IT WAS A “PERFECTLY SUPER” SEASON

Lary Coppola

By Guest Contributor Lary Coppola
 

Maslow Award
December 2017  



1972 Miami Dolphins

“17 and O – That’s Perfectly Super” read the headline of the Miami Herald the morning after Super Bowl VII. Yes, it was…

As a young man of 22, who grew up in South Florida in the 60’s, and just beginning to understand the real ins, outs, and strategies used in professional football, the 1972 NFL season was a magical time.
The Miami Dolphins were our team, and we were the original 12s — all 72,319 of us who made the trek to Little Havana, gladly paying $10 to 20 bucks in 1972 dollars to park on someone’s front lawn and walk a mile or so in 80+ degree heat to jam-pack the sold out Orange Bowl every Sunday.

It was the first time Florida had its own NFL franchise to root for — there were no Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Jacksonville Jaguars until decades later. Until then, we only had the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators, and for those in the Florida Panhandle – which is in another time zone — it was the Florida State Seminoles or the Crimson Tide of Alabama. The nearest NFL team was the Atlanta Falcons — 10 hours by car and almost 700 miles away.

Because of the massive migration from the Northeast to South Florida that started in the mid-1960s, the New York Jets — led by “Broadway Joe” Namath, and the Boston Patriots — pre-Brady and Belichick — were our natural rivals. Every game day was a lot like when the Seahawks play the Forty Whiners – only way louder.
 

Dolphin’s owner Joe Robbie pulled off the deal of the century when he signed a young Head Coach named Don Shula, stealing him away from the Baltimore Colts and celebrated QB Johnny Unitas, when his contract was up. The NFL fined Robbie a bunch of money and the Fins first round draft pick after the Colt’s ownership whined about the unfairness of it all. Imagine that, signing a guy whose contract was up. How low could you go? All Robbie said to the media — with a wink of his eye and big smile when the fine was announced, “It was worth it.” And worth it he was.

But it was the team Shula put together — starting with All-American QB Bob Griese, the number 4 pick in the 1967 draft out of Purdue, and now a Hall of Famer. Then there was Larry Csonka, who has to be the most punishing runner to ever carry a football and is the original “Beast Mode.” Csonka was guaranteed to fall down five yards every time he touched the pumpkin — even when everyone on the field, sidelines, and in the stands knew he was getting the ball. His sidekicks, running backs Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris were the perfect compliment to the “The Zonk” as he was known.

His O-Line included the likes of Larry Little and Bob Kuenchenberg at Guard, Norm Evans at Tackle, and Jim Langer, at Center. Marv Fleming and Jim Mandich were often Griese’s main targets along with legendary wide receiver Paul Warfield — who was grace in motion.
 

Shula also traded with his old nemesis, the Colts, for Griese’s insurance policy — getting 38-year old QB Earl Morrall, who could double as a kicker when needed. It was a good thing he did because Griese broke his ankle when he was sacked in Game 5 against the San Diego Chargers by Deacon Jones and Ron East. It was like when Russell Wilson went down last year — everyone knew the season might be over.
 

However, Morrall stepped up, carrying the team to victory the rest of the season until Griese was able to take the helm back in the last game of the year. But he didn’t replace Morrall until part way through the AFC Championship game against the Steelers.
 

And let’s not forget the infamous “No Name Defense” as they were tagged by longtime Cowboys Head Coach, the illustrious Tom Landry. Led by Linebacker Nick Buoniconti, it featured Defensive End Bill Stanfill, Manny Fernandez at Tackle, Lloyd Mumford and Curtis Johnson at the Corners, plus Jake Scott, Dick Anderson and Charlie Babb at Safety. That crew was the original “Legion of Boom” long before Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman were even born. 

That year, nine players — Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Little, Evans, Buoniconti, Stanfill, Anderson and Scott — were all named to the Pro Bowl, with Morrall, Stanfill and Anderson named 1st team All-Pro.
 

