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Wild Super Bowl stories from Steve Sabol: ‘Matriculating the ball down the field’

‘Matriculating the ball down the field’: Wild Super Bowl stories from Steve Sabol

Kansas City Chiefs Coach Hank Stram walks on to field at Tulane Stadium prior to the start of Super Bowl IV in 1970.

(Associated Press)

Steve Sabol, who helped his father, Ed, found NFL Films in 1962, sat down with The Times’ Sam Farmer in 2010 and shared some of his behind-the-scenes Super Bowl stories. Sabol passed away in September 2012.

Kansas City’s Hank Stram was the first coach to wear a microphone in the Super Bowl. Getting him to do it wasn’t easy.

It was January 1970, when the Chiefs were playing the Vikings in Super Bowl IV at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

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Hank had the whole top floor of the Sonesta Hotel, with one bedroom just for his clothes. I always said he was the only man to win the Super Bowl wearing a toupee and a sports jacket made out of the same material -- beautiful jacket, bad toupee.

He was a very vain guy, and underneath his suit he wore a vest made out of scuba material just to keep his stomach in. That’s what he was wearing when my dad and I went up to see him in his hotel suite on Saturday before the game.

When we got up to his room, he was wearing that scuba vest and these little tight shorts. He was watching college football, and he had this incredible spread of food and crudites -- Crab Remick, Shrimp Louie, pralines . . .

My dad said, ‘Hank, we’ve miked you once for a game, and we think it would be great for history if you could wear a mike for the Super Bowl.’ Hank had this vocabulary where he’d use funny words. [He called my father and me “Big Schmush” and “Little Schmush” for some reason.] He’d also refer to himself in the third person as “The Mentor.”

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So Hank said, “The Mentor will consider that, but there’s going to have to be some coin of the realm that changes hands if The Mentor were to wear a microphone in the World Championship Game of Professional Football.”

Well, we didn’t know what that meant. We didn’t pay anybody in those days. And Hank said, “Schmush, some dead presidents. Something I can fold up and put in my wallet. That’s what I want.”

My dad thought about it and said, “How about $250?”

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Hank said, “That won’t even pay for The Mentor’s dry cleaning! Schmush, you’re going to have to do better than that.”

We eventually got up to $750, and that was a big deal back then. Hank agreed to do it, but only if we would bring it in cash right into the locker room. Can you imagine doing that in this day and age? Bringing a wad of cash into the locker room to pay the coach?

Anyway, Hank wore the mike, and he was terrific. He was so confident that the Chiefs were going to win, it was like having Henny Youngman on the sidelines. Everything was a one-liner. He was so funny, I couldn’t keep the camera steady. It was jiggling because I was laughing so hard.

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“Keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!”

“65 toss power trap. What’d I tell ya, boys? 65 toss power trap!”

He understood that he was on the biggest stage possible, and he was an entertainer. This was going to be his greatest moment.

Hank was the kind of coach where, if he were a card player with a great hand, he’d clean the table. And he did that day. That was a butt-whipping -- and he told us all about it.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer


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