"Sacrifice your body," cried a still small voice in my head.
"How about my pride?" cried a louder, more vibrant one.
And the fans' voices did me no good at all. They were groaning and yelling and hooting, especially when I tripped over the pitcher's mound deep in the end zone and went sprawling, tearing the knee of my pants. "Here! Let me do it! He can't do it!" several adolescent boys cried out. "Oh, God!" some witness cried in perverse delight.
"Now you know what we have to put up with," Bradshaw said softly.
I persisted raggedly, and finally Hanratty and Bradshaw were through warming up. I took a nice soft one from Hanratty over my shoulder, spiked the ball to spite the crowd and trotted hangdog over to the sidelines. Dan Rooney looked away.
There was an 18-year-old girl around the pool at the Gene Autry Hotel, where we were staying, who was so wonderful-looking it made you mad. I'm not even going to try to describe her. She wore a terry-cloth bikini, which you could not have dried off a little mouse with. I think she was why the Steelers lost, if she bothered them as much as she did me. She was there with her mother. A Steeler went out with her one night. It was a chaste evening—her mother and a teammate were along—but the next morning a non-player made a funny, disparaging, indelicate comment on the Steeler's ineptitude, socially and athletically.
I relayed the remark to Linebacker Andy Russell shortly before my receiving experience began. He didn't really laugh. "That's cold-blooded, as the guys say," he said. When I came to the sidelines in disgrace Russell was standing there. I was filled, as I approached him, with the realization that as tight as I might be with the Steelers, for a scribe, I didn't have the license to exchange cold-blooded talk with them concerning on-the-field matters. I shifted the focus of my cold-bloodedness. "The fans hate me," I said. "I hate the fans."
"You loved that, didn't you?" said Russell, smiling.
Loved it? I was startled. I felt terrible. I had dropped all those passes....
"Journalistically," I conceded.