In 1969 Clive Rush became coach. His first press conference was literally electrifying. As Rush grabbed the mike, a live wire sent a charge through him that made his hair stand on end, and he almost toppled over backward. "It was a shocking start," says Leo Monahan.
Convinced that opponents were eavesdropping, Rush endeavored to confuse them by announcing in a loud voice in the locker room, "Nance, you're playing end. Sellers, you're the tackle," all the while vigorously shaking his head "no" at the baffled players. Once, when the Pats were returning to their hotel from the Houston Astrodome, Rush complained to the driver about the roundabout route. "You don't know who you have on this bus!" he exclaimed. "We can go any route we want!" With that, he ordered the driver to stop, got out, halted traffic and airily waved the bus down a one-way street the wrong way.
Another choice morsel of Patsiana concerns Bob Gladieux, cut by Rush the Thursday before the opening game of the 1970 season. Just for the heck of it, Gladieux decided to attend the game with a friend who had a ticket. Gladieux told his friend he would join him after he talked his way in. No sooner had Gladieux passed through the gate than the P.A. boomed: "Will Bob Gladieux please report to the locker room." "What did I do wrong now?" Gladieux wondered. The message was repeated, and Gladieux finally decided to respond, but his pal, who was working on a couple of beers, failed to hear either announcement. As Gladieux walked in the locker room, Rush yelled, "Get dressed. You're activated." With only a few minutes remaining before game time, Gladieux put on a uniform and raced onto the field to join the kickoff team. "Later the guys told me how white I looked," he recalls. "I was in no shape to play. I'd been out ever since I'd got cut." Still, Gladieux made the tackle. With the announcement, "Tackle by Gladieux," his friend in the stands, half in the bag by now, almost fell off his seat. He thought he had lost a week in time.
During the 1970 season the Pats released Rush and replaced him with an assistant, John Mazur, a Notre Dame quarterback under Frank Leahy. Says Mazur, who is head coach this year, "The best thing about history is that it's past. You can only learn from it."
The man responsible for the Pats' future is Upton Bell, 33, who had served as director of player personnel for the Colts. His late father, Bert, owned the Eagles and was NFL commissioner before Pete Rozelle. "From the time I was six, my father was taking me to bars," says Bell. "I spent more time around adults than I did kids. We'd be out until two in the morning talking to owners, officials, players. My father got the owners to agree to the draft by not drinking for three days." After leaving college, Bell got a job as an errand boy for the Colts. Later, he did the drafting for Baltimore, and the first thing he did upon joining the Pats was to beef up the front office. (The New England press guide proudly features photographs of the 11 girls who comprise "the talented secretarial force.") The office, however, is still at Fenway Park. Says Bell: "This franchise has been in left field for a long time—both literally and figuratively."
Bell hired Peter Hadhazy as his assistant. Formerly with the NFL office, Hadhazy knows all the technicalities and rules of the league. Rommie Loudd, a former Patriot linebacker, was named director of pro personnel ("Trades are just as important as drafting," says Bell), and Bucko Kilroy, from Dallas, was put in charge of college scouting and given five full-time assistants. Bell also made the Pats a member of the CEPO scouting combine. Before the season began, Bell ran 180 players through camp, and, between signing free agents, trading and watching the waiver list, he not only improved the Pats immensely but lowered their average age from 28 to 25. "I want-to get youth and let them make their mistakes," he says. "It'll pay off." Among the new faces are Linebacker Steve Kiner from the Cowboys, Cornerback and Receiver Ron Gardin from the Colts and Vataha, a 5'10" wide receiver from Stanford. Vataha, who once worked a summer at Disneyland as Bashful the Dwarf ("Actually I was the biggest dwarf they had. I used to stoop over a lot"), is a crowd favorite not only because of his size but because he can anticipate what his old teammate Plunkett will do when in trouble.
In keeping with Pat tradition, Bell has had a few bizarre experiences of his own. Joe Kapp refused to sign the standard player contract and was ordered out of camp by Rozelle. (More recently, the Joe Kapp Peanut Gallery, a Vancouver bar, had contract problems when it balked at hiring union help.) Phil Olsen, the first-round draft choice in 1970, skipped off to the Rams on an overlooked technicality in his contract. "I goofed," Bell admits. Rozelle awarded the Pats the Rams' No. 1 draft choice and additional compensation to be named later. However, Bell snatched a high draft choice from the Chiefs when he claimed Guard Mo Moorman on injured waivers (Bell then gave him back), and he landed a fifth-round pick when the Raiders tried to sneak rookie Center Warren Koegel through waivers.
Bell was in the stands in Memphis last month when the Pats played a night exhibition against the Jets. To his horror, both teams showed up wearing white shirts and white helmets, and resembled 22 moths fluttering under the lights. In the confusion, Plunkett drilled a perfect pass into the arms of a Jet linebacker standing in splendid isolation.
There was more confusion when Schaefer Stadium opened. A horrendous traffic jam ensued, and some fans could not get to within five miles of the game. Bell climbed up on the roof where he saw so many lights that, "I felt like Nero." Then Foxboro officials threatened to close the stadium for an exhibition with the Falcons since the toilets did not work properly because of insufficient water pressure. Workmen were rushed in, and 16 hours before game time a task force of 320 people, including Billy Sullivan, gathered to flush the 640 toilets in the stadium. (A number of fans had called the Pats, volunteering to lend a hand in what became known as Superflush.) To the timed countdown of one, two, three, all 640 toilets were flushed. This represented the absolute maximum halftime peak use. Most of the toilets were flushed with success, and the Pats got permission to play. Jack Nicholson, Pat PR man, took the Schaefer static in stride. "Pat memorabilia," he says.
Schaefer Stadium, built in just under a year for only $6.2 million, has clean lines, and there is not a bad seat in the house. The players revere it. On the night of their first exhibition they went into raptures over the carpeting in the locker room and, thus inspired, went out and beat the Giants. The fans went crazy. Three of these manic fans have their own Boston radio show, Sports Huddle, and they called up New York funeral homes to see if they wanted the body of the Giants. "They're dead, you know." (Previously the Sports Huddle gang had called London to see if the Pats could get some guards for the offensive line from Buckingham Palace.)