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The Pro Game

Triumph of the loonies

About the Author

Tom Danyluk
Contributing writer

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By Tom Danyluk

In terms of disorder and brain short-circuitry, last week was a triumph for the loonies. A stroll 'round the nuthouse grounds.

In Washington, Mike Shanahan goes loony in his two-minute offense and pulls a live Donovan McNabb for the zombie Rex Grossman. Redskins lose. Then afterward he rings up the house of JaMarcus Russell, who's doing nothing. "Anything left in the tank, JaMarcus?" asks the coach. Last time we checked, JaMarcus himself was a tank.

Randy Moss, an all-decade loony, lets a sure TD pass bounce at his feet then dedicates "The Way We Were" to his New England conquerors, and the Vikings are forced to end a shaky relationship after less than a month.

Peyton Manning, picking through the weeds of the nuthouse garden, comes up with Jacob Tamme and Mike Hart and Pierre Garcon as his weapons and still wipes out the Texans in the Monday nightcap. Manning could win throwing to Grossman and Russell.

In Oakland, the Raiders get their second blowout win in a row. First they murdered Denver 59-14 and then they whacked Seattle 33-3, and it's the biggest pair of Raider landslides in 43 years. And the loony part of it was when coach Tom Cable assured us that his blowout quarterback, Jason Campbell, was headed back to the bench once Bruce Gradkowski's right shoulder is OK.

"It's a nice job on [Campbell's] part, as well as the rest of the offensive players," Cable said. "But we know who our quarterback is." Remember that old Raider motto — go with the cold hand, baby.

So last evening, as I worked on a fat cigar and digested all of this lunacy, thinking about what it all means, I realized it didn't mean anything. It did, however, help me to conjure up memories of other loony days, even loonier ones, from loony seasons past …

Like the time NBC's Charlie Jones and Len Dawson were in the Cleveland locker room, pregame reconnaissance, and an imposing character named Lyle Alzado, a defensive end, was running around cage-free and having a time.

"That's because he was so doctored up," Jones told me. "He was just bouncing all over the place. He would tell me anything, along with the singing and shouting and that crazed look in his eyes. The storage lockers in which they packed the gear were around the room, and he was jumping from one to another with a towel over his head yelling, 'I'm the Ayatollah!'

"I'm standing there with Len Dawson, and I looked at him and said, 'What the hell is going on?'

"Len answered, 'Lyle just saw the doctor.' "

One day, Jim Hart of the Cardinals launched a pass that ended up as the longest nonscoring pass play in NFL history — Hart to Bobby Moore (a.k.a. Ahmad Rashad) for 98 yards. They caught Moore at the one, and the Cardinals beat the Rams, but that's not what Jimmy remembers most from that December in 1972.

"It was really cold and that Astroturf was frozen stiff," Hart said. "The grounds crew put down calcium chloride, which is used to thaw roads, trying to melt the frozen field. That stuff caused a bad reaction on all of us. Les Josephson, who was a running back for the Rams, was actually hospitalized after the game with first-degree burns all over his body.

"We first noticed it when we came in at halftime and sat down on our stools. Everybody started hopping around and saying, 'Damn, my butt's on fire!' Yeah that stuff melted the ice, but it burned us pretty good in the process."

From the musty AFL files: December, 1967 — Dolphins in Houston trying to spoil an Oilers playoff bid, and out of the stands leaps a platinum blonde stripper with a 42-inch chest. An impressive burst, a pure impulse move. Luscious Lola hit the field and made a swipe at the ball then shimmied back to the crowd, but not before laying a fat smooch on Oilers DE Don Floyd. Houston GM Don Klosterman watched the invasion in horror, and he was stern and proper in his comments to the postgame reporters.

"She was ejected from the park," Klosterman announced in full disciplinary mode. Someone asked if she had really been ejected into his office.

"No, she was not ejected into my office. She went out of the stadium — out! We can't allow strippers to be running all over the field."

My No. 1 favorite loony moment happened back in 1987, when I was a collegiate reporter covering the Steelers for The Pitt News. The Steelers were having problems in their post-Bradshaw, post-Steel Curtain era, and they had just dropped a November toughie to the Saints at home, a game in which QB Mark Malone served up three more interceptions and the place booed like hell and it was evident that Malone would not be the answer in the post-Bradshaw era.

Later that week, one fan went insane and gunned his car up one the ramps of old Three Rivers Stadium, right through Gate C and into the building. A mid-morning assault. I still have this old quote from an AP story on the incident.

"He just rode in here in a white station wagon and took half the wall off my office, a concrete brick wall," said Ted Winters, the stadium's commissary manager. "Then he ran into a couple of our four-wheel-drive trucks with 70 to 80 gallons of nacho cheese."

The guy's name was Morelli, and his white clown car was now soaked in orange, and witnesses say he hit the gas and took off up the stadium walkways in a race toward the top, 40 or 50 mph. Then came the stiff wire gate on Level 3 — smash. So our man continued the adventure on foot, back down to the field level, where authorities found him booting imaginary field goals at the 50-yard line. Some were on target, a few sliced right. Handcuffs, Miranda reading, etc.

"Why'd you do it, son?" the lawmen asked.

"Malone," he said. "I just can't take any more skipped passes. Mark Malone made me do it."

Here's to the loonies.

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