SI Vault
Alex Kroll
September 22, 1969
As the gun ended the 1969 Super Bowl, Larry Grantham, the New York Jets' linebacker, went into a spasm. Or was it a free-form dance? He quivered and leaped, sprinted and stopped dead, pirouetted, shook himself, sprinted again and jumped over the bench. All the while he was bellowing at the top of his lungs and pointing his right index finger to heaven. Isadora Duncan would have approved.
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September 22, 1969

The Last Of The Titans

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The playing field had been frozen all week, and the Oilers, who could afford them, wore sneakers. We took, the field in nongripping cleats. Despite the 20� temperature almost 2,000 people had wandered in. They watched the Oilers sneaker to our 25-yard line. From the 35, George Blanda threw into the left flat, trying for a first down. Wayne Fontes, playing his first game since chipping an anklebone on Thanksgiving, intercepted and chugged 84 yards down the sideline for the score. Delirium. 7-0. You Guys' favor. (Sometimes we called ourselves the You Guys, which was derived from Bulldog's habit of yelling, "Hey, you guys, come over here!")

The Oilers sneakered back and tied the score. The temperature began to drop. People began to leave. Johnny Green hobbled back to pass, but Fred Glick intercepted and set up the second Oiler score. The game froze in place at 14-7. Then Fontes intercepted another pass and, with Grosscup and Green alternating, giving us one good knee out of a possible four at quarterback, we moved inside their 30. Bill Shockley booted a field goal to make it 14-10.

At 15�, the Oilers' joints must have locked in place, because our defense held them to a field goal. A few minutes later we had the ball at midfield. Green called a left flat pass to Art Powell. My job was to box out the right defensive end and then drift out and cover the flat in case the pass was intercepted. Which it was. Green's pass died about 10 yards short of Powell and hit Freddy Glick smack in the midsection. Glick and I took off on a collision course. The Oilers formed a wall of blockers for him five or six yards from the sideline, but I slipped behind them. Glick picked up momentum. I picked up momentum. We seemed to be charging through a tunnel toward each other. Then, just as I turned my head—the wrong way—to take him on my right shoulder, Glick decided to hell with it. He cut to the sideline to go out of bounds. His knee drilled my head back into my shoulder pads. I felt like a turtle. Then, for about 25 seconds, I napped on the frozen mud. I remember being dumped on a stretcher, but I felt detached from the whole scene. From football. From the game. From the Titans.

By the time my head had cleared the score had gone to 38-10, Houston's favor. And since Dr. James Nicholas, the team's orthopedic consultant, was testing me for a broken neck, I got to sit out the entire second half.

The final day of Titan football ended with the score 44-10 favor Oilers and 50 to 75 onlookers present, not including the two teams. Still there seemed to be a small personal consolation for coming to the park that day. The game had been billed as the last ever in the Polo Grounds. Shea Stadium was supposed to be ready for the Mets' opening day in April. So I had seen the end of a historic ball park. The Polo Grounds, where John McGraw and Bill Terry, Tuffy Leemans and Charlie Conerly had built legends, had seen its last legend. Us. And for myself, I would be the last man ever carried out of the Polo Grounds on a stretcher. It was a record of sorts.

But the completion of Shea Stadium was delayed a whole year. Early the next spring the Mets' Rod Kanehl ran into the outfield wall and had to be carried out. So even this consolation for playing with the Titans was not to be granted. It came later. To Grantham, Maynard, Johnson and Mathis in the Super Bowl. To the rest of us in the secure knowledge that we had been the last major league team to play almost entirely for laughs.

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