THIS WAS THE EARLY ANGLE on the game: Neither coach can win the
big one; game might end in a tie. Don Shula of the Dolphins and Tom
Landry of the Cowboys both had that rap. Now one of them had to win
it, unless at midnight their teams had pounded themselves into groggy
exhaustion with the score still tied -- and the referee had to stop
it. I said that was the early angle -- right up until Monday, picture
day, when Duane Thomas took over.
He had gone through his famous Silent Season. He was feuding with
the Cowboys and he had stopped talking -- to the media, the coaches,
most of his teammates, everyone. So here we were on Super Bowl Monday
in decaying, crumbling Tulane Stadium, a little circle of perhaps
20 writers ringing Thomas and witnessing his silence. This eeriest of
all Super Bowl interviews lasted maybe 20 minutes. It has been
reported, inaccurately, that Thomas said absolutely nothing during
the whole session. After 15 minutes Thomas asked the guy directly in
front of him, Will Grimsley of the Associated Press, ''What time is
it?'' Grimsley was so flustered that he stared at his wrist for
perhaps 10 seconds before he realized he wasn't wearing a watch.
''I don't know,'' he blurted. Later the rest of us were furious
with Grimsley. ''You should have told him anything,'' we said.
''Maybe that would have gotten him talking.''
I close my eyes now and see two things about the game: 1) Dallas's
Bob Lilly chasing Bob Griese practically out of the stadium for the
longest sack in Super Bowl history, 29 yards according to my charts;
2) the magnificence of Thomas, slashing and swerving for 95 yards
behind a line that executed its cutoff and trap blocks with military
precision. The Cowboys had the Dolphins' number, and the verdict on
the game was in very early. It wound up 24-3.
This was the only Super Bowl in which a single postgame interview
upstaged the game itself. Here is Tom Brookshier of CBS-TV
''Are you really that fast?''
''Uh, why do you weigh 215 pounds for some games and something
else for others?''
''I weigh what I need to.''
We all felt a bit sorry for Brookie, who is one of the nicest guys
in the business, but we also enjoyed the show.
''Jim Brown had gotten Duane to talk to me,'' Brookshier said
recently. ''He was Thomas's adviser then. I was scared to death. The
only thing I could think of was that on his touchdown, ((Dolphin
linebacker)) Nick Buoniconti had misjudged the angle, and
Buoniconti's a good tackler, so I asked Duane that question about his
speed. After the 'Evidently,' things went downhill fast.
''I still have nightmares about that interview. I think of it and
break into a cold sweat. I keep a blown-up photograph of it next to
my desk, so I'll never forget.''
In the press box, an editor for Sport, the magazine that gives the
Most Valuable Player award -- a car -- had polled us for our choice.
It was practically unanimous for Thomas. I had voted for Thomas
and right guard Blaine Nye. When the winner was announced as Roger
Staubach, who had rather moderate stats (12 of 19 passes for 119
yards), we let out a groan.
The award is a promotional thing, and I still don't understand why
the NFL doesn't step in and take it over. The car is given at a
ceremony, and the recipient is expected to say a few words. I figure
that let Thomas out.
This is an article from the Jan. 2, 1989 issue