Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Reading that title makes me feel like I'm selling tires in an off-highway industrial mall in north Albuquerque. I have thinning hair and a mistress named Louise. I spend my afternoons buying scratch tickets and drinking vodka tonics at a bar called "Bottlez."

Man, it feels so real. Someone shake me, I live in a two-room modular in Belen.

In other, reality-centered, news, ex-Bronco coach Lou Saban died today. Of course, he didn't solely coach the Broncs. He also helmed the Boston (later New England) Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL--as well as the later, post-merger version of the Bills--and several college teams, including Army, Western Kentucky, Maryland, Northwestern and Division III Chowan State. Hell, he was even the President of the New York Yankees for two years. Which I admit I found surprising.

Saban wasn't known for being a big winner. He was in fact a career loser. Although his early Buffalo teams won the only championships, in '64 and '65, that the franchise has ever known.

No, History will instead remember him for three reasons, available for your edification following the leap.

#1: He coached almost every team imaginable, right up until his 8th decade. He coached high school, college, pro, Arena League. He was the ultimate serial coaching job hopper. He spent 19 days as the Athletic Director at Cincinnati. Along the way, he was present for a few notable moments: he coached O.J. Simpson during the latter's record 1973 season, he saw the Bills to the aforementioned championships, he was credited with recruiting Jim Kelly to Miami and...

#2: He gave an African-American QB a start in the NFL for the first time ever: Marlin "The Magician" Briscoe, who had a stellar (for the era) season for the Denver Broncos in 1968. And then released him the next year. Why? From my colleague Sam Adams via

But in the summer of 1969, Briscoe returned to the University of Nebraska to finish his architecture degree, and the Broncos held pre-season quarterback meetings without him. When he arrived at training camp, he was told he would not be playing quarterback for the team that season. Irate at Saban, he asked to be released from his contract, and signed with another AFL franchise, the Buffalo Bills.

Who knows what was behind it? But it's there. The article continued:

Moreover, hard feelings remained between him and Saban, and when the latter was hired as the Bills' coach in 1972, Briscoe was summarily traded to the Miami Dolphins.

Lou Saban was evidently not comfortable as a pioneer in the field of race relations. However, he did have a knack for...

#3: Quotability. No one who follows football can forget the many, many excerpts of Saban, via NFL films, defining the idea of Coach-as-Speechifyin'-Martinet. "You can get it done. You can get it done. What's more, you gotta get it done" and "they're killin' me, Whitey--they're killin' me!" The latter directed at a Broncos assistant back in the bad old days.

And, most famous of all, the "I'd rather have half a loaf than none" line after his Broncos tied with the Dolphins. Longtime Denver fans still get worked up over that--Floyd Little said, following the game, Saban was constantly pelted with half-loaves of Wonder Bread at Mile High. He quit soon thereafter.