"The Super Bowl is fixed!!!"
So were the words out of my best friend’s mouth. The year was 1977, and that football season the Denver Broncos and their Orange Crush defense had taken the nation by storm. They had piled up an impressive record by Thanksgiving, and only lost 1 game, a close one to Oakland. It was an exciting time, and great to see a new team doing so well, after several years of dominance by Pittsburgh, Oakland, and before that, Miami.
My best friend was almost matter of fact about it, the way it rolled out of his early teenage mouth. I had come over to his house to toss around a Nerf football, and he said his dad had been to one of the casinos, and an insider had learned the secret. That year’s Super Bowl had already been predetermined. Dallas would play Denver, and Dallas would win. I was a little puzzled, not sure how this was even possible, or if so, actually true? I filed it away and mostly forgot about it, as did he.
As the season carried on and into the playoffs, the collision course of Denver facing Dallas in that year’s Super Bowl came to fruition. There was the usual hype and anticipation as the game approached, and got underway. And you can imagine my surprise when Denver, and specifically their quarterback, Craig Morton (who not incidentally had previously played for Dallas), had the worst game of any quarterback in Super Bowl history, throwing as many interceptions as completions (4). There was also a play in the game where Butch Johnson caught a ball for a touchdown that he seemed to drop in the end zone, but was ruled a catch anyway. Adding to the mystery, was the fact that CBS lost the master tape of the game’s broadcast, and it still hasn’t turned up to this day. Maybe the fix was in?!
We talked, laughed about it a little the next day in school. As much disappointed that Denver lost and played so poorly after such a stellar season. We also heard about how supposedly Super Bowl III was fixed, then the Colts lost on purpose to Joe Namath's Jets. Not knowing what to think, I pretty much dismissed it. This didn’t sour me on the sport, and I still didn’t completely buy the idea the game was completely rigged, coming to realize such a conclusion took away from a beautiful game played by Dallas, especially their “Doomsday Defense.” But I never forgot it either, though my memories of the game are a blur.
In the 2015 playoffs, members from that Orange Crush defense were honored at Denver’s home game, and in a playoff game Dallas' wide receiver Dez Bryant’s beautiful catch against Green Bay was ruled “no catch”, made me harken back to those days gone by, and wonder, if only just a little, what if…?