IT HAD BEEN A ROUGH SEAson for Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson.
In the second game he suffered a torn ligament in his left knee. He
chose not to have an operation and wound up missing six games,
taping the knee tightly each Sunday. His father died. Then, five
days before Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings in New
Orleans, a story broke on television that he would be called to
testify about his association with Donald (Dice) Dawson, a Detroit
We saw the broadcast in the press room. Ken Denlinger of The
Washington Post and I hopped a cab to the Chiefs' hotel, the
Fontainebleau, to talk to Dawson before the NFL put him off-limits.
We checked in with Jim Schaaf, the Chiefs' p.r. man. He was sitting
at a desk, holding his head in his hands.
''What a trip,'' he said. ''A food truck backed into our plane,
and we were delayed an hour and a half at takeoff yesterday. Then a
motorcycle cop hit a parked police car. Now this.'' He stared at us.
''There going to be a lot of writers coming over?'' he asked. I
nodded. He picked up the phone and, in a gesture that showed the
best instincts I have ever seen in a p.r. person to this day, said,
''Hello, room service? This is the Kansas City Chiefs' office. Send
up five pounds of shrimp remoulade and five pounds of lump crabmeat.
We're going to have some hungry writers.''
We met Dawson outside his room. It was No. 858 -- funny that I can
''I'm absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing, absolutely
innocent,'' he said. This would be verified weeks later. And it was
in this supercharged atmosphere, that Super Bowl Week was launched.
It stayed strange. New Orleans had record cold temperatures. We
went to a press conference with Chiefs coach Hank Stram at the
Fontainebleau, and the fountain in front of the hotel was frozen
''Look,'' someone said, ''the fountain is bleu.''
The Vikings, Joe Kapp and the Purple People Eaters, were 13-point
favorites. The Jets' victory was a fluke, a lot of folks said.
Normalcy would be restored.
It rained the morning of the game. Scalpers were eating tickets.
Clusters of people trying to unload them at cost, below cost, lined
the road leading to Tulane Stadium. Pat O'Brien recited the national
anthem. Doc Severinsen's trumpet drowned him out. Two hot-air
balloons, marked AFL and NFL, raced each other into the stadium. The
NFL balloon crashed into the stands. It was a sign.
Bet me that the next time you hear Stram doing a game on CBS-TV
he'll say: ''Look how deep those cornerbacks are playing . . . they
can throw underneath all day against them.'' That's what his Chiefs
did. Stram couldn't believe what the Vikings were giving him. Neither
could Dawson. Of the 17 passes Dawson threw, 12 went to his wideouts,
accounting for nine of 12 completions. ''It's like stealing,'' Stram
said in a famous sideline quote.
Dawson threw squareouts and slants, one of which Otis Taylor broke
for a 46-yard touchdown, which closed out the scoring at 23-7, K.C.
The Chiefs got a score on a five-yard trap, with defensive end Jim
Marshall suckered out of his lane by a pulling tackle. They ran Frank
Pitts on three end-arounds, and they picked up a first down each
time. The Vikings still haven't defensed that play.
Minnesota's attack was stymied by the Chiefs' odd front defense,
which placed either of the tackles, 265-pound Curley Culp or a
slimmed-down but still gigantic 6 ft. 7 in., 275-pound Buck Buchanan,
over center Mick Tingelhoff, a 237-pounder who had made All-Pro for
six years with his cutoff blocks on middle linebackers. It marked the
beginning of the end for the greyhound centers.
Dawson, having overcome adversity, was the hero. Afterward, a few
of us crowded into a press shack to hear him get a congratulatory
call from President Nixon. Pete Brewster, the Chiefs' receivers
coach, sat in an armchair near the entrance, snarling at us as we
tripped over his feet.
''Who's Dawson talking to?'' yelled some of the writers outside.
''President Roosevelt,'' I hollered.
^ Brewster growled at me. ''Not Roosevelt, dummy, Nixon!'' Uh,