THE OAKLAND RAIDERS IN Super Bowl II were the friendliest team
I've covered. The Raiders who faced the Minnesota Vikings in XI were
the flakiest. The Bowl of Flakes, we named them.
First, there were other nicknames: King Kong for Charlie Philyaw,
Foo for Phil Villapiano, Blinky for Fred Biletnikoff, Kick 'Em in
the Head Ted Hendricks (usually just shortened to Kick 'Em), Matzoh
Ball Monte Johnson, Willie (Whiskey Man) Brown and the Mad Scientist,
George Buehler. Buehler, who played right guard, used a
radio-controlled miniature army tank to pick up his mail in training
camp. He would buzz the practice field with a remote- control model
airplane. Once it crashed into a goalpost.
''I lost radio contact,'' Buehler explained.
Philyaw, the 6 ft. 9 in. defensive end, did odd things. Once he
reported that he was hurt. ''Go see the doctor,'' a teammate told
him. So Philyaw went to cornerback Skip Thomas, nicknamed Dr. Death.
''Man told me I had to see you,'' Philyaw said.
Villapiano, the left outside linebacker, wins the award for Most
Informative Pre-Super Bowl Interviewee. I'm in his room at the
Marriott in Newport Beach, Calif., with Villapiano and some of his
New Jersey buddies. One guy asks, ''So how you guys gonna do, Phil?''
''Do yourself and your family a favor and bet the mortgage on
us,'' Villapiano says. ''There's no way we won't cover 6 1/2 points
against the Vikings. We're going to kill them.''
The Raiders won 32-14.
In Oakland's first workout, quarterback Kenny Stabler was as sharp
as anyone ever remembered seeing him.
''He threw for 40 minutes, and the ball never touched the
ground,'' said Tom Flores, then the Raiders receiver coach. ''I mean,
it was uncanny, like he was guided by radar or something. ((Head
coach)) John Madden came over to me and said, 'What do you think?' I
told him, 'Put a blanket over him and send him in. This is scary.' ''
By midweek there was a feeling that the Raiders were going to win
big. All along the line, the matchups didn't look good for the
Vikings. Their defensive line was old -- three of the four were 31
or older. The matchup that threatened to be a disaster was
39-year-old right end Jim Marshall, a 240- pounder, against 300-pound
Art Shell, the Big Brahma, the best tackle in the game. On the other
side of the ball, the Raiders, who brought the first pure 3-4 defense
into Super Bowl competition, were getting great work from their 6 ft.
7 in., 271-pound noseguard, Dave Rowe. He would be going against
240-pound Mick Tingelhoff, miraculously still hanging in at 36. I
didn't like the Vikings' chances of coming out ahead in that one,
Minnesota's three previous Super Bowls had followed a pattern.
The Vikings couldn't run, and they couldn't stop the other team's
runners. Two fullbacks set Super Bowl records against them.
Cumulative rushing yardage in the three games: other guys 596, Vikes
156. Why would this one be any different?
It all looked too pat, though, so I combed through the charts some
more. % Oakland was in on a pass, really. The Raiders never should
have beaten New England in the first playoff round. They squeaked it
out in the last 10 seconds, thanks to some very weird penalties by
Ben Dreith's crew, calls that had the Patriots assistant coaches
pounding on the officials' door after the game. Then they caught
Pittsburgh in an unfortunate situation -- all the Steelers' regular
running backs were injured except one, Reggie Harrison. Pittsburgh
tried to go with a strange new alignment, two and sometimes three
tight ends and only one runner, and the Raiders stuffed it.
Minnesota, meanwhile, had disposed of the Redskins and Rams
without much trouble. Maybe this was the Vikings' year. Every time I
tried to handicap the game I got a different answer. Paralysis
There was no question, though, as to which team we wanted to be
around during the week. I visited Minnesota's camp once, to do a
feature on their new defensive line coach, Buddy Ryan, whom I had
covered when he was with the Jets. I couldn't wait to get out of the
place. Solemn, stiff-necked guys. Only Ryan was fairly loose.
''I keep telling Carl Eller he's going to win the Super Bowl
car,'' Ryan said. ''Every time I pass him I go, 'Vrrroom, vrrroom!'
The game? Well, I had two different clockings for America the
Beautiful: Vikki Carr did the first verse in 45 seconds, and the El
Camino Chorale took 55 for the second. The third verse lasted three
hours and three minutes, and it ended with the Raiders setting a
Super Bowl rushing record of 266 yards and Shell pitching a
no-tackle, no-assist shutout against Marshall. Once again the Vikings
had proved that they simply didn't know how to get themselves ready
for this type of action.