"Some of those people just can't take a joke," said Miami's Joe Robbie, who, to his everlasting credit as far as I'm concerned, arranged for the film company to use the Orange Bowl—and whatever else it needed that the Dolphins might be able to provide.
Joe Robbie had also cooperated with another film, Black Sunday, but so had the NFL itself, even though it was aware that the film was generally about some maniacs in a blimp who were going to blow up the Orange Bowl on Super Sunday.
Not so long ago, in a moment of rare brilliance, I said to Joe Robbie that I supposed what this meant was that the NFL was in favor of terrorism but was taking a rigid stand against humor. Joe grinned, having come from the AFL, of course.
The problems created for the movie by the NFL's lack of enthusiasm for my book were immense. They had something, but not everything, to do with some of the changes in the story as well as a few traces of authenticity that moviegoers may find missing.
Billy Clyde Puckett and Shake Tiller were not about to be allowed to keep playing for the Giants, obviously, because of Wellington Mara. For a while, it looked as if they might play for the Rams' Carroll Rosenbloom, but then General Manager Don Klosterman read the script and saw how Michael Ritchie had ordered the owner depicted. Foolish, sort of. That's what Klosterman thought. I privately wondered how you could make an NFL owner look more foolish than he does himself. Anyway, for the sake of "tidying up the plot," or whatever they call it, the team owner in the movie has now become Barbara Jane's father, Big Ed Bookman. Ideally, I would have wanted John Connally in that role. The film has Robert Preston. And I wouldn't call him foolish any more than I would call him a believable Texan. I would just say that he's The Music Man passing through Dallas.
The team the heroes wind up playing for is Miami—because of Joe Robbie—except the team is owned by a Texan. So Burt and Kris live in Miami instead of New York. And as long as Miami goes to the Super Bowl, the opponent might as well be Dallas instead of the Jets, especially because Ritchie has managed to get the use of the Cotton Bowl for his own game action, along with some footage of the crowd at the 1976 Texas-OU game.
Mind you, these are not the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys. They are just Miami and Dallas. Talk about your No-Name defense—and offense. Nor could the teams wear uniforms that remotely resembled the Dolphins' and Cowboys'. NFL law. Burt and Kris' team is adorned in all white with dark red trim. Carl Weathers' team wears bright red with white trim. The same thing happened to the two playoff opponents, Green Bay and Denver, that Miami must face. Green Bay looks vaguely like Baylor in 1938 and Denver looks strangely influenced by the burnt orange of the Texas Longhorns.
You may ask, as I did, how it is possible for Miami of the American Conference to find itself in a playoff game against Green Bay of the National Conference. It happened essentially because the director wanted to shoot some foul-weather football action. Burt and Kris getting buried in the mud, and all that. A scene on that road trip was also important to the film. It is an interlude in a bar where Burt makes a move on a sleaze, who is wonderfully played by an actress named Mary Jo Catlett.
But in an attempt to rescue the film from what I considered to be a minor, but nevertheless horrifying, technical oversight, I said to Ritchie, "There are foul-weather cities in the American Conference, too. Make it Buffalo or Cleveland, what's the difference?"
He only smiled and said, "Let's say there's been a realignment."