You'll have to forgive my OK, Boomer diatribe on what it used to be like back when men were men and all that. Or don't. I can't be sitting here worrying about your sensibilities when we're both watching one of the great figures of my childhood committing the NFL's All Time act of bad sportsmanship and disrespect. Fran Tarkenton, setting a standard for Unsportsmanlike Conduct that will never be duplicated. Just spiking a ball straight into the skull bucket of the guy who had made his day miserable.
By way of context, it's hard to overstate how big a deal Tarkenton was. He was the Patrick Mahomes of the 1960s-70s. Scrambling in a way no one had ever seen before, completing passes no one else had ever attempted. In his 18th and final season, he led the league in attempts, completions and yards. Off the field, he established himself as a face-of-the-league type player in a way that springboarded him not only into the predictable NFL analyst gig, but also as a co-host of "That's Incredible," the prototype for all network TV clip shows. In the season where this play occurred, he was in the process of leading the Vikings to the Super Bowl. And a year later, he won the league's MVP on his way to a slew of passing records and the Hall of Fame.
But this was not Tarkenton's day. Even though this touchdown gave Minnesota the lead, they'd end up losing. And Ron Bolton - a corner who started 45 games for the Patriots and had 35 interceptions in his 11 year career - had picked him off twice. So Tarkenton responded with the all time act of frustration. And Bolton responded with by settling matters they way they did back in the day: With fists of fury. Both men saying the rules and the referees be damned, and taking it out on the other, mano y mano. Like Duke Wayne says to Jimmy Stewart in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "I know those law books mean a lot to you, but not out here. Out here a man settles his own problems."
Even at your own risk:
For all we know, after the game they probably went out to dinner, ate a couple of 96 ounce Porterhouses, washed them down with a bottle of Cutty Sark, ripped a half a pack of Chesterfields and talked about how much they hate hippies before taking the waitresses to a hotel for some "All in the Family" and unprotected sex. Because in the peak of American manhood, that's how guys behaved. I was expected of them.
Emotions were raw, but also part of the game. Hatred was real, but so was respect. More than anything, the people who made the NFL great were authentic to a degree that is outlawed now. If this happened today, there'd be an emergency session of Congress to discuss what it's doing to our society. But 47 years ago, they just called it NFL Sunday. Outstanding find by this Twitter account. Damn, if only we could bring these days back.