Who Changed Script to ‘Long Day for the Dolphins’?

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It was supposed to be Dempsey-Tunney, the Monitor and the Merrimac, Cagney vs. the cops, Gettysburg. A matchup for the ages.

Instead, it was Custer vs. the Indians, the Titanic against the iceberg, the German Army going through the Low Countries.

It was like watching a shark eat. The Miami Dolphins weren’t a team, they were an entree.

If you liked this game, you’d love train wrecks. Floods. Baby carriages rolling into the water. Irwin Allen movies. Skyscraper fires. The Last Days of Pompeii. They ought to show the films on Halloween.


It wasn’t a game, it was an accident. Nearly 85,000 people paid $5 million to watch the Miami Dolphins get run over. If it was a fight, they would have stopped it. The Humane Society would have brought suit.

It was as one-sided as the inauguration. The Dolphins didn’t need a coach, they needed a priest. They didn’t need a football, they needed a gun. If this was a game, so was the Johnstown Flood. It had about as much suspense as a parade. The Dolphins should have been a float. They should have brought clarinets or wore spats and funny glasses and squirted each other with seltzer bottles.

Dan Marino never made it to the game. They suited up this clever impostor. Maybe it was Rich Little. You half-expected this guy to break into Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart any minute but he needs to work on his Dan Marino.

You remember the real Dan Marino? This slick article with the cannon arm and the movie-star good looks and the wrist snap who is the greatest quarterback in the history of football? Well, this was a clever forgery but if you held him it up to the light you could see the imperfections. This one had all the dimples and smile. He completed a lot of passes. But not all of them to his own people. He completed two in the end zone. One to his and one to theirs.

You will recall how, when he came into town, people were surprised he needed a plane? Some thought he might just walk ashore. What he did was change wine into water. Oh, Danny Boy turned in a clunker. The quick release they talked about in story and song turned out to be something he shot himself in the leg with.

The quarterback on the other side of the line, the one they named a state after, the one everybody forgot about, turned out to be the head Italian. He did it by breaking one of the oldest codes in the game, the unwritten gentlemen’s agreement that says no quarterback should run with the ball; in fact, no quarterback should run at all unless the hotel is on fire. Joe Montana outgained the entire Miami running attack Sunday. That’s not as hard as it sounds. Two guys with the gout could have outgained the Miami running attack which moved just faster than wet cement. He averaged 11.8 yards a carry. They made movies about the old Gipper for less.


The Super Bowl is now in a rut. This is the second year in a row the victors scored 38 points and the losers managed only one touchdown. Never have so many paid so much for so little.

The 49ers double-crossed the world. Under their coach, who comes across as a combination of Pope and poet with a reticule of these complicated formations and brilliant playmaking, they are supposed to be innovative on offense, indifferent on defense. I mean, nobody ever talks about Bill Walsh and his Seven Blocks of Granite. But it was this line of bricks and mortar that stopped the Dolphins Sunday.

They did it, according to their coach, by reverting to an old theory of pass defense, the four-man line.

One of these four men is a guy who started the season with San Diego. When I tell you that Gary Johnson is called “Big Hands” Johnson, you know almost all you need to know about him. His hands look sugar-cured. They wrap twice around a man’s neck. He got the nickname because he could make a basketball disappear when he was still in high school.

If you check Dan Marino’s neck these days, you may still find these huge fingerprints on it. these are the manual equivalent of footprints you might see in the snow on Mt. Everest.

Johnson is one of the nine different defensive specialists Walsh runs in and out of a game to leave thumb prints on the jugulars of selected quarterbacks.


Dan Marino got sacked only 13 times all season, a stat that prompted most defensive alignments to adopt what is called a soft or non-aggressive defense. Johnson and the 49ers scorned these niceties and charged in on Marino like guys coming through a skylight.

Marino disappeared under Johnson and his cohorts four times in this game alone. “Even when we didn’t get to him, we left our card,” Big Hands explained after the game. “You don’t just get there and stop. You want him to remember you were there. So he’ll be on the lookout for you next time, don’t you see?”

Added Johnson: “It was harassment. Something he hadn’t faced much this season. It was new to him. He was used to everybody scattering back when he cocked his arm. It was pressure. And pressure busts pipes, you know.”

For Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, the big hands were on midnight. They fit easily around a Super Bowl.