The letter read: "Dear Miss Morris, I really enjoy you, but I can't say the same for your brother. If you care to get together some night I could pick up a six-pack and meet you somewhere. Any Tuesday night would be fine as my wife has Bingo that night. Also on Wednesday, she goes to her mother's and every other Friday she teaches weight lifting. Sincerely...."
For Jeannie Morris, wife of the former Chicago Bear wide receiver, Johnny; mother of four children aged 9 to 18; author of
: A Short Season: newspaper columnist: onetime harsh critic and respected adversary of the Bears and Papa Bear George Halas himself: sports announcer for WMAQ, Chicago; and a recent returnee from a yearlong sabbatical traveling with her family in a camper throughout Europe, it is her favorite letter. She says it is a good example of the "semi-mash" notes one in her position gets. It is typical of the mentality in Gary, Ind., from which it came, she adds.
Morris was riding in a black limousine to Tulane Stadium in New Orleans on a dismal, rainy Super Bowl Sunday. Having awakened at 5 a.m. to a clap of thunder, taken breakfast in bed while her husband slept and stumbled downstairs to meet the other passengers, Morris was on her way to her first live appearance on national television.
She is a transplanted Californian who grew up listening to football games on the car radio out in the driveway. In college she dated "eggheads" while her husband went around, she says, "chasing skirts." This is the second marriage for both, and they surely must be the only husband-wife sports-announcing combination in the land. Johnny already had concluded his Super Bowl chores for WMAQ and NBC, but Jeannie was in the thick of hers. She had been chosen by the network to assist in its coverage of the big game. "I'm starting out too curly," she said, touching up her hair. "I'm going to end up too straight."
At 10 a.m. Morris watched a tape of the pregame show on which she had interviewed Steeler Owner Art Rooney. It is a cynic's fervent plea that an enemy of Rooney be found forthwith, but, as Morris observed, "He is one of the grand people." In the interview Rooney said, "When you lose, you're dumb. I'm the only really dumb owner left in the league." On the same program Jack Perkins of NBC news in Los Angeles decided football was "a business"; Joe Na-math dwelt on "the enormity of it all"; and Don Meredith called Steeler Coach Chuck Noll " Chuck Knox." Morris got to ask three questions.
Waiting in the interview room hard by the Steelers' dressing quarters a few minutes later, Morris sewed a belt loop on her raincoat. "You'll have to leave, ma'am," a guy in an orange hat said, "the players are arriving," Morris said she was supposed to stay. "O.K.," said orange hat, "but don't peek through these doors."
"Tell the Steelers not to peek over here, either," Morris said. "There are women in here."
Shortly thereafter Morris was fitted with an earphones-antenna apparatus she would need for her postgame appearance. She was to interview the crowd outside the players' locker rooms, an area that even before the game was surging with inebriated humanity. "Is this going national?" one man screamed at the NBC personnel. "What the hell is this? Answer me."
As she walked through the crowd, Morris muttered under her breath something about danger. "Maybe if I get knocked down, I'll finally make John Chancellor," she said.