What had happened? What had happened to convert a patently pedestrian event—12 men pulling on a rope—into an emotional firestorm? One thing was certain: a tug-of-war, that small-time kid thing, had in 16 minutes transformed a TV non-event into a milestone sporting performance, a primeval confrontation, and reached into the guts of nearly 2,000 people. Dick Button, still shaking, spoke for many of them when he said, "Nothing—nothing, not even my own Olympic victories—has ever moved me like that."
And one thing that had happened to the participants was easy to determine. It had damned near killed them. Some could not unlock their hands from the rope, and had to have their thumbs and fingers pried apart. Most of the Steelers lay in their self-dug graves for minutes after the tug-of-war ended. When O.J. Simpson knelt by Franco Harris, face down in the sand, Harris raised his head with difficulty to plead, through crusted lips, "Can you come back in 10 minutes? I'll still be right here." He was, too.
The Dodgers deserve a good deal more than a postscript to all this. After all, they won the thing, by a score of 5-2 over the Vikings. First they beat Oakland, then the Vikings, a team of substantially larger men, establishing themselves as superb athletes in all the events. And they had defeated an exhausted Minnesota team in the final tug-of-war—the Vikings, in fact, won only the running and the swimming relays.
Later Mick Tingelhoff and Dave Osborn tried to speak of their experience in the epic tug-of-war. How did the expenditure of energy compare with a football game? "Oh, more. Much more," Tingelhoff said. "More than two football games."
"It was an hour before I could get my gloves off," said Osborn. "It was the greatest experience, the greatest victory, I've ever had in sport. Better than any football game or anything else. We came here to beat the Steelers, and people who see that tug-of-war on television will remember it when they've forgotten who played in the 1975 Super Bowl."