On Monday morning I call Pastorini's office at the oil exploration company. "Dan wanted me to tell you that he apologizes for not being here," says his secretary, "but he's, well, he doesn't want a lot of people to know, but he's in the hospital. He's got three broken ribs and he's pretty heavily sedated. Tomorrow might be a better day to talk to him."
The next day Pastorini is back in his office, acting as though nothing has happened, save that he winces after sudden movements. If anything, I am more ill at ease than he is. I find it incredible that he did not miss a single offensive play against the Steelers.
He has on a button-down shirt, blue jeans and a belt with "Dante" (his full first name) tooled into the leather. On his feet he wears one of his few concessions to Texas fashion, a pair of white, ostrich-skin cowboy boots. His face, though open and tanned, bears deep creases across the brow, as though he has had more worries than most other men his age.
We are both 29. I show him my newspaper clipping about the East-West Game. As he looks at the photo of me on the ground and Mel Gray "supplicating the heavens" for the undescended ball, he seems to be lost in reverie about a time that, for him at least, was much better.
"Jeez, that ball was up in the air a mile," he says, shaking his head, smiling. "I remember it sort of rolled off my fingers. It was probably one of the worst passes I've ever thrown. I figured, 'Well, there's another incompletion.' " He takes another glance at the page. Next to the picture of Gray and me there is a head shot of a much younger Pastorini, his hair wet with sweat, smiling after having been named the top offensive player in the game. "You fell down or something, didn't you?" he asks.
Yes, I tell him. My legs got twisted around because the pass was so high and I had to turn so much and Gray looked for it so early, and, of course, those other unaccountable reasons. But I remind him that I had Gray covered right until the very end, even while the ball was in the air. Pastorini acknowledges this.
Then why did he throw the ball if I had the guy covered, I ask.
"Well, with a 9.2-hundred man, you do those things. I knew about Mel. I'd played with him before in a California high school all-star game."
"But I knew about him, too," I protest. "I knew he was going deep. I lined up 10 yards back and took off running. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going deep."
Pastorini looks at me. "You want to know the real reason? O.K. All through college, the papers always compared me with Jim Plunkett. We were both California boys, the same class. But I was at a small school and he was at Stanford, the Rose Bowl champs, and it was said that I couldn't 'do it' against the big time, like he could. So in the East-West Game we were alternating quarterbacks—Chuck Hixson of SMU, Dennis Dummit of UCLA, and me. I knew I wouldn't have many chances to impress anybody. So I took a gamble. I just threw deep and hoped."