLATHER BEFORE THE BATTLE

Miami's air-conditioned suites are wall-to-wall with gibberish these days as the experts play Super Bowl X days before the coin toss, snowing each other with in-talk and drowning in their own clichés
January 19, 1976

It all depends on how effectively the Dallas Cowboys can split the tackles and banjo the ends."

"Ordinarily, yeah, but you can't strum a defense like Pittsburgh's, even with Tom Landry's multilook."

"Remember that on offense the Steelers have to deal with the Dallas flex. If anything, this is the easiest job Landry has ever had. All he has to do is stop one man, Franco Harris."

"Since when is Dallas so brainy? Everybody knows they went to the spread because Roger Staubach can't read defenses. You laugh about Terry Bradshaw, but I haven't seen any Phi Beta Kappa key hanging around Staubach's neck."

"You didn't see him throwing five interceptions in the two playoff games, either. Or presiding over eight lost fumbles. Dallas is peaking at the right time, and with Staubach and Landry the Cowboys have them outquarterbacked and outcoached."

"Granted, Dallas would be 6-8 and staying home without Staubach, but where do you think the Steelers would be without Bradshaw?"

"A 21-point favorite instead of seven, probably."

The two men were among the 17,567 sportswriters, broadcasters and filmmakers gathered in the National Football League's hospitality suite in a Miami Beach hotel. They had been standing for 57 hours, waiting in the line before a table of wild card hors d'oeuvres, and awaiting, also, the kickoff of Super Bowl X. For the two conversationalists, and many others, the game would be over before it was played.

"You've heard of Pittsburgh's front four, I gather?" said the man who liked the Steelers. "They lead the most intimidating defense ever. Inasmuch as nobody can even name a Dallas running back, how do you think the Cowboys are going to do anything on the ground?"

"They don't need a running back with Rayfield Wright and Blaine Nye blocking. You apparently didn't see Wright fold up the Rams' Jack Youngblood, put him in an envelope and mail him back to Florida."

"Youngblood isn't L.C. Greenwood. And with the run cut off, Staubach has nothing left to do but throw the ball to Mel Blount or Jack Lambert, or get sacked by Ernie Holmes."

"The Steelers' front four make their linebackers, and their linebackers make their secondary. In reality, their secondary is overrated. On the other hand, Dallas has six starters on defense who have also won a Super Bowl, and the Cowboys could play defense on tranquilizers if necessary."

"You're not saying Dallas is going to be able to run, are you?"

"I'm saying they'll run better than you think because the Steelers will have more to worry about than they're accustomed to. It's hard to be physical and intimidating when you're confused and trying to be careful."

"I'm sorry, but Robert Wodehouse isn't Franco Harris."

"It's Newberry, not Wodehouse. Anyhow, he's gained over 1,000 yards in 16 games so Wright and Nye must be blocking pretty good. Don't forget that against overall tougher teams, Dallas' total offense is three football fields better than Pittsburgh's. And the combination of Newhouse, Preston Pearson and Doug Dennison has outgained Franco by nearly 600 yards."

"That's dumb. The whole world knows Minnesota and the Rams had phony schedules. And everybody knows the NFC still hasn't caught up with the AFC. It's no accident the American has won six of the last seven Super Bowls."

"Listen, Dallas beat a better Minnesota team, in Minnesota, than Pittsburgh beat in last year's Super Bowl, and the 17-14 game almost wasn't even close."

"The Cowboys are too much finesse, gadgets and talk."

"Used to be. The rookie enthusiasm and talent turned the Cowboys around this year. Now they hit and finesse. Also, they've become a happy team. All of the complainers are gone, like Duane Thomas, Calvin Hill, Hayes, Morton, Parks and Gent."

A spokesman for CBS-TV entered the hospitality suite and announced that the network had decided to extend its Super Bowl pregame coverage to include a 90-minute special on Phyllis George's childhood, part one.