The Dolphins’ magical 1972 season was only the team’s seventh year — and its third in the NFL. They are the only NFL team to ever win the Super Bowl with a perfect season — going 14–0 and winning all three post-season games, including Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins.
 

Yes… it was a magical time in South Florida… A time when athletes respected our flag, and were role models for kids. Before steroids and marginal players being signed for millions for a single season. Back when player jerseys didn’t cost more than a C-note.


Yes, 17-0 was perfectly super — and for guys like me, the original 12s rooting for the Fins in the early days — it always will be…


larycoppola@wetapple.com

1972 Miami Dolphins

Anyone who says nobody's perfect did not watch the 1972 Miami Dolphins. In figure-skating and other artsy competitions, scoring is largely an opinion – and often judging is questioned more than the identity of DB Cooper. 

But in the smash-mouth world of football, perfection is not only attainable, it is indisputable. 17-0 is a record, not an opinion, and this incredible feat by the '72 Fins has not been duplicated for forty-five years...and counting. Abe Maslow called it Self-Actualizing; the top of your game, your spirit, your love of life.  

For some reason I have been obsessed with excellence, and its all-elusive dance partner, perfection. In 1973, I wrote an essay featuring the Miami Dolphins, who had won the Super Bowl to cap the first perfect season in NFL history. It was Miss Green's English class in eighth grade, and reflecting on those ancient times, it was the first Greg Meakin Maslow Award I put on paper.

In that essay, Champions vs. Contenders, I pondered the differences between those that win, and those that come close but no cigar. In that Dorval High School essay, I threw in “perfection” comparisons to racehorse Secretariat, and my beloved Montreal Canadiens.

Football, like most sports, is driven by winning, but steered by statistics. With the evolution of technology, statistics in sports today are a micro-manager's dream – a sports wonk festival of analytical fun. There are statistics about statistics, and my question at the time, and remains today, is why certain teams and athletes seemed to win championships regardless of statistics, or other measurable formulas of analysis and prediction.

The very concept of the underdog winning despite the odds has created volumes of tales of victory and achievement over the years, and centuries. Indeed, the fabric and culture of our country is generously woven with an obsession for victory – especially victory that flies in the face of huge obstacles or “expert” prediction.

Goodness, the country's founding and survival itself fall into the category of unlikely long-shot. As a handicapper, I would have put the odds of the Americans defeating the British at 10-1. Surviving and thriving to this day as we have, as a feisty, independent nation – a million-to-one. 

1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated (3).jpg

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are Maslow Award winners not by simply winning and attaining perfection, but by how they did it, and what they overcame. Statistically, they led the league in most categories, including points for and against. They had not one, but two 1,000-yard rushers in Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. Paul Warfield, legendary wide receiver, averaged 20-yards per catch.

Big-time stats here, and the list could go on. But as I will share shortly, these stats were million-to-one odds by today's standards. They shouldn't have happened.

But boy, the stats were explosive with this team, on both sides of the ball. Csonka and Morris were polar opposite running backs. Csonka, straight up the middle for five yards every time. Five yards up the middle. Five yards up the middle. A forward-leaning cement truck plowing up the gut for his 1,000, at five yards a pop.  Mercury Morris, a flashy, dynamic speedster, blazed to 1,000 yards and beyond with style and excitement. And Jim Kiick, reliable workhorse, pounding more carries than Zonk.
 

1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated (2).jpg

The Miami defense, nicknamed No Name due to its obscurity compared to the dazzling offense, was superb. Lowest points allowed at 171, for a ridiculous average of 12.2 points per game, they were a turnover machine with Jake Scott and Dick Anderson. Nick Buoniconti, Manny Fernandez, and the rest of the crew shut down offenses every Sunday.

But one catastrophe occurred during Miami's season that should have blown apart its statistics, and its chances of getting to the playoffs, never mind going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl. In my view, no team today could overcome the obstacle that faced the Dolphins in week five of 1972. The starting quarterback broke his ankle. 

Star quarterback Bob Griese, who had cruised the team to a 4-0 start, and was coasting to an MVP trophy, broke his ankle and was out for the season. In our 2017 NFL, a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or the other elite QBs surely could not be lost to an injury and his team win a Super Bowl. No way. Not today.

