The story is related to Rudnay. Quarterbacks have never been his favorite people. Nor kickers. He favors those who slug it out in the trenches. In practice, he has been known to reach back and grab a quarterback's fingers as he is about to take the snap, but this one's a new angle. He listens. His face is trying to smile, but he controls it. It's the face of a zany. Full beard and mustache, long black stringy hair, big nose. Rasputin must have looked like that as a young man. There is something deeper in the eyes, though. Intelligence, compassion—but not necessarily compassion for rich rookie quarterbacks.
"I've heard mention of the alleged incident," Rudnay says, "and let me ask one question. Are there any pictures?"
These are favorite Rudnayisms: "alleged" and "pictures." Let the jury note, Your Honor, that the prosecution has failed to produce tangible evidence. It's the way he responds when some of his other escapades—make that alleged escapades—are brought to light: the time he and George Daney, a guard, climbed up into the network of pipes overhanging a team meeting room and hosed down the players with a fire extinguisher; the flock of live chickens that mysteriously appeared in the room of Bobby Yarborough, the equipment man; the bag of ostrich and camel manure that turned up under the desk of Promotions Director Russ Cline; the time an assistant P.R. man was taped to the weight machine, naked, with a straw sticking out of his mouth; the dead crow that appeared in the helmet of Kicker Jan Stenerud.
Rudnay doesn't travel along prescribed routes. Pretension is his great enemy, and in his desire to do things his own way he makes some people uncomfortable. Years ago he heard the cry of helpless children, the terminally ill, the retarded, and he committed himself to them. He spends hours in their hospitals; he buys up blocks of tickets for them for every game and he brings them into the locker room afterward. But organized publicity campaigns for charity and organized fund-raising leave him cold.
"I often wonder," Rudnay says, "how much of that is genuine compassion and how much is merely self-serving."
For the last two seasons Rudnay's Chief teammates have nominated him for the Justice Byron (Whizzer) White Award, which the NFL's Players Association gives annually to a player for doing charitable work. But Rudnay never filled out any of the forms.
"Frankly, the idea of polishing your own apple doesn't appeal to me," he says. "Filling out something like that not only is insulting to the people you work with, but...." He starts again. He's used to being misunderstood. "Look, I don't question the motives and integrity of the people who give that award. It's just a personal thing with me."
Pretentious manners and dress are other Rudnay targets. He is fond of showing up at team functions in a Stroud's Restaurant T shirt and a battered Red Man chewing-tobacco cap. Two years ago the players' wives decided to hold an end-of-season farewell party. "Tell Jack that the Hunts [Lamar Hunt owns the Chiefs] and the Steadmans [Jack Steadman is the president] will be there, and we want everyone to be dressed appropriately," one of the wives told Jack's wife, Polly, herself a bit of a free spirit. She couldn't wait to give Jack the message.
He took a long look at the situation The Chiefs were closing out a 4-12 season, which came on the heels of a 2-12. He'd been through it all, the good years and now the dismal aftermath, during which he has been one of the few bright spots on the team with his four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He had played with torn cartilage in his knee and rib cage, with torn tendons and dislocated fingers. He had bled plenty for the Chiefs. He had kept them together in the dark years. Appropriately dressed? We'll see about that.
He showed up at the party in Levi's and an electric-blue tuxedo jacket he'd bought cut-rate at a shop that was going out of business, a ruffled shirt, a blue-and-white flowered cummerbund ("I wanted the flamenco look") and a black satin hat he'd gotten from a band in Aspen, Colo., the satin setting off a red sequined apple surrounded by seven rhinestones. Lamar Hunt's wife, Norma, was fascinated by the hat with its seven jewels.