His liberal education, his two degrees and his football-funded affluence have given Brown a toehold in both black and white society. More accurately, they have left him straddling the two worlds, not truly a part of either. So although he wears custom-made, $100 alpaca shirts and drives his Eldorado, Brown wants to escape the bourgeois mentality. "The bourgeoisie are bourgeois," he says. "There is no black or white. It's all the same, and I don't want to be part of it." What he would like to do is something "relevant." He wants to put his two degrees to good use in the black community. The Boomer wants to make a contribution, to return to the ghetto in some vital function—but what?
Ah, that is the question. How to contribute? Should he join an organization, and if so which one? And so The Boomer, a medically certified insomniac, stews and churns, bleating, "Sometimes I swear I'm going absolutely mad," ulcerating his ulcer and pressuring his high blood pressure, which he claims is not a result of hypertension. "It's like Wilt's so-called heart attack, which wasn't heart failure but the failure of medicine to understand the black man's unusual metabolism," says Brown. Out of hand, he dismisses all the varieties of black activists—partly because he is a free spirit but primarily because he doubts their purpose and effectiveness. "I don't believe in separatism or a back-to- Africa movement," says Brown, "so where do I go?"
Like the fan, The Boomer finds escape from the issues on the playing field. Every morning in the off-season, before sending his 5-year-old son Robert Stanford Brown II off to a Montessori school in Santa Monica, The Boomer lectures him. "Don't be ordinary, anybody can be that. Excel!" Then, as if to live up to his admonition, Brown heads for the Beverly Hills Health Club for Men, where for the next five hours he follows a routine with unyielding determination. In a roomful of middle-aged businessmen, The Boomer hefts weights. He military-presses 375 pounds, curls 205 and does endless knee extensions with a 100-pound weight strapped on to his left foot. For a finale he goes over to the Coliseum and runs up and down the steps.
In these labors Brown finds surcease from his endless internalizing. Well, not completely. He still manages a few frowns over his son. Should the boy go to a school in the black community where he would get a sense of blackness? Quickly he opts in favor of a superior education and decides that blackness will take care of itself.
"Brown has to be dedicated," says black restaurateur and man-about- Los Angeles Clarence Howard, "because sooner or later I run into all of the athletes out on the town and I've never seen Brown."
"The pressures he puts on himself are unnatural," Mix says. "The whole point of being The Boomer, never being beaten, is unreal. Yet that same drive makes him exemplary in his training routines and playing habits. The Boomer never claims star exemptions when he easily could."
Rather than rest on his laurels, The Boomer must constantly prove his invincibility. Midway through last season Brown's left knee was injured and operated on immediately. A month later, when the Raiders still could have made the playoffs, The Boomer returned to the lineup. The quickness of his recovery is thought to be a pro football record for that kind of injury, and it is, at least, a Raider record. But it was premature. Another operation was needed to correct the further damage done to the knee. The Boomer dismisses those minor impairments. It was just a small matter of pain, and he claims to have an unusually high threshold.
"The moment of The Boomer's obsolescence has not arrived," he states adamantly. As always, The Boomer is not just talking but working, and now the leg is ready. Late last spring he ran five miles seven days a week in Griffith Park. He hates running, and would avoid it if he could, and that bothers him. "It's a wrinkle in my character," he says. To prod himself he thinks about going head to head with Carl Eller of the Vikings. "That's all the inspiration I need," he laughs. "The great defensive ends are 60-minute men. That's the distinction between Eller, Deac Jones, Rich Jackson, Claude Humphrey and the ordinary rushers. These studs are tenacious. They are also bigger, faster, stronger and shrewder. They just keep coming through nonstop."
It is his recollection of a session with Rich Jackson of the Broncos that trimmed The Boomer down. "I just felt I had been going one-on-one with the Southern Pacific all day," he says. "When I walked away I was happy to have gotten a draw." To ensure there will be no more draws, Brown has cut his weight from a high of 315 with the Eagles in 1965-66 to his present 280. Even at his heaviest The Boomer had the speed to pull and lead the Eagle sweeps. The play has not worked for Philadelphia since Brown first changed the emblem on his helmet. But now he believes the additional weight may have increased the strain on his knees, both of which have been operated on twice. So, despite all the running and lifting, he often eats only one modest meal a day.
As a group, offensive tackles are scornful of others in football. The position is bloody, hard work, all of it painful. "On every play, the tackle makes body contact," explains Ron Mix. "Even in practice, when the team is running half-speed, the tackle must slick his head in."