Enter backup quarterback Earl Morrall, stage right. He strolled on the field and led his team to ten straight wins, as well as the playoff opener. Griese returned for one playoff game and the Super Bowl, topping off this magical sundae of a season.

Earl Morrall was the tipping point of the season. This thirty-eight year old signal caller, in my opinion, was the key to the 1972 Miami Dolphins becoming a first-round Maslow Award winner – as opposed to being a forgotten team, and maybe even banished to the golf course before the playoffs.

Unlike the vast majority of today's teams – the Dolphin's backup quarterback was a championship starter in disguise. Morrall was a wily veteran who had already won a Super Bowl for another team as a backup, the 1971 Colts, when he replaced Johnny Unitas.  

1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated.jpg

Before the 1972 season, Miami coach Don Shula convinced ownership to acquire Morrall from the Colts as an “insurance policy” on Griese's health – despite the outrageous salary of $90,000 for a backup! Shula was indeed prophetic with this move, and of course has a huge hand in lifting this Maslow Award with his team.

Reflecting back on that essay at thirteen years old, I remember being fascinated with the Dolphin colours – turquoise and red – and I distinctly remember a civic pride in Miami that I had not seen in my few years as a sports buff. I described the city being awash in Dolphins colours, right down to the light posts and city buses.

Was I able to ascertain a quantifiable difference in teams and athletes that earned “perfection” in that 1973 essay? No way. And, after five decades of being an addicted and practicing sports junkie, I have more questions than answers about what separates perennial champions from perennial contenders.

Indeed, I am perhaps a product of being raised with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are the second winningest franchise in the history of professional sports, with twenty-four championships. This is bridesmaid only to the NY Yankees, with twenty-seven. By the time I left Montreal for Seattle at age twenty-four, I had witnessed eleven Stanley Cups. One every other year on average. My favorite era was the four straight cups in the mid-'70s. I drank lots of beer, watched lots of hockey, and had lots of fun. 

When I arrived in Seattle, I scolded people left and right for their tolerance of losing. I warned them not to become Toronto Maple Leafs fans, who never expect to actually win anymore! I don't know why, but there are indeed “cursed” teams that always seem to pry defeat from the jaws of victory.


I told my friends that once they had experienced a Super Bowl or World Series, they would never go back. They would never accept being mediocre again. The joy of your own team winning a championship is so amazing, and my Seattle buddies only embraced my theory after our Seahawks finally won the Super Bowl in 2013.

I also embraced my friends who were die-hard Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs fans after they finally won championships. These precious souls had experienced endless, humiliating, and depressing droughts of losing, and I was thrilled for them to feel the joy of winning.   

I don't pretend to have a brainstorm formula of what separates contenders from champions in sports, or in life for that matter. But at the same time I believe there is something different. Perhaps team culture of winning and intolerance of losing, perhaps the stars aligning in uncontrollable areas such as schedule or injuries, perhaps momentum, perhaps ownership or management genius, perhaps other invisible factors.

But one thing I must admit, and will never claim otherwise; in sports, there is always, always an element of luck. Of unpredictability. Of tragic human failure, or jaw-dropping victory. It always seems that champions are hitting on all of the cylinders above, at precisely the right moment, and with a wink and a nod from Lady Luck.  

But when I think about these 1972 Dolphins, or Tom Brady, or Jean Beliveau, there still seems to be something different.
  
It is what I describe as a Magic that seems to follow a victorious team or player to the mountain top. To the top rung of Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. Watch any close championship struggle and you will know what I mean about magic. 
 
Whatever quantifiable difference a Maslow Award winner has from the rest of us mortals might always be elusive. Or maybe the answer just rolls out with the tide, as soon as we think we're close.

But there is a bit of a joy in this mystery. It is what makes sports sports. And life achievements fleeting.

But there is something different, I do believe.  

And I will certainly keep you posted. 



