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Four incidents, fairly evenly spaced, helped nurture and feed the Lambert image. First there was the Cliff Harris affair in Super Bowl X. In the third quarter the Steelers' Roy Gerela missed a 33-yard field goal. Harris, the Cowboys' free safety, tapped Gerela on the helmet and said, "Way to go." Lambert flung him to the ground. No flag was thrown, but referee Norm Schachter was on the verge of kicking Lambert out of the game. Lambert talked him out of it.
Then there were the Brian Sipe incidents, during the 1978, '81 and '83 seasons, three set pieces from the same script. Each time Lambert hit the Cleveland quarterback as he released the ball. Too late, decided the referee, who was Ben Dreith the last two times. Each time Lambert got mobbed by the Browns' bench, each time he was flagged and twice—in '78 and '83—he was ejected from the game and fined by the league.
"I asked him, 'How about the guys who came off the bench and mobbed me?' " Lambert says. " 'Were they fined?' He said, 'No, but they got very strong warnings.' "
In the dressing room after the '81 game writers asked Lambert about the play.
"Dreith said I hit Sipe too hard," Lambert said.
"I hit him as hard as I could."