Super Bowl XII: An Internet Research Lesson
I was not quite seven years old and lived several hundred miles from Texas when the Cowboys faced the Broncos in Super Bowl XII. About all that I remember about the game’s broadcast from then are two things: (1) that the broadcast showed a camera angle from above the field (why I remember that, I don’t know), and (2) that Roger Staubach (the reason I watched the Cowboys in the first place) was injured at some point in the second half.
More than twenty years later, I finally got to watch the broadcast again, thanks to trading and sales of the original broadcasts on Ebay. This has since been banned, but it is not all that difficult to find copies of these games. YouTube currently (until the copyright folks get a hold of it) has a highlight clip of this Super Bowl, showing ten minutes of the game’s best plays. Here it is:
I’m certainly not amazed at what you can find on the Internet any more, but I do think it is significant that so much more information is being archived and becoming more readily available. Ten years ago, you couldn’t find all of the information below online but would rather have to search several archives (probably microfiche) to get the articles and such. This took me about three minutes:
It is Super Bowl time, and the tale of two cities, Denver and Dallas, is shouted antiphonally from towering stadium tiers: It is the best of times! It is the best of times! It is the season for bumper stickers and bunting and bragging in bars, for celebration and civic pride. Time for whimsy and WE’RE NO.l!, for good cheer and bad bets. It is a time warp, where the young dream of growing up and the old remember youth, and in the delirious identification with a winning football team, neither fantasy nor reminiscence seems foolish. The game becomes a bond strong enough to unite, however temporarily, the disparate elements of an urban society. In Dallas and in Denver, where football is a passion, not a fancy, the trip to the Super Bowl is a municipal journey.
The towns love their teams fiercely, each in its own style, and the teams, in turn, reflect in a measure the characters of their cities. Denver, wild and woolly jumping-off point for prospectors, outfitting depot for dreams. It mattered nothing that a man could scratch and sift his way through grubstake after grubstake without success. The lodes were somewhere out there in the Rockies for the patient and the tenacious. The fevered sport of searching for gold and silver is the original version of “Wait ’til next year!”
So it was for the Denver Broncos and their loyal, long-suffering fans. The Broncos had been the door mat of pro football —13 straight years before they fashioned a winning season. But with more true grit than could be found in the poorest prospector’s pan, Denver fans turned out to cheer their team. The Broncos have sold out every home game played in the ’70s, and every year the list of masochists ordering season tickets grew by the thousands. This year, the faithful finally struck the mother lode, division title, American Conference championship, a berth in the Super Bowl.
Dallas is a trader’s town, a place for shrewd operators from the time of its founding in 1840, on a likely river crossing, by a canny settler of the Texas Republic’s northern Indian frontier. Roads and rails soon branched away from the site, and Dallas began to do big business in buying, selling, managing and shipping the goods of the Southwest. In succession came buffalo hides, cotton, wheat and oil, banks to make loans for a percentage of the profits and insurance companies to underwrite them. It is a city of wealth wrought with sharp pencils and calculating minds.
The Dallas Cowboys were put together in the same manner, with a loan officer’s eye for the sure, steady return and an actuary’s fetish for minutiae. Formed the same year as the Broncos, the Cowboys have been, over the past 18 seasons, the most successful team in football. Dallas devised a computerized scouting system that catalogued the requirements of the sport in fractions of inches and split seconds. The Cowboys have turned up blue-chip players with clockwork regularity, including prospects found in fields foreign to the gridiron. Track stars, basketball players —not to mention the occasional Heisman Trophy winner—have contributed to the impressive return on Dallas’ investments: the play-offs eleven times in the past twelve years, five National Conference titles, one Super Bowl championship.
When it was finally over and the Dallas Cowboys had hoisted Tom Landry on their shoulders and Broncomania had died, 27-10, or gone into hibernation for the long offseason – there was no room for second guessing, for it-this nor if-that nor sad laments.
