So, fans, that brings us to the halfway point in the NFL season, and here is how things stack up: The Denver Broncos are 1-0 after tweaking the beaks of the Seattle Seahawks 40-17 Sunday at Mile High Stadium. If the Broncos beat Green Bay in Milwaukee on Sunday, the prestrike AFC championship could be theirs. After that, the NFL may be bringing in a lot of fat guys and former drywall installers for your viewing enjoyment.
It'll take some getting used to. On Sunday, for instance, Bronco quarterback John Everyway threw four touchdown passes, went 22 of 32 for 338 yards, scrambled clairvoyantly and even tackled well, saving a TD by riding down a fumble-toting linebacker making hay for the goal line. Now, if the players do strike, are Broncomaniacs supposed to get quarterback Harvey Schmedlap, former flag football star at the NYU business school, and like it?
And how about the guy who takes over for Seattle linebacker Brian Bosworth? Will he issue pen-pulsing quotes like, "I can't wait to get my hands on John Elway's boyish face"? Will he follow it up with monster hits (two retina-rattlers on Elway—both clean—and a fumble-forcer on running back Gerald Willhite)? Will he handle the fans, like the Denver intelligentsia, who anoint his head with beer, sometimes still in the bottle? And what about his hair? You think you just learn these things by Bozmosis?
If there is a play stoppage, the worst place in the country to be manning a Suicide Prevention Line will be Denver, where there are four sports talk shows every day and everybody speaks Broncomania. If Denver is 2-0, with Elway playing his way and the dubious defense holding its own, there'll be wrist-slashing parties all over town. "I know I'll be depressed," says Broncos coach Dan Reeves.
But sooner or later, all strikes end, and Reeves will still have beaten Seattle, the first- or second-best team in the AFC this year, depending on whether you like Sunday's winner or Sunday's loser. "I still want to keep this in perspective," said Reeves. "We're not that much better than Seattle."
It's true, they're not. It's just that before the game, Seattle looked so Gibraltarish it was hard to peer into your crystal ball and not see Hawks. Especially because, since its blowout Super Bowl loss, Denver has more new faces than the Delta Airlines advisory board. The defense alone has eight starters either playing new positions or just being plain new.
The most alarmingly late change was among the linebackers, where former defensive end Simon Fletcher was moved to outside linebacker, a position he'd played as often as he'd performed neurosurgery, which is to say never. "I expect them to run at me," said Fletcher. (He was right. Fletcher was in for 21 plays in the first half Sunday, and the Seahawks ran his way 11 times.) The Broncos moved All-Pro linebacker Karl (Have Position, Will Travel) Mecklenberg from inside to outside, to give Denver that all-the-rage New York Giants look, and moved Rulon Jones from left end to right end, Andre Townsend from end to noseguard and outside linebacker Jim Ryan to the inside. Forget knowing the defense; how long will it be before the players know where to stand in the huddle?
And everybody was worrying about new cornerback Mark Haynes, the unloved replacement for the well-loved Louis Wright. Haynes had a bad '86, doesn't talk to the local press, is in no danger of winning the team's Most Inspirational Award, and is generally thought not to fit in. And you know what? Haynes agrees—to that last part. "I am an outsider," he says. "I like my independence. Don't try to clone me. Clone me and I'm gone. I'm not much into beers with the guys after practice."
Meanwhile, Seattle was coming off a five-game winning streak from the end of '86 and...AND!...they got the Boz, who is the biggest thing to hit Seattle since Gore-Tex. Seattleites are in orbit over the Boz and his commando haircut, the new King Dome. Why, newspapers are even quoting Boz's mother. "I'm glad Boz was the third child," she said. "Because if he'd been the first, there wouldn't have been any more." The Boz made a poster—The Land of Boz—featuring you-know-who as the Wizard and Playboy Playmate Ava Fabian as Dorothy. Then somebody made a Boz video, sung to the revived hit La Bamba—"La-la, la, la Bosworth...la, la, la Bosworth...." The town lavished gifts on him, including a free personalized driveway with BOZ and his uniform number embossed in stones (personalized driveway?), free beer, free $350 Italian shoes and, courtesy of the Seattle AIDS prevention society, 100 free condoms.
Not that Boz is hitting the town much. "I can't go out," he says. "It's a zoo." One day, word got out that he was playing golf with three other Seattle Mohawks, er, Seahawks, and soon they were playing with a gallery on every hole. More than once, Boz hit his drive in the fairway only to see a young Bozkin dash out and scoop it up as a souvenir. Worse, Boz got stopped for a traffic ticket one afternoon, and while the officer was writing him up, he heard his favorite radio station's traffic helicopter reporting that the Boz was being written up for a traffic ticket.