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NOW THE AFL OWNS THE FOOTBALL
Edwin Shrake
January 27, 1969
Nine years ago almost nobody watched AFL games, but today the league has full houses every Sunday, some of the most talented quarterbacks in professional football-and the NFL's scalp
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January 27, 1969

Now The Afl Owns The Football

Nine years ago almost nobody watched AFL games, but today the league has full houses every Sunday, some of the most talented quarterbacks in professional football-and the NFL's scalp

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"Every club in our league that plays an AFL club is going to be ready, now that this has happened," said Elijah Pitts, the Green Bay halfback. "The game means something now, with Joe Namath and John Sample and fellows like that who, ah, express their opinions freely."

"Eight years ago, when I signed with the AFL, I frankly thought I was starting a step down from the NFL," said Kansas City Tight End Fred Arbanas. "I haven't felt that way in two or three years. Green Bay beat us in the first Super Bowl, but they didn't whip us physically and I knew then that the two leagues were virtually equal. The public has been brainwashed. Some writers have bad-mouthed the AFL almost constantly and have influenced people who don't understand football. The Jets-Colts game was no upset. The players know that."

The Colts were no doubt wary of just such an occurrence. Shula worked them hard at their Boca Raton training camp before the game. One night during Super Bowl week Baltimore Halfback Tom Matte was talking to Dallas Flanker Lance Rentzel, who suggested it was unlikely the Jets could score against the Colts. "Don't say that," said Matte. "The Jets have a much better team than you think they have. I'm not kidding. I've seen the films. This is going to be a tough game."

It was even tougher than Matte had anticipated. Baltimore could have won it with a bit more accurate passing, but nobody can say the Jets did not deserve to win. That is an indication of how close the leagues are now—that you can go back in the Super Bowl and pick out a few plays that could have turned the game around and by doing so you are inventing alibis for the NFL rather than for the AFL. With Johnny Unitas, Jurgensen and Starr near the end of their careers—and Namath, Lamonica, Bob Griese and John Hadl among the AFL quarterbacks who are just entering the bloom of theirs—the AFL has now thoroughly established itself, at least until the owners' realignment meeting in March. If Jim Turner leads the AFL in scoring again next season they ought to hear about it even in Baltimore.

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