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Namath Created the Super Bowl

JUST IN TIME for the Christmas marketing season, a veteran NFL executive, Don Weiss, is out with the definitive Super Bowl book, "The Making of the Super Bowl," which Weiss subtitles "The inside story of the world's greatest sporting event." (McGraw-Hill $24.95.)

As chief operating officer of all 36 of the "world's greatest" games to date, Weiss, whose co-author was Chuck Day of Miami, points to quarterback Joe Namath's upset victory over the old Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III as the one that "established the game's credibility."

The Colts, 18-point favorites, lost to the New York Jets, 16-7, on that 1969 day in Miami's Orange Bowl when Namath called every play for the Jets' offense — the achievement that put him in the Hall of Fame. Some of us still rate him the best passer yet, better than Norm Van Brocklin, better than Dan Marino, better than Vick.

Weiss says that heading into Super Bowl III, the great fear among NFL owners and executives was that a rout by the NFC-champion Colts — following two lopsided wins by NFC-champion Green Bay in Games I and II — would establish the AFC as indubitably inferior, thus wrecking the so-called championship game as an annual event worth watching. Accordingly, it was Namath who made the Super Bowl what it is.

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Rozelle Didn't Want the Merger

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL section of the Weiss book deals with the 1960s days when the old NFL and the old AFL were effecting the merger that ended their war and made possible the Super Bowl. According to Weiss, the merger was opposed until the last possible instant by the late Pete Rozelle, who was the NFL's commissioner at the time.

Nationally, ever since that historic era, Rozelle has been considered the architect of the merger and the father of the Super Bowl. Not so, Weiss states, adding: "Conciliation was not on his (Rozelle's) agenda."

Instead, relying on former Dallas executive Tex Schramm as his source, Weiss states that a faction of six NFL club owners — among them the late Carroll Rosenbloom of the 1960s Colts and 1970s Los Angeles Rams — had vowed to merge, with or without Rozelle's blessing. Their reason: War with the AFL was costing them too many millions.

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Davis, Rozelle Both Wanted War

THE SPOKESMAN WHO was installed to break the news to Rozelle in 1966, according to Weiss, was Schramm, who told the commissioner that the rebel faction would either "pursue the merger under Pete's direction" or "pursue the merger without him." Only then, Weiss states, did Rozelle go along.

The millions in player payments that made Rozelle's six owners rebel had been forced on them by a new young AFL commissioner, Al Davis, who now runs the Oakland Raiders. The Davis strategy: Steal their best quarterbacks and their other good players.

Davis, therefore, was the real architect or contractor of the merger. Although Weiss argues against that, his report shows that the NFL's owners — though loathing the AFL's (and vice versa) — bowed to Davis when faced with unacceptable options: losing their quarterbacks in a bidding war or losing too many millions of dollars.

Ironically, Davis didn't want a merger. He wanted war, not peace. And, Weiss insists, so did Rozelle. It's a dramatic story.

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Bears Outpass Packers in a Freeze

THE CHICAGO BEARS are 3-8 in the new NFC North, far behind the 8-3 Packers, but that wouldn't be the case if they'd played the season the way they played in Green Bay last week, when they took the blinders off their pass-offense people.