Pastorini shrugs and smiles. I ask if the play had a big effect on him.
"Definitely," he says and smiles again. "You made my career. I always had confidence, but I was really thrilled about throwing a TD against big-time competition. [I look, but there is only a hint of sarcasm.] Then the scouts started building the play up and up. It got me known. I think it may have been the reason I went in the first round—the third person chosen after Plunkett and Archie Manning. You and I know it was a terrible pass. But scouts, oh man, you know how they are...."
Pastorini says he is "definitely" going to play against New Orleans on the coming Sunday. With three broken ribs, why? "Because we've never been in this position before," he says. "If we win our last two games we're in the playoffs. And I want to get us there."
I don't doubt Pastorini's dedication. In the opening game this year against Atlanta, he was sacked and broke a rib. The broken bone punctured the lining of his lung and he had to be hospitalized because of internal bleeding. Two days after leaving the hospital he was throwing the ball again, and two days later he was playing against Kansas City.
This time, though, he says he will be wearing a vest designed to protect the ribs. "It's like a flak jacket, sort of an air-bag thing," he says. "If you get hit it distributes the shock around you so that it's not just delivered to one place."
I tell him that the vest sounds terrific, but that I can't help wondering how many times its inventor has worn the thing with broken ribs and been tackled by a linebacker like Joe Federspiel.
"Well," says Pastorini, "the guy who showed the vest to me put it on and then had another guy hit him in the side with a baseball bat as hard as he could. It didn't even faze him."
We talk on about the East-West Game and football and other topics. We discuss the phenomenon of youth and the vagaries of life that make Pastorini, at 29, a relatively old football player and me, at the same age, a relatively young writer. I ask Pastorini if he feels old.
"Weathered," he says after thinking for a while. "I feel weathered. The paint is starting to chip off. There is something about the pro game that taints one's perspective. As a kid you really want it, but when you get there it's a whole different world. It's nothing but entertainment. Hollywood."
Pastorini sighs, and then smiles at his own cynicism. "I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't played pro ball. Been a bartender, something.... But this is what I want to do. It's all I know."