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Although Morton had one well-publicized and rather ridiculous fracas with the Dallas police, and another time was badly beaten up by hoods outside a New York nightclub, his style of living has never been half as wild as many people would like to suppose. Some of his attitudes are almost prim. "I'm a closed person," he said. "I don't have many friends. I like the company of just a few. I guess that's why I was never a very good fraternity boy. But for a while there, I wasn't very careful. When you're in the spotlight and you're seen laughing it up, people imagine all sorts of things."
Morton groaned and stretched his legs. "My knees are really sore," he said. From football? He grinned. "No, from driving the bumper cars out at the State Fair. I drove in a circle for hours, banging into everybody."
Like all pro quarterbacks who have been around very long (this is his ninth year), Morton has been hurt several times. His passing arm was operated on after both the 1969 and 1970 seasons. In 1970 he had an injured shoulder and a bad elbow and could barely throw the ball, but he started ahead of Staubach, and Dallas won seven straight games at the end of the season before losing to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. The next year Landry switched back and forth between Morton and Staubach until Dallas was 4-3, then decided to stay with Staubach. The Cowboys won 10 in a row and beat Miami in the Super Bowl, where Staubach was the Most Valuable Player. "I have to admit it, Roger played almost perfectly during that string of games," Morton said.
Morton walked away from Landry cursing when he was benched in the playoff against San Francisco last year. But soon he was back at the field phone, encouraging Staubach. "I still thought I'd be the man against Washington the next week," he said. "When I wasn't, I was very upset. Landry never bothered to explain it to me. He just said he had a 'feeling.' I think Tom understands a little better now how that affected me. I've learned a lot of football from him, and I think he's changing, learning more about people."
Morton and Staubach have adjoining lockers at the practice clubhouse, at Texas Stadium and at most of the road games. Reporters gather around the one who has been more prominent, and the other can always hear what is said. "That can make for some awkward moments," Morton said, "but Roger and I both know the score. He's a compassionate guy. This has been a really terrible year for me. I'm healthy, and I'm ready and I want to play."
Morton is affected by the fans' booing but attempts to conceal it. "I always try to be nice to the kids," he said. "The adults I don't care so much about." Allowed to call their own plays this season while Landry worked more with the defense, Morton says he and Staubach do not run a game the same way. "I believe you have to set the rhythm early with the guys up front," he said. "Not too much razzle-dazzle. The guys up front have to decide they're in a fight, and put their heads down and do the job or you can't win. That's the way I do it. The way Roger does it is the way Roger does it."
In October Dallas lost three of four games. Staubach started all of them. "This has been the first time in a long time that everything wasn't right on the track for Roger," Morton said. "It's been a lot for him to go through. As for me, how'd you like the way I handled the ball on field goals and extra points?"
By now Wellingtons was packed. The dance floor was a blob of flailing limbs. Some girls were acting as if they had lost something at Morton's table. "I love to dance!" a girl was shouting. A jet screamed down across the lake.
Morton slipped out and went home.