Copyright © 2017 by Greg Meakin

GregMeakin.com

GregMeakin2020@gmail.com


A few weeks ago, I contacted my old publisher friend and writer extraordinaire, Lary Coppola. Lary and I go back to the ancient times of 1980s Kitsap County, near Seattle, and whenever I want the opinion about anything that involves the written word, I touch base with Lary.

Not only was Coppola publisher and primary writer for the legendary Kitsap Business Journal, an intellectual magazine that was a Must Read every week, but he's been a mayor, and a port commissioner, and is an all round active and successful guy in his community.  

When awarding the 1972 Miami Dolphins Maslow Award, I reached out to Lary because he lived in South Florida at that time, and as is customary with my awards, I always want a boots-on-the-ground take. In 1972, as an eight grader in Montreal, I could only watch the Dolphins from afar, via lousy quality color TV.

But Lary Coppola was there. A twenty-two year old rabble-rouser I can only assume, and writes about his point of view of  his 1972 Miami Dolphins.

As ever, Lary brings entertaining detail about that magical season, and also personalizes this reflection to today's Seattle Seahawks, and today's NFL for that matter.

The Fins. Those Perfect Fins.

Anthony Calvillo

I have yet to meet an American who even knows the name Anthony Calvillo. And only the rare American journalist, like ESPN's Chris Berman, knows his name. Matter of fact, Berman correctly acknowledges Calvillo as the top passing quarterback in the history of professional football. Number One. Just ahead of that Peyton Manning fellow.

In 2011, Berman devoted his 2-minute drill segment to Anthony Calvillo, recognizing him as having surpassed Brett Favre at the time, and describing him as a “Montreal civic treasure.” The video, full of classic Chris Berman Quebecois schtick, is still on YouTube, and is worth a watch. Especially for you America dudes who think you're really, really smart about football.

Watch two-minute video:

Yes, Anthony Calvillo is the top passing quarterback in the history of professional football, with 79,816 yards. I love cold, hard statistics, and that number is absolutely ridiculous. Just a few more tosses to Cahoon and you'd hit 80,000 yards? Are you kidding?

I didn't realize Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas had such paltry 40,000-yard careers.

This combined with a 20-YEAR career (a pro football Old Folks Club with only a handful of members with names like Blanda) definitely drives Calvillo into Maslow territory. 

(And in this conversation, I have no desire to debate the purist NFL fans about the merits of the CFL. Not the place, and not relevant. This piece is about excellence, and the featured gentleman here is the poster-child for pure and utter excellence).

Anthony Calvillo, for a big bucket full of reasons other than gridiron exploits, is the prototype of what I call a complete Maslow guy.

Obviously, I deeply admire Mr. Calvillo, but not just from watching him play for my Montreal Alouettes. Indeed, having moved to the Seattle area in 1983, and becoming one of those crazy Seahawks fans, I just didn't follow Canadian football that much anymore. I watched the odd game and a few Grey Cups on TV, but not to the extent of the good ol' Johnny Rodgers, Marv Levy, Mark Kosmos days I followed so rabidly in the '70s.

To get the feel of this quarterback's impact on the city of Montreal, I relied on my brother, and my old football buddies back there. Much like the love Seattle has for Russell Wilson, all raved about Anthony Calvillo. My pals had endless kudos about his play on the field, of course, but what always seemed to be brought up was his manhood and class off the field. Especially with his family, and devotion to charitable causes. The ultimate Role Model, in an age where they are so needed.  

His career success is incredible. He is statistically the best-of-the-best in Canadian football, and with three championship rings, he was a first round CFL Hall of Famer – and also a first round Maslow Award winner, of course!

But Maslow winners stand much taller than just numbers and awards. Where my personal admiration of this man really came into focus was only a few years ago. My brother Bob, sadly and suddenly was stricken with pancreatic cancer. He was blessed to have spent his last days in comfort at an amazing facility, West Island Palliative Care in Pointe Claire, Quebec.

