Down … set … uncut!
The 44th Super Bowl is at hand, and NFL Films has been there for every one of them, documenting not just what happens on the field but many things that even the most ardent fans wouldn’t otherwise see.
NFL Films founder Ed Sabol started it all when, in 1962, he bid $3,000 for the film rights to the NFL championship game.
Since, the company has filmed more than 9,300 NFL games, and shoots enough 16-millimeter film per season to stretch from Indianapolis to New Orleans — with almost 200 miles of celluloid to spare.
Steve Sabol, Ed’s son, started as an NFL Films cameraman and eventually took over for his father as president of the company. He recently sat down with Times NFL writer Sam Farmer and told some of his many behind-the-scenes Super Bowl stories. Here are two:
Who is that naked man in the shower?
In Super Bowl XIII, Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw threw four touchdown passes to lead the Steelers to a 35-31 win over Dallas at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
But there was one Steelers fan who had an even better day.
First, let me say that it was my job to be the first cameraman in the Steelers’ locker room after the game. When I got there, I saw somebody I didn’t recognize. A pasty-white little bald guy — turns out it was a Pittsburgh fan — had gotten into the locker room, taken off all his clothes, and was in there showering with the players.
Somehow, he had gotten past all the Super Bowl security, police, guard dogs, everything, and had sneaked in. It was really steamy in the locker room, and I remember having to continually wipe the lens of my camera. Every time I’d look up, I’d see this little bald guy in the shower with Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Dwight White.
I’d been around the Steelers long enough to know this guy wasn’t a trainer or an equipment guy. Who the hell was he? It was obvious he wasn’t a player. So I went over to talk to Joe Greene at his locker, and during the course of the interview, this guy comes out of the shower and starts getting dressed in front of a locker near Joe’s. I said, “Joe, who is this guy?” And Joe’s exact words were, “I don’t know who … he is.”
Now, some guys are sheepish about walking around naked in those situations. That wasn’t this guy. No modesty at all.
So he goes and parks himself in front of Larry Brown’s locker. And I think this is the best part: Suddenly, three reporters come over and start interviewing him about the game! First of all, Larry Brown was a 6-foot-4, 260-pound, big, muscular African American guy. This was a little white guy. Not only that, but Larry Brown didn’t even suit up for the game.
Well, this guy was going along with the interview for a while. But the reporters figured out pretty quickly that this wasn’t Larry Brown. Ever since then, I’ve always been kind of leery about any kind of locker-room quote from the Super Bowl.
Anyway, this fan got dressed and walked out of the locker room. And I’m sure wherever he is today, he’s got a great Super Bowl story that nobody believes.
Mr. Microphone wants some ‘dead presidents’
Kansas City’s Hank Stram was the first coach to wear a microphone in the Super Bowl. Getting him to do it wasn’t easy.
It was January 1970, when the Chiefs were playing the Vikings in Super Bowl IV at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.
Hank had the whole top floor of the Sonesta Hotel, with one bedroom just for his clothes. I always said he was the only man to win the Super Bowl wearing a toupee and a sports jacket made out of the same material — beautiful jacket, bad toupee.
He was a very vain guy, and underneath his suit he wore a vest made out of scuba material just to keep his stomach in. That’s what he was wearing when my dad and I went up to see him in his hotel suite on Saturday before the game.
When we got up to his room, he was wearing that scuba vest and these little tight shorts. He was watching college football, and he had this incredible spread of food and crudites — Crab Remick, Shrimp Louie, pralines …
My dad said, ‘Hank, we’ve miked you once for a game, and we think it would be great for history if you could wear a mike for the Super Bowl.’ Hank had this vocabulary where he’d use funny words. (He called my father and me “Big Schmush” and “Little Schmush” for some reason.) He’d also refer to himself in the third person as “The Mentor.”
So Hank said, “The Mentor will consider that, but there’s going to have to be some coin of the realm that changes hands if The Mentor were to wear a microphone in the World Championship Game of Professional Football.”
Well, we didn’t know what that meant. We didn’t pay anybody in those days. And Hank said, “Schmush, some dead presidents. Something I can fold up and put in my wallet. That’s what I want.”
My dad thought about it and said, “How about $250?”
Hank said, “That won’t even pay for The Mentor’s dry cleaning! Schmush, you’re going to have to do better than that.”
We eventually got up to $750, and that was a big deal back then. Hank agreed to do it, but only if we would bring it in cash right into the locker room. Can you imagine doing that in this day and age? Bringing a wad of cash into the locker room to pay the coach?
Anyway, Hank wore the mike, and he was terrific. He was so confident that the Chiefs were going to win, it was like having Henny Youngman on the sidelines. Everything was a one-liner. He was so funny, I couldn’t keep the camera steady. It was jiggling because I was laughing so hard.
“Keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!”
“65 toss power trap. What’d I tell ya, boys? 65 toss power trap!”
He understood that he was on the biggest stage possible, and he was an entertainer. This was going to be his greatest moment.
Hank was the kind of coach where, if he were a card player with a great hand, he’d clean the table. And he did that day. That was a butt-whipping — and he told us all about it.