Dallas 27, Denver 10
The Dallas Cowboys had returned to the top of the National Football League by using power, some trickery and deception but had decisively defeated the upstart Denver Broncos, who found, in the end, a rather stark midnight to their season.
Super Bowl XII on this Sunday was hardly a vintage NFL game but it also was not the worst of the Super Bowl games. Probably, it ranked around the middle because a lot of mistakes were made by both teams, especially Denver. But in retrospect a lot of these mistakes were caused by the hitting done by two defensive teams.
The Cowboys victory was, however, many things. It was a victory for what has been termed the “cool” of the Cowboys over the “emotion” of the Broncos. It again was a victory for Tom Landry’s somewhat intellectual approach to a basic game, and it was the first time an NFC team had won over the AFC in six years, or since Dallas also did that trick here in January 1972.
The pair of Super Bowl victories also put Landry’s Cowboys in an elite circle with Green Bay, Miami and Pittsburgh as having won two Super Bowl games. Defensive end Harvey Martin, who along with teammate Randy White was named co-player of the game, summed up the victory for most of his teammates when he said, “A lot of things have happened to me in my football career but this is the best, the most. Nothing rivals this.”
“I think,” said Landry, “that the ones of us here probably more satisfaction with the Super Bowl victory here (in New Orleans) in 1972 because people were saying then we couldn’t win the Big One. That team had gone through a lot of heartbreak, so it was a great feeling to do it.
“This team doesn’t have the experience of that one but, overall, probably has more top athletes. I felt all along it was possible for this team to do it. It had put together three outstanding games, two in the playoffs and one in the Super Bowl. It did this and that makes us all feel great.”
Doomsday In The Dome (story in Sports Illustrated, January 23, 1977)
As Super Bowls go, the one played indoors last Sunday in New Orleans was way up there for mosts—it had the most fumbles, the most hitting, the most noise, the most penalties, the most tricky plays, and no doubt the most Xs and Os stamped on a coach’s forehead, as Dallas ‘ Tom Landry nailed Denver ‘s Red Miller to a blackboard and left him there. And when last seen, the Cowboys ‘ two biggest heroes, Randy White and Harvey Martin , were still lecturing the State of Colorado on the mysteries of the flex defense. As a final gesture of victory, another Cowboy star, Linebacker Tom Henderson , went prancing down the field as the last seconds flashed off and jumped up and stuffed a football over the crossbar. Maybe he thought it was Craig Morton ‘s right arm.
The score was Dallas 27 and Denver 10, as the National Conference finally captured one of these things after five straight failures, and it seemed that close only if you were sitting on the Denver side of the Superdome. Actually, Dallas jumped into a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and after that the margin was never less than 10 points, even when Denver finally held on to the football long enough to put a few drives together. All the while, it was a case of the Cowboys doing just about whatever they wished on offense, and so thoroughly confusing the Broncos with their Doomsday II defensive genius and manpower and quickness that the Bronco assistant coaches upstairs on the headphones must have sounded as though they were under a Kamikaze attack as they screamed down to the field with their guesses and remedies for poor Craig and poor Red.
The Broncos had the same flaming emotion that had carried them so stunningly into Super Bowl XII in the first place, but the Cowboys had everything else—the more gifted athletes, certainly the superior quarterback in Roger Staubach , who has now won as many Super Bowls (two) as Bart Starr , Bob Griese and Terry Bradshaw—and all of the smarts. Dallas was so much the better team it could even overcome getting too caught up in its own expertise and flimflam in the second quarter. If the Cowboys had taken advantage of all the Denver turnovers, the 76,400 in the audience would have deserted the Superdome for Bourbon Street long before they announced the Punt, Pass and Kick winners.
Super Bowl XII Box Score (pro-football-reference.com)
So while I don’t suspect anyone learned anything from this post, this is what the Internet promised when we first heard about it some fifteen or so years ago. And word has it that the Warner Home Video is going to release a greatest games DVD set featuring ten original broadcasts, which is a great idea. I just wish we could continue to multiply that number.