Bob lived for football, almost from birth, and his eyes flew open with disbelief when he watched Anthony Calvillo stroll into his room that afternoon. It was just, “Hi Bob,” from Anthony. The hour he quietly spent with my brother, later presenting him with an autographed football and handwritten personal message, melted my heart. Those of us who witnessed this man's warmth towards my brother that day were completely moved.  

Afterward, I was able to visit with him and meet his gracious wife, Alexia, and two wonderful daughters, Athena and Olivia. He is a proud papa, and is thrilled his girls are growing up bilingual. He loves multicultural Montreal, and plans to continue raising his family there. I told him I was surprised he wasn't returning to the U.S. to spend his retirement, especially having been a California kid.

But, I guess it is a living testament of his love for Montreal, and Montreal's love for him.

I took him aside in the lobby, and thanked him for spending time with my brother the way he did. I relayed that Bob was thrilled, and deeply honored to have him visit.

This is where Anthony Calvillo took a moment and said quietly, “The honour was mine.”

Not to be mushy here, but there was something about that moment I will remember forever.  How calmly he said it. How deeply he looked into my eyes. I believed him. I believed he was completely touched in his own heart, just to have been able to make Bob Meakin happy that afternoon. Just for Bob.

I realized then that Anthony Calvillo is a very special guy. I told him I wanted to write about him in the future, especially to introduce him to people who have no idea who he is. His humility, compassion, and gentlemanly demeanor reminded me of another special guy – the late great Jean Beliveau.

In fact, since meeting Anthony, I have described him on blogs as a modern day Jean Beliveau – an incredible sports legend, but also an incredible example of a class act. A true gentleman.

And as a final note here, I so look forward to visiting with Anthony Calvillo in Montreal, for a sit-down interview after the Alouettes season is over. I plan on learning more about what makes this gentleman tick.  Also, what I have not discussed this time around, is Anthony's tough childhood in East L.A., and his and Alexia's courageous battle with cancer. Those are definitely stand-alone discussions I will write about after the first of the year.  

So, trying desperately to not sound too Man-Crushy here, it's so cool to be scheduling a date with Anthony Calvillo. Just a sports junkie's dream, perhaps?  

Or, maybe just a Writer's Maslow Moment of my own.

Probably both.   



Copyright ©2017 by Greg Meakin
gregmeakin2020@gmail.com

Ann Rule

The first time I wrote a profile of Ann Rule was in 2010. Sadly, this friend and amazing crime writer passed away in 2015, at the age of 83.

Here, I will simply declare Ann a posthumous Maslow Award winner, write a current intro, and post the 2010 profile raw and uncut below. In the near future, I plan on sitting down with her wonderful daughter Leslie, and write about mutual anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories about her mom.

Ann Rule web.jpg

I had the pleasure of working closely with Ann in 2003, when I contributed to a manuscript she was writing. A dear friend of mine had disappeared years earlier, and Ann had reached out, asking if I could shed personal light on my friend's life. The 2005 book, Worth More Dead, became a New York Times Best Seller – as were the other thirty-two books she authored. 


And this astonishing number, thirty-three best sellers, places Ann Rule at the very top of her genre, and the very top of my Maslow Award list.

In 1980, she published the now-econic Stranger Beside Me, and introduced a fellow named Ted Bundy to a mortified (and clearly fascinated) public. Rule quickly rocketed to the top of the true crime genre. Ann Rule has remained a household name since.

(Since 1969, her career involved writing stories in detective magazines, under male pen names, Chris Hansen, Arthur Stone, and Andy Stack. Being practical and acknowledging the industry sexism of the era, when she created the pen name Andy Stack, it was a wink to her first name, and her maiden name, Stackhouse).

To me, Ann was a true game-changer – a shining Maslow example – in that she unofficially launched true crime into the entertainment mainstream, after decades of being hidden in pulp rags, or relegated to the back alley of serious literature. Rule was able to leverage modern media and technology to market her brand and product worldwide, and to honor the victims of crime.   

Anyone who knows Ann, knows she was a throwback to the days of pounding the pavement and promoting one's message. She did endless television, radio, and book signings. No laziness was permitted in an Ann Rule world.

