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The date: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 1975. The scene: a breakfast press conference at the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl hotel, the Fontainebleau in New Orleans. Steeler Coach Chuck Noll—chunky, sandy-haired, solid-looking in tan pants and light blue pullover—is at the lectern; his team is a 3½-point favorite over the Minnesota Vikings. A TV light is hitting Noll across the eyes. He squints. This is an annoyance, a distraction. He tries to stare it down. The light wins. Now Noll clears his throat. The press conference is about to begin.
"What about the old formula that says experienced teams beat newcomers in the Super Bowl?" someone asks Noll. The Vikings have been blown out twice in the Super Bowl, which makes them experienced; Pittsburgh is playing in the game for, the first time.
"What about the old formula that every team that's beaten Oakland for the AFC championship has won the Super Bowl?" Noll says. There is a buzz in the room. I write "research that" in my notebook.
Someone asks Noll about Pittsburgh's 1969 game against the Vikings. It was his first season as the Steelers' coach. They finished 1-13, and the Vikings beat them 52-14.
"It's a game I'd rather forget," Noll says.
"I've forgotten it already."
Someone asks Noll what happens when a team abandons its game plan and goes to something else.
"When you abandon your game plan, that's called losing your poise," Noll says. "We don't intend to. That's not in our game plan."
And so it went. Some light humor, a touch of the cerebral, no great revelations. And when it was over, the writers were a little uneasy, because underneath the intelligence and the articulateness was the hint of something unsettling. The curled lip? A bit of disdain? Is this man really telling us we're a bunch of dumb bunnies who are wasting his time?