Tom makes few
mistakes, he hardly ever fumbles, but he lacks one quality that you sort of
expect in a star. Ability. Tom has no illusions about himself, I'm certain of
that, but the sportswriters needed a new Colt star and Tom was not about to
contradict them. The fact is, he responded beautifully to the role. In the 1968
NFL championship game, in which we walloped Cleveland 34-0, he actually scored
But Tom Matte in
the Pro Bowl? That bothered me, it really did, because having had a 10-year
ticket on the 50 and having been able to enjoy pro football with few
interruptions by coaches wanting me to get in there, I had developed a great
romance with the game. I'm one of those purists, meaning that I love football
for the sport itself. I hate anything I see that detracts from the sport, and
that includes my own performances. When the coaches showed game films it made
me sick to watch myself play. Unlike Matte, however, I never grew sufficiently
important in the scheme of things to expose the sport to ridicule. Ten years in
a row they passed me by for the Pro Bowl.
But as I said,
there were two reasons why I decided to get out. The second was that football
was no longer fun. During my first years at Baltimore there had been an
intimacy among teammates. We ran together, off the field as well as on. You
might say we hung together for security. But as the age of affluence came upon
us, the man playing alongside you became a stranger unless you happened to work
for the same brokerage house.
Let me put it
this way. Often you hear a player say of a teammate, "He's a fierce
competitor, that fellow. He wants to win whether he's playing football, cards
or whatever." That's one of your real white-haired clichés that players
mouth when a reporter is pressing them for a quote about a teammate. But if I
tell you that my old teammate Bobby Boyd, who's now an assistant on the Colt
coaching staff, was the toughest competitor I've ever known, I'm speaking from
firsthand knowledge. Here's a bald little guy who looks like one of Snow
White's dwarfs, but it wasn't by accident that he intercepted 57 passes, the
third-highest total in NFL history. He stole the quarterbacks' signals. He
stole them on principle. You see, Bobby entered no form of competition without
first casing it for an edge, and getting to know that aspect of him was part of
the fun of being a player.
there we were at the bar of the Golden Arm one night when for one reason or
another Bobby and I began arguing whether I knew how to ride a horse. I
proposed to bet $200 that I could ride a horse from the bar to my apartment, a
distance of about four miles.
"Can I phone
the police and let 'em know you're on your way?" said Bobby.
"Then I don't
like the bet."
right," I said to Bobby, "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll ride the
horse buck naked. I'll pull a Lady Godiva."
over the proposition, then said, "I still don't like the bet."