Our game with Boston must go down in history as signaling the end of the locker-room speech, oldstyle. The impassioned pregame rhetoric that had been developed by Bill Roper at Princeton and Knute Rockne at Notre Dame had passed like a torch to Tad Jones, Frank Leahy, Bear Bryant, and so on. The torch was extinguished forever when it reached the hands of Harry Wismer. The team bus picked us up in front of The Kenmore hotel in Boston. George Sauer climbed on and said, "Let's go." The bus driver refused to release the emergency brake. "Not until I'm paid," he said. "Cash." To prove his reasonableness he also said, "I don't have to have the round-trip fare. Just one way." Sauer looked at the players, but we sat on our wallets. Disgusted, he returned to the hotel to cash a check. Here again he had trouble. The cashier had grave suspicions about Wismer's money. The bus, of course, was in bedlam. Whatever pregame tension anybody might have felt had been dissipated. From this point on the Patriot game became a lark. To say the team was loose is to give us too much credit for gravity. Somewhere George came up with the cash. "Now, let's go," he ordered. The driver started the motor. Just then, a rap, rap, rapping came at the team bus door. It was Harry. He clambered up the steps, and it was apparent that he had spiced his pregame meal with a generous amount of gin. With him, being dragged by the left arm and looking terribly embarrassed, was his wife, the ex-widow of Zwillman. Harry surveyed his unpaid team.
"Fellas," he began momentously, "this has been a rotten season." He paused to see if that had sunk in. "It's been a rotten season," he repeated, "but it's not over yet."
The ex-Mrs. Zwillman squirmed. The bus driver revved the motor.
"But today," Harry said, making a flourish with his free arm, "is my wife's birthday. And I want you to win this one for her."
Nobody laughed. Nobody said anything. Harry took his wife off the bus and disappeared into the Kenmore. Few of us ever saw him again.
We took the field in high spirits. We felt like we were playing a pickup game. No pressure. Play for laughs. Which is almost how I'd played tackle all year. By this time I weighed only 216 pounds, light even for a running back. Out of plain fear or desire to survive, I worked out my own theory of blocking. On the first pass of the game I determined to block for an end run. "That'll confuse 'em," I told Mischak. Mischak was doubtful. On the snap count I fired out, chugging my legs, trying with all my might to block Larry Eisenhauer into the middle of the line. Eisenhauer, all the while, could see what looked like a straight drop-back pass developing in the backfield. But he wasn't completely sure. He had to protect, for a second and a half, against the remote possibility of a run. By that time even if he stepped right over me he couldn't get to the quarterback.
Next pass play I blocked straight up in the classic style. Then my ultimate block, the runaway pass block. Against all logic, when the ball was snapped I turned and ran straight backward about four yards, stopped and turned back to the line. The sheer stupidity of this move held Larry in wonder for a split second. So it went. By a random combination of run blocking, runaway blocking, pass-blocking, tripping, cutting and holding, I managed to keep my man in check on most passes. Not all.
While we improvised like mad sandlotters, completing long passes on fourth-and short-yardage situations, the Patriots came in tense and we led 10-3 at the half. "Stay loose," Grantham warned. He knew that if we started taking ourselves seriously we'd blow it. But we did blow it. Because we stopped taking them seriously.
We were leading 17-10 in the fourth quarter when Curley Johnson backed into the end zone to punt. He took the snap, stepped forward and was struck by inspiration. Though he is not too shifty, nor fast, he took off around right end. And almost made the line of scrimmage. We lost to Boston 24-17, and the next week Buffalo beat us 20-3. The Titan-Wismer combine was only one game—vs. the Oilers—from being over.
The league had undertaken the responsibility for paying us, so it looked like Harry would lose the franchise. Bulldog began to talk with the air of a man standing under a sword. Still he urged us to make a last great effort for the Houston game. "This is the final game of the season," he pointed out rightly. "There probably won't even be any New York Titans next year. So most of you are playing in your ast pro game. Most of you aren't good enough to play anywhere else." So much for the pep talk. While there was considerable truth in Bulldog's speech, it seemed inappropriate only five minutes before kickoff.