Informed that the Black Pearl himself was in the restaurant, Smith and Glover went to seek an audience with the Presence behind the wooden screen. After handshakes and "long time no sees" all around, Tommy Smith patted Pel� on the back and said, "Enjoy your meal," managing to leave behind the implication: "It may be your last."
And indeed, because of Tommy Smith, one of those "does-a-good-job, real team players," Pel� was indeed enjoying his last pregame dinner of the playoffs.
The next night, 10 minutes into the second half, Smith ran over to tackle Pel�, teammate Alex Pringle ran up behind Pel� for the same purpose and Pel� ended up on the ground. It was hard to tell from the stands if Pringle had hit Pel� in the back for a foul, or if Smith had tripped him in front for another foul—or whether Pel� had, as Smith would say later, "done the usual South American thing. If they think they can draw a foul, they take a bloody great dive. I never touched 'im."
With Pel� on the turf, the Cosmos' midfielders and defenders slowed down, quite obviously expecting the referee to stop play with a whistle for the foul. But the referee did no such thing, and the Rowdies swept the ball downfield. Defender Alex Pringle lobbed a long pass to Forward Stewart Scullion, who went in alone for a hard shot past Cosmos Goalie Shep Messing.
The goal put the Rowdies in front 2-1, and Tommy Smith watched it standing over Pel�, and Pel� watched it lying on the soft Bermuda grass of Tampa Stadium. With the goal went the Cosmos' playoff hopes.
The game had begun with Super Bowl-sized hoopla. A phalanx of cheerleaders called "Wowdies" released balloons on the field, and the playing of the theme song (The Rowdies run here, the Rowdies run there, they kick the ball around), set the 36,863 "fannies"—which is what fans are called in promotion-crazed Tampa—screaming wildly. But they had class: a special standing ovation was reserved for Pel�, the king of the league home or away.
Tampa Bay controlled almost the whole game. Their sweepers and midfielders, led by Smith, negated the threat of Pel� and Chinaglia and found holes through the Cosmos midfielders. The Cosmos were operating, too. At the end they led the Rowdies 27-24 in shots on goal, and Arnold Mausser, the Tampa Bay goalkeeper, had stopped so many hard, well-placed shots by Chinaglia that the ex-Italian star applauded him at one point, shaking his head in disbelief.
The Rowdies gained their clear edge through the play of their forwards, called "Murderers' Row"—Clyde Best, who is a square-framed Bermudian, and three Englishmen: Scullion, flamboyant Rodney Marsh and the league's leading goal scorer, Derek Smethurst.
Smethurst, a graduate of several lower-order English teams who has blossomed in his two years at Tampa, scored first at 39:57, trapping a hard shot by Marsh on his foot and firing it into the goal.
Near the end of the first half Pel� drove in a classic header to tie the score. After a severe halftime lecture by Coach Eddie Firmani on the dangers of playing Pel� too respectfully, the Rowdies came back on the field fired up. There followed the fateful meeting of Pel� and Smith and Pringle at midfield, and after that, all that remained was for Marsh, unassisted, to curve in goal No. 3, the icer. "Worldwide is a different matter, but we're the champs here," said Firmani afterward. "We proved it by beating Pel� and the Cosmos.