Unsinkable Larry Brown (see cover) had just run for 191 yards and one touchdown and caught a pass for another in Washington's 23-16 victory over the Giants in New York, and now he was in the locker room wearily slipping the questions of gang-rushing reporters.
Somehow a drunk appeared and began to bait Brown. And suddenly, as the intruder was hustled out, Brown shifted gears. It was like all those times during the afternoon when Giant defenders seemed to have him hemmed in, only to discover that they had converged behind him, or he had run through them at the level of their ankles, or they had laid hot hands on him only to have him melt away. This time, however, he took off talking.
"I'm on top of New York and you resent it," he crowed. "I came from the ghetto in Pittsburgh, from the Hill District. I used to play in the streets. With no equipment. I love to win in New York. I had beer thrown on me, and oranges. I don't get all those endorsements like Joe Namath. A lot of backs get more attention, but they don't produce the put-out I put out!"
Teammate Roy Jefferson was delighted. "Rap on, Rap!" he cried. "You're like one of those Baptist preachers. You gonna keep 'em in session."
And Redskins all around Brown chortled and whooped. The Giants had come close to beating them, with recycled Quarterback Norm Snead throwing 25 completions for 258 yards. But on a controversial play Washington Linebacker Chris Hanburger had ripped the ball from the hands of New York Running Back Ron Johnson, Quarterback Billy Kilmer had run the team well after Sonny Jurgensen was injured, and, above all, Brown had his finest day ever. The Redskins' irrepressibility was high.
Head Coach George Allen was much more subdued. True, his team was 6-1, best in the conference, and true, he had beaten the Giants—whose owner, Wellington Mara, was among those executives who tried to have him expelled from the league last spring after Allen had traded draft choices he did not own—but Jurgensen's left Achilles' tendon was torn. There were nine more games to play before the Super Bowl. And Allen was already worrying about how to keep his players happy the rest of the season.
Both Allen's and New York Coach Alex Webster's signatures adorn a recently issued athletes-for-Nixon poster, the most prominent feature of which is a big photo of the President hobnobbing with Allen. What both coaches try to promote, however, sounds more like an old Hubert Humphrey slogan: The Football of Happiness. Politics aside, it is a policy that could never work for two coaches in the same stadium on the same afternoon.
For the Redskins, happiness depends upon such things as ice cream, defense, a $400 helmet, a dead leg—and ultimately upon such scores as the one they produced against New York. The texture of the Giants' felicity, going into the game, was harder to come to grips with, even if you do not quibble with Snead's calling the team both "close-knit" and "a loose bunch" in the same breath. Snead was happy with the Giants because after 11 years as a journeyman he was leading the conference in passing, with a 65.9 completion percentage.
"Personalities fit in better some places than others," says Snead, whose arm has always been respected but whose field generalship has been tried and rejected by three teams. Snead has never established himself as a honcho—he is said to be disinclined to chew people out in the huddle—and he has never directed a winning team. So far this year, however, since there has not been enough conflict among the Giants to keep a TV family series going, Snead's mildness has fit right in. It is an atmosphere that Webster enjoys.
"Alex had the good fortune to play on excellent teams with the Giants," says Snead, "and they had fun while they played." The Giants, however, are not the kind of team Webster used to play for. Now they like to talk about character, which might be defined as what you feature when you lack talent.