She was a single mom before it was cool. She served in Seattle law enforcement long before the industry's acceptance of women. And as mentioned, she led an evolution of her genre, to both include female authors, and to mainstream the true crime genre.     

Since working with her on her book, and appearing with her on a Seattle television talk show in 2005, I still can't believe the magnetism Ann Rule has with her fans and colleagues. Everyone loves her.

But it is her truly unique heart-of-gold that always shined through to me, and does to this day. I have personally witnessed Ann Rule's love of life – love for her family; love for the victims and families in her books; and love for her four-legged soul mates walking the earth, especially cats and dogs.


Copyright ©2017 by Greg Meakin
gregmeakin2020@gmail.com


Ann Rule

I feel so blessed to have Ann Rule as a friend. And it’s not the celebrity thing – it is the person she is. The robust life she has lived – and continues to live every day. Forget assembly-line best-selling books and decades of international fame here. Forget the array of made-for-TV Ann Rule movies. Once you have experienced Ann Rule’s humanity, all those other details become, oh, details.

On the professional front, and quite apart from our friendship, I believe Ann Rule to be the foremost crime writer in the world today, and it’s not even close. Nothing against other writers, and there are good ones, but whenever I consider who the best in any field, I test my theory by simply using a template sentence and then filling in the blank.

In this case, my sentence would be “There are great true crime writers out there, but there is only one ANN RULE.” Another example would be, “There are great hockey players out there, but there is only one WAYNE GRETZKY. “  You get the drift.  If there is any hesitation filling in the blank, or the name somehow appears out of place, then you have not identified the best.

You can test this formula by using another template sentence and interchanging the names. For example, “Ann Rule is the Wayne Gretzky of true crime.” Or, “Wayne Gretzky is the Ann Rule of hockey.”  It’s that simple.

So, at last count Ann Rule has published close to 30 books, all but one being NY Times bestsellers. In terms of sheer volume, Rule is at the top of all lists. Regardless of American Idolesque judging opinions of a writing genre here, in terms of quality, content, and most importantly brand marketability and reader appeal, I believe nobody is in her class. 

I was sitting in a comfortable chair on the set of Northwest Afternoon, a television magazine show in Seattle, and Ann Rule, sitting beside me on the stage. We were co-guests on the show, yet somehow viewers were most interested in Ann Rule, imagine that?!)  She leaned over and whispered in my ear. “You and I would make a great team, Greg.”

It was difficult not to chuckle too loud on the set. I said, “Ann, if you ever want me to travel the country and appear with you, you just let me know!” (Frankly, I think I might slow her down -- Ann Rule is high octane in print). I will remind her of this discussion someday though – what a blast being on the road promoting Ann Rule!

But I digress.  In wrapping up a tribute to a friend, a writer must never forget the friend’s family. In this case, Ann Rule has raised a family to be proud of. I have had the pleasure of knowing Leslie Rule, her eldest daughter. Leslie, a friend as well, is a brilliant and thoroughly entertaining paranormal writer. The unsung thing about Leslie Rule is her incredible talent as a photographer.

In both the written word, and photographic works, I am president of the Leslie Rule fan club, so to speak.  

Earlier this year, Ann Rule was admitted to hospital and stayed for over two weeks, nursing a staph infection in the spinal region. She has been recovering steadily, and is currently undergoing physiotherapy to get back to normal life as quickly as possible. Times like these cause me to reflect. Although there will be many books undoubtedly forthcoming, if Ann Rule retired today and wrote not one more word, she will have already contributed exponentially to the written word of the world’s true crime library.

And this not even considering her instigating and leading the true crime genre explosion in recent decades – a genre oft-regarded in past eras as sleazy pulp, or worse.   

Such is the prominence of this author. And such will remain our whodunit nature as once again we await the next Ann Rule book.

What a crime it would be for us to lose her anytime in the next 20 or 30 years or so!

Ann Rule: Serial author. Cereal mom. Surreal talent.

And a great friend.

 

Copyright©2010 by Greg Meakin