SI Vault
Robert F. Jones
January 18, 1971
There is this one slow, sad truth about pro quarterbacks: almost to a man they are deadly dull. It is as if the game they dominate, with its brute violence and constant pain, has leeched them of precisely those qualities—fury, rage, sharpness of tongue—that make other, lesser men appear more interesting. For every Joe Namath or Joe Kapp, caustic and cocky, there are five Bart Starrs, so clean and straight and self-effacing that they make one yearn, say, for the ribald companionship of Saint Francis of Assisi. Craig Morton (see cover), suffice it to say, is no Joe Namath. Nor is he a Saint Francis, or so claim the young ladies of Dallas.
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January 18, 1971

An Act, Followed By An Act, Followed By An Act

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Nonetheless, it will take more than Togetherness to win a Super Bowl for Dallas. It will require a toughness at the finish that the Cowboys, for all their boots and spurs, have yet to demonstrate conclusively, a grit even truer than that which radiates from Morton's photo of John Wayne. Indeed, there is something suspect about Morton—something just a touch soft, just a whiff too gentle. Perhaps it is that California cool—a breeze from the Bay, where he sails in the off season with his pal Loren Howley in the 38-foot ketch Kahana. A puff of dust from the two bookstores he and Howley own in Berkeley, compounded with the revelation that Morton himself doesn't read many books. "I just finished The Godfather" he whispered last week as the fire crackled. "Now I'm into the Bible."

But mostly, the suspicion arises from the things in which the man wraps himself. Morton is a bit of an art fancier—one of his best Dallas friends is Rual Askew, who runs a gallery—and Morton's walls are hung with decorative abstracts by a chick name of Nancy Sims, and a striking orange painting centering on the head of a lovely black woman, done by another girl named Martha Gilbert.

One begins to sound...anti-intellectual. But that isn't the point, for Morton is no intellectual. He is rather, like most quarterbacks, a man of superior intelligence (his IQ is said to be 126) but primarily a man of action, a Meursault straight out of the Camusian sunlight—no sorrow, no regrets, just the act followed by the act followed by the act once again. Football, golf, skiing, sailing, tooling the freeways in his silver Porsche 911, dice, chicks, Burt Bacharach tunes and no sorrow, no regrets. The hair may be thinning but the eyes are a calm, baby blue. They have always been empty of fury.

Dinner was steak, mushrooms, crunchy salad and a Bordeaux. The conversation was muted, necessarily, but one felt that hard words, electric words, did not suit that household. Patty, a cute, perky blonde who hails from Missouri but now works in a Dallas bank, had cooked well and lovingly. "Craig doesn't seem like a jock," she said. "He's gentle, and he doesn't come on like a brute." The talk swung around to racial attitudes, and Morton shook his head sorrowfully about some of the Dallas fans. Toward the season's end, when young Thomas had come on as something of a savior, one of them had approached Morton. "He said to me, I used to think of Thomas as a nigger, but now I can see he's a good ol' colored boy.' I ended the conversation as quickly and quietly as I could."

Perhaps that's it. A quick, quiet ending. No harsh words, no lists. One is, after all, an NFL quarterback.

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