Thursday, January 12, 2012

1975: Super Bowl IX

During yesterday 1975's Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show episode and/or last night's laughs on CBS would've been excellent times to play out Super Bowl IX, between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, on NFL Strategy.

Maybe I'll still do that this weekend. In real NFL, meanwhile, Pittsburgh beats Minnesota, 16-6, on today 1975.

Though they often end up providing primarily other answers, NFL seasons typically start out with one or maybe two dominant questions: Will the AFL finally beat the NFL? Which of these first-round quarterbacks is going to pan out? Can the 49ers/Cowboys keep winning without Bill Walsh/Jimmy Johnson? Will Peyton Manning ever win one? Will Brett Favre come back? Are the Eagles a "dream team"?

In going back and reviewing the in-the-moment/we-don't-know-how-it's-going-to-end coverage of the day, NFL '74's dominant question seems to have been, Whose ship is going to finally come in? The Dolphins had just won two championships, but, with World Football League defections set to ravage that roster, there was a strong sense that a new somebody's day was about to dawn. Indeed, the Patriots (the Patriots?!?) upset Miami in Week 1, and it was the Cardinals (the Cardinals?!?) who raced out to the season's best start, 7-0.

In the NFC, the defending-champion Vikings started hot and got hot again at the end of the regular season. Los Angeles beat Minnesota in the regular season, but Chuck Knox attempted to keep the Rams challenging for a championship while simultaneously engineering a mid-season quarterback change.

Over the in the AFC, Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll ordered three such QB changes--from Joe Gilliam to Terry Bradshaw, from Bradshaw to Terry Hanratty and from Hanratty back to Bradshaw. As late as Week 12, Pittsburgh lost, 13-10, to the Houston Oilers, and ongoing offensive struggles and Joe Greene's "mind snap" threatened to short-circuit Noll's six-year, brick-by-brick construction project.

But, of course, the Steelers got it together. In the regular season, they held off the Bengals, Paul Brown's expertly devised expansion marvel, which one year before had won the division in just its sixth season of existence. In the opening round of the playoffs, they held 1974 Street and Smith's cover boy O.J. Simpson to 49 rushing yards in his postseason debut and stunted Lou Saban's rising Bills. In winning the AFC championship, 24-13, they rallied from seven behind at the opening of the fourth quarter to stun John Madden's home-standing Oakland Raiders, the team that had appeared most likely to become the league's next dynasty (the January 1975 Football Digest, which would've had to go to press before the Dec. 29, 1974, game asked on its cover, "WILL KEN STABLER AND OAKLAND WIN IT ALL?")

Finally, the Steelers simply befuddled the Vikings, runners-up in Super Bowls IV and VIII. It was the first time that the participant with less Super Bowl experience won.

While the Steelers targeted Jackie Wallace, the rookie Minnesota cornerback actually came through with what John Facenda described as the "finest game of his brief career." Instead, it was a 12th-year, record-breaking kicker (Fred Cox) who missed his only field-goal attempt early (and only extra-point try late). When the Vikings botched a running play near their own end zone, leading to a safety for a 2-0 Steelers halftime lead, the Minnesota players who touched the football on the play were a 13th-year center (Mick Tinglehoff), 14th-year quarterback (Fran Tarkenton) and 10th-year fullback (Dave Osborn). And when Roy Gerela mistakenly squibbed the second-half-opening kickoff, it was a 15th-year Viking (Bill Brown) who mishandled the ball, leading to Pittsburgh's recovery and first touchdown. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Cox, Mr. Tinglehoff, Mr. Tarkenton, Mr. Osborn or Mr. Brown 36 years later; as a 43-year-old who gets more nervous than he used to about putting his byline on stories, driving over bridges and taking his wife out on dates, I totally relate to the growing sense of pressure in middle age.

Moreover, the main story of NFL '74 turned out to be that the Steelers were really talented, really well-constructed and really young. And while other, seemingly more likely heirs to the NFL throne played as though they were trying to not let fleeting opportunities slip through their grasps, Noll's Steelers suddenly grew up and seized the greatness that their skills merited.