"There are a few other interesting statistics you obviously haven't considered," said the man who fancied the Cowboys. "The Dallas defense gave up only one touchdown in the two playoff games. And over the season the front four—Too Tall Jones, Jethro Pugh, Harvey Martin and Larry Cole or Bill Gregory—gave up only 3.6 yards to the run compared to the Steelers giving up 4.2 per play. And again, Dallas played a more rugged schedule, if you pay any attention to wins and losses."

"You can do anything you want with statistics. Turn it around. Pittsburgh had 13 turnovers against Baltimore and Oakland and still won easily. That's the mark of a great team, to play bad and still win. Now they're due to play good."

"Do you realize that if Franco Harris played for Dallas, the game would be a mismatch? He's gained half their rushing yardage. Don't tell me a good coach with good athletes can't stop one man, even if he's the best there is."

"You're giving Landry and Dallas all the credit for intelligence. Chuck Noll is no fool."

"That's true, but he's the only NFL coach in a press conference who can make Tom Landry sound like Don Rickles."

A spokesman for NFL Films entered the hospitality suite and announced that they had a crew shooting an in-flight entertainment special on Pete Rozelle's five favorite lawyers.

"Let's get serious," said the Pittsburgh man. "The clues to the game are only partly the matchups. We know Ralph Neely will be able to hold Dwight White sometimes and get away with it. Nye might do a decent job on Greene, and Wright will be the best Greenwood has seen. But Burton Lawless is a rookie, and he can't handle Holmes. And the Dallas center, John Fitzgerald, can't look to snap the ball on the spread and then go after Lambert with any real fury. Pittsburgh's linebackers are the only ones around good enough to help cover Drew Pearson and Golden Richards and still keep Staubach from scrambling. I see Dallas disarmed and panicking."

"You have to go to the intangibles. Dallas isn't supposed to win, which gives the Cowboys the psychological advantage. It's the same kind of advantage that other Super Bowl winners have had, like the Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore. I can't believe that if either Landry or Noll is going to join Vince Lombardi and Don Shula as a two-time Super Bowl winner, that it won't be Landry. I also can't believe that if either Staubach or Bradshaw is going to join Bart Starr and Bob Griese as a two-time Super Bowl winner, that it won't be Staubach."

"You're insisting it's Dallas' year, no matter what, because of their luck in the playoffs?"

"Because they've developed slowly. Pittsburgh was 17 points better than anybody the NFC had in late November. But the Steelers have dropped off while Dallas has come on. The Steelers have no reason to respect Dallas, but the Cowboys are stronger in all but six or seven positions, including quarterback. Only nobody knows it except Dallas. Plus, for one game, you've got to like Landry's experience. His game plans for Minnesota and Los Angeles were brilliant."

"I say Dallas enthusiasm will become stage fright. Pittsburgh could win big."

"Not with Dallas wearing white jerseys."

"What?"

"Dallas can only win the big game in white jerseys. It's a superstition, but it holds up. The first question Tex Schramm asked somebody from the NFL in Los Angeles was whether Dallas got to wear white in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys are wearing white."

"The color of a jersey can't stop Franco Harris."

"The Dallas defense will take the outside away from him. It will be up to the Pittsburgh defense to come from behind, and the Steelers won't be able to force big plays against the multilook. They'll be hitting each other and wondering where Staubach and Drew Pearson went."

A spokesman for the Cowboys entered the hospitality suite and announced that the day's practice went well. Staubach hit the Streak-Q-PF regularly against the animated Triple-Crease jibber quark of the Steelers. A Steeler spokesman said Noll was mainly concerned about Dallas' ability to split the tackles and banjo the ends.

"What does that mean, anyhow?" asked the fellow from Pittsburgh.

"It's something coaches say a lot," said the other man. "Why would you ask a sportswriter such a question?"

THREE PHOTOSWhen the chatter stops, Roger Staubach will confront Jack Lambert and Ernie Holmes. THREE PHOTOSTwo Cowboys—Too Mean Martin and Too Tall Jones—will menace Quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)