I watched the footage over Schmidt's shoulder. Sometimes I would gently promote an upcoming shot, which he proceeded to ignore. My mistakes annoyed me. Often the film would be overexposed right before the snap, a telltale sign that I hadn't given Spieller enough time to start shooting. And for some reason I had a fixation on Nolan Cromwell. Whenever I couldn't get it together, I evidently yelled, " Rams, 21!" and Cromwell would appear on film, running defensive patterns by himself. As for my Wilber Marshall shot, Schmidt shook his head. I couldn't believe he didn't want it. "It probably looked better in person than it did on film," he said.
I was deflated. But not defeated. Inside the NFL and This Is the NFL were being edited, written, fit to music and voiced-over all within 36 hours, and the six shots Schmidt had saved still had a chance of survival. The final decision would be made by two producers—Dave Plaut, who was in charge of the first half of the NFC championship, and Greg Cosell (a nephew of the One and Only), who was in charge of the second half. Little did I know it, but my filmmaking career was about to take a great leap forward—from eclipse to mediocrity.
The next morning I was like a new father with twins. During the night Plaut had decided to use two of my three first-half shots. The first was when the Bears' Jim Covert cleared out the left side of the line with a block against Gary Jeter, enabling McMahon to sprint in for a first-quarter touchdown (I was isolating on Jeter). The second was when Jeter dodged Covert and stopped Calvin Thomas in his tracks midway through the second quarter (I stuck with Jeter again). "Two of three shots, .667," Plaut enthused. "Even Ted Williams would be happy with that percentage."
I also kicked one through the uprights with Cosell. He used my shot of a pack of Bear defenders forcing Ram quarterback Dieter Brock into a fourth-quarter fumble that Marshall scooped up and took in for the final score (I was on the Bears' Wilson). None of my hotshot work from the third quarter made it, and only one of my shots was used on The Road to the Super Bowl, but what did I care? It was a trip calling those numbers, and with a lucrative career potentially at stake I'm not about to get greedy.
Until recently, I kept videocassettes of Inside the NFL and This Is the NFL at the ready. My fantasy was to have private screenings of my shots whenever people came over. "Watch closely on this next play," I imagined myself telling them. "Here's where I got so-and-so!" It would have been better than slides from Florida. Plus the music was terrific. They dressed up my shots with all kinds of themes—a bright and cheerful march for the Covert block, sinister music that reminds you of helicopter blades for the Jeter tackle and a suspenseful, building piece for the Bears' big rush. Alas, no one clamored, or even expressed much interest in seeing the films, and in time I felt I had better return them to Sabol, their rightful owner.
Sabol gave me a B. I felt the same way I did when I got a star on my spelling paper in first grade. But I made a lot of rookie mistakes, and as time has passed I've begun to wonder if he wasn't a tad generous. You never know in the film business. Your career could end tomorrow and they'd never tell you.