At first the
Viking front office remained truculent. General Manager Jim Finks told
reporters, "Joe Kapp wasn't going to play for the Vikings whether we won
our first five games or lost them. [Coach] Bud Grant and I decided in August
that Joe wouldn't play for the Vikings for the good of the organization, the
players and everybody concerned." Then he added: "Joe Kapp is now a
Patriot. Isn't that ironic?" But later Finks spoke regretfully about the
whole affair. "Sure, I said those things," he admitted. "I was mad
at the time. I'm not very proud of what happened. It's very easy not to sign
players. Anybody can do that. My job is to sign them. But I feel that I did
what 25 other general managers would have done under the circumstances. The
mistake I made was allowing a third party to come in between me and Joe.
Personally, I still feel that Joe is a hell of a guy. Nobody should make him
the heavy in this thing."
history," Kapp insisted when asked if he thought his departure would hurt
the Vikings. "Those guys are pros. They'll play for me, and they'll play
for Gary [Cuozzo]." However, as a Minnesota veteran said last week, "We
kept hoping that Joe would come back somehow, but when we realized that the
front office had let him go to Boston and there was no way for him to come
back, we realized that our owners were more interested in keeping us
ballplayers in line than they were in winning a championship. It'll take us a
while to get over that feeling."
doldrums are Boston's joys. The city of Harvard and MIT, the Arboretum, the
Athenaeum, a highway known as the Circumferential and a thousand other cultural
delights nurses deep sadistic impulses, and its favorite athletes have always
been the bangers and the hitters, the Jim Loscutoffs, Ted Greens and Derek
Sandersons—and now the Joe Kapps.
Patriots have had losing seasons since 1966, they have never ceased to hit.
They were the first AFL team to blitz, and they have always been noted for
their front four. The pass rushers are now known as "The Boston Pops"
and the ferocious special teams as "The Boston Bomb Squad." Last season
a single placard hung in the Patriot dressing room. It read: HIT. Larry
Eisenhauer, "The Wild Man," the defensive end who retired this year,
used to warm up by running into the locker room wall. Linebacker John Bramlett,
"The Bull," was released by a St. Louis Cardinal farm team after he ran
through a center-field wall in Tulsa. Earthquake Jim Hunt, a defensive tackle,
created more fumbles than any player in AFL history. Offensive Guard Mike
Montler, 6'4", 270, was signed after he wiped out Mean Joe Greene in a
Senior Bowl game, and is fond of lifting a trouser leg and revealing a hideous
tattoo bearing the caption "The Monster." Offensive Guard Lennie St.
Jean, "The Strongboy," a lumberjack from northern Michigan, once
slashed his hand with an ax and went about his business after sewing it up with
Patriot players—revel in such stories. They would rather hear about St. Jean's
20 stitches than about the team's offensive patterns, and they would rather see
a quarterback improvise a crunching three-yard gain than execute a classic
spiral from a classic pocket. Ex-Cardinal Linebacker Dave Meggyesy used to say
that Kapp was the "deviant" individualistic type of personality that is
on the way out in pro football, but deviants are far from passé in Boston. The
Patriots may win or lose when Kapp takes over but they won't play to a lot of
"I think I'll
like it here," Kapp said last week. "Some wise guy predicted I'd be
overwhelmed by all the culture in Boston, but what the hell—my wife goes to the
ballet in Sacramento, why can't we go to the ballet in Boston? What's the
difference? Anyway, the Mexicans had a culture in California 300 years before
there even was a Boston—that's what I told one reporter, just to keep him on
his toes." He beckoned confidentially. "To tell you the truth," he
said softly, "I'm very impressed by the culture here. Don't forget—I'm the
guy that gets impressed by everything. Why, the other day I looked out on the
river and there was the Harvard crew rowing their asses off. Now that's
impressive. I mean, the Harvard Crimson and all."
But was he
getting a little tired of wandering about from place to place? "Sure,"
Kapp said. "It used to be just Marcia and me, and we could take it, but now
there's the boy to think about, keeping him in one school and all. I like this
Boston. Maybe we'll stay here. I got to hope this is the last stop on the line
for me. But who knows? Some people are like John Unitas—they get to work with
the same team, the same signals, for 15 years. I don't know if I'd like that. I
remember Stout Steve Owen when he was coaching up at Calgary. He said, 'Joe,
I'm just a troubleshooter. I go where the trouble is.' I hope it doesn't sound
like bragging, but I feel a little bit the same way."
On Sunday, Joe
Kapp found that the trouble was at Kansas City. The time and place were out of
joint. The Kansas City defense, the equal or superior of any, had had a week to
brood over a 26-13 loss to Denver. In addition, Clive Rush had juggled his
offensive line during the week, then juggled it back again on Sunday. The
results were predictable. Harried and flustered, Mike Taliaferro threw four
interceptions in the first half, while Kapp paced the sidelines emitting roars
that could be heard in the press box.
When Kapp took
over in the second half the crowd noise was so deafening that the officials
called time and the public-address announcer said, "Please show your
sportsmanship by not drowning out the play." Sportsmanship? The crowd was
letting Joe know how glad it was to see him back where he belonged.
On his first two
plays, Kapp handed off to Carl Garrett for first downs. But it was not to last.
Kansas City stiffened and regained control. Kapp played the rest of the game,
but partly on account of his limited repertoire of plays he completed only two
of 11 passes—one for a touchdown to Bake Turner in the closing minutes—and the
final score was Kansas City 23, Boston 10.