Football facts congeal in '70s

Dan Rodricks RHC B

January 10, 1992|By Dan Rodricks

I'm having a male problem. Can we talk?

It's football.

I think I've burned my fuse. I feel like maybe I should see a neurologist about this, maybe get a CAT scan. You see, as hard as it is to admit, I think I've lost my ability to retain information about the National Football League. My old Auntie Graziel, who has a bookie named Skip, now knows more about the NFL than I do -- and she's 80!

Every time I watch a game and hear a new name, the information does not reach my brain. It goes poof. And I hate when that happens.

It finally hit me last weekend during the NFL playoffs. The only players I knew were John Elway and Warren Moon.

I was glad to see them. From what I remember of last weekend's game, Elway played for the Broncos, who are still in Denver, and the Broncos won. They defeated . . . give me a minute . . . they defeated . . .

The Houston Oilers!

Right. The Houston Oilers. The team Moon plays for.

So, you see, I've got Football Old-Timers Disease.

The thing is, I used to be an extremely intense fan, able to name most players of most teams. Really, there was such a time in my life!

But I just realized the other day -- that was 25 years ago!

Johnson was president, and Tarkenton was still a quarterback. So were Unitas and Jurgensen. I could name the entire offensive line of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Baltimore Colts and the Green Bay Packers. I knew the top passer, the top receiver, the top running back. In fact, I knew the mediocre guys. I knew the kickers, and could even spell their names -- Jan and Garo!

My head was full of the stuff.

I might have failed seventh-grade algebra, but I knew the Oakland Raiders. When they needed a yard for a first down, LaMonica handed off to a guy named Dixon. Dixon was one of those big, mean running backs. Jim Nance, Hoyle Granger, Jim Taylor, Jim Brown were among the others.

My football mind stood still in the era of Gale Sayers, Joe Namath and Larry Csonka. Somewhere in the mid-to-late 1970s, I started losing my football mind.

I tried to get it back in the '80s, but failed terribly. So terribly that yesterday, when someone said Thurman Thomas was presently the greatest running back in the NFL, I responded with two questions:

1. Who's Thurman Thomas?

2. Whatever happened to Thurman Munson?

So, you see where I am. I am lost in the morass that is the National Football League. There are too many teams, too many players, too many games in a season that is too long.

I grew up in a much simpler time. It seemed like there was only one game on TV each week -- the Giants vs. the Browns. A little while later, the American Football League started getting more time on TV, and the Jets played the Dolphins, and the Raiders played the Chiefs. Curt Gowdy did the play-by-play, then went hunting for caribou on another channel.

It was much easier to know football back then. I was younger. The brain cells sizzled.

Now, I'm losing it.

And "it" being a very male thing, you can imagine the impact this is having on my psyche. Really, it's very hard to admit -- you know, guy to guy.

Why?

'Cause, in the Yoo-knotted States of 'Merka, a guy's sposta' know his footbawl.

But the truth is, there are millions of guys like me. They won't admit it, but they've either lost interest in the NFL or succumbed to real life, or both. They're between 30 and 50 years old, and they still think Roger Staubach is the Dallas quarterback.

Perhaps I exaggerate.

But, quick, tell me: Who is the Dallas quarterback?

I'm betting that nine out of 10 guys, picked at random on any street corner or office elevator, won't be able to tell you who the quarterback for Dallas is.

There are only three groups of American guys who really know what's going on.

1. Boys between the ages of 8 and 15.

2. Sportswriters, bookies, gamblers and members of the Cato Institute.

3. John Madden, who, despite appearances, is really a group of guys.

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