SI Vault
Morton Sharnik
September 18, 1972
It is the week of the Big Game and some of the players, conduits to the head coach—which means they are close to the boss—are exhorting the unchosen. Black studs as well as white dudes—Field Hands and Animals, The Boomer calls them—are banging on the metal lockers, stomping on the concrete floor, shouting, "Whoo-e-e, we're going to do it! Yeah! We're going to win! Right on!"
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September 18, 1972

Strong Impulses And A Short Fuse

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As might be guessed, The Boomer's game has its own special quality, generally expressed in direct confrontation. "It's a simple issue of me-him," says The Boomer. "Who's the strongest, who's the most determined, who has the highest threshold of pain and who runs the best trick bag." The premise is to try for a quick encounter, so The Boomer sets up from a unique sprinter's stance very close to the line of scrimmage. He holds his right arm high, blocks the slap and then, like a good puncher, pops his shoulder and punches to the rusher's neck. "If the man comes low there are some choicer areas, like the spleen and liver, that I can hit," says Brown.

Technically the regulations permit The Boomer's riposte, but the rules were not intended to allow this kind of aggression. The Boomer's confession will cause some NFL officials to blanch, but he is not fooling around—he's punching. His bare-knuckle attack is an honest reprisal. By the rules, the defensive end is limited to one slap, and that on the first step. Unfortunately, line judges seem unable to count either the steps or the slaps, and tackles claim they would be punch-drunk if they depended on the rules to protect them.

Around the league solicitous veterans warn rookies, especially big strong college weight lifters, not to run at The Boomer. "The Boomer pulls plenty iron," they say. One high draft choice with misplaced confidence in his strength and a conviction that The Boomer could be had, went head to head with him. "That boy was like a cabbage, all head and no butt, and I ate him," says Brown.

The Boomer looks for these tasty morsels—defensive ends who'll run to his enormous strength. "If it's a pass," he says, "I set close to the line and pin this brave bull right into neutral. His feet are churning, he's grunting like hell and going nowhere. Then I look through the birdcage, give him a kiss and say, 'Sissy.' That plays on his head because I've destroyed his strength, crushed his pride."

Unfortunately for The Boomer, he must deal increasingly with the elite. But neither his battered knees nor the growing number of savvy and savage defensive ends has diminished his ardor for "me-him" confrontations. At the moment The Boomer is happy in Oakland. Raider Boss Al Davis is one Barracuda he might be able to live with. If not? "I'm like a cardsharp, I have to have a game," says Brown. "If I don't play at Oakland, then I'll play somewhere else. I'll keep moving because somebody always needs a professional tackle. Perhaps one day I'll wind up with a carpet slipper on my helmet, and that won't bother me, just as long as the checks don't bounce and they have some big stud for me to bump heads with. Then I'll be happy."

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