As Curt Gowdy correctly foresaw at the end of NBC's telecast, the NFL--just 12 days into the second half of the 1970s--had embarked on a whole new age.


  1. This was a great, great analysis.

    I was eight years old when this Super Bowl was played, and I remember it very well. What I mainly remember is being surprised at how much better Pittsburgh was than teams like the Raiders and the Vikings, who were much more famous.

  2. Quiz time!

    VEC Inc. of Madison, Wisc., produced a weekly news quiz, and this is the edition that appeared on Page 2 of the Jan. 13, 1975, Park City Daily News of Bowling Green ...

  3. First, "worldscope." You'll get 10 points for each correct answer here.

    "1. The nation's unemployment rate rose to (CHOOSE ONE 7.1, 9.3) percent in December, the highest rate in 13 years.

    "2. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said that in 1975 the economy (CHOOSE ONE would, would not) greatly improve.

    "3. The only defendant in the Watergate cover-up trial who was found not guilty was (a-John Mitchell, b-H.R. Haldeman, c-Kenneth Parkinson).

    "4. In Wisconsin, national leaders of AIM lent support to a Menominee Indian takeover of an unused building owned by a religious order. What do the letters 'AIM' stand for?

    "5. U.S. demand for (a-gold, b-marijuana, c-silver), since the legalizing of private buying and ownership, has been less than expected, according to Treasury Secretary William Simon."

    1. 1. 9.3 percent

      2. would

      3. c - Kenneth Parkinson

      4. American Indian Movement

      5. gold

  4. "Newsname: I'm a member of the panel appointed by President Ford to look into charges of illegal CIA spying within the U.S. I was governor of California. What's my name?"

    10 points for a correct ID.

  5. Matchwords


    a-relating to one's own country
    b-place where money is coined
    c-spying to get information
    d-study and collection of coins
    e-gold or silver in bars or ingots

    4 points for each correct match.

  6. Newspicture

    It's a picture of the U.S. Capitol.

    "In 1800, when the uncompleted Capitol in Washington, D.C., was first used by a U.S. Congress, there were 32 Senators and 150 Representatives. How many members are there now in each house of the 94th Congress?"

    10 points for a correct answer.

  7. Sportlight, 2 points per:

    "1. The game played annually to determine the National Football League champion is called the (FILL IN THE BLANK) Bowl.

    "2. Pitcher Catfish Hunter became the highest paid player in baseball history when he signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees for (CHOOSE ONE, $800,000, $3.75 million).

    "3. With a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, (CHOOSE ONE, Nebraska, Alabama) tied a college record for six straight bowl victories.

    "4. Following the disciplinary suspension of 10 black members the (a-UCLA, b-Michigan State, c-Slippery Rock) basketball team suffered its worst defeat ever, losing to Indiana, 107-55.

    "5. Rick Barry is a star in professional hockey. True or False?"

    1. 1. Super

      2. $3.75 million

      3. Nebraska

      4. Michigan State

      5. False


    "91 to 100 points-TOP SCORE!"
    "81 to 90 points-Excellent"
    "71 to 80 points-Good"
    "61 to 70 points-Fair"

    I scored 74, good.

  9. 80 points, GoHeath--also good. You're the leader in the clubhouse.

  10. Correct answers:

    Worldscope: 1-7.1, 2-would not, 3-c, 4-American Indian Movement, 5-a

    Newsname: Ronald Reagan

    Matchwords: 1-c, 2-a, 3-e, 4-b, 5-d

    Newspicture: Senate 100, House 435

    Sportlight: 1-Super, 2-$3.75 million, 3-Nebraska, 4-b, 5-False

  11. So, you thought unemployment was worse than it was, and you thought Alan Greenspan was more optimistic than he was. That's not so bad.

    1. I originally had 7.1 percent for the unemployment rate. I should have trusted my first instinct.

      I knew the economy was lousy in 1974 and 1975, but I figured Greenspan said it would get better because I assumed he was acting as a political hack. Shame on me for thinking that the Ford Administration was like the Bush Administration.

  12. Finally, "family discussion (no score): In what ways can each member of your family help fight inflation?"