As we prepare for the mind-blowing boredom that is the national media’s coverage-of-itself during Super Bowl Week, the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi recalls the exploits of the Oakland Raiders’ late John Matuszak.
It’s been a quarter-century now since that week at Super Bowl XV in New Orleans when Matuszak — all 6 feet 9 and 280 pounds of him — became a bona-fide barroom-brawling, dance-halling, tradition-galling American antihero.
By then, Matuszak was nearing the end of his career with the Oakland Raiders. He was the NFL’s transcendent rebel leading the ultimate set of renegades into the Super Bowl against the robotic archetype of NFL hyper-intensity — the Dick Vermeil-coached Philadelphia Eagles. In those days, Vermeil was the poster boy for NFL burnout — a coach so driven, he slept on an office cot and so on edge, he once shook his fist and screamed at the Blue Angels who were flying over his practice field and distracting his players.
The Raiders, of course, were the complete opposite. Matuszak was seen out most every night at the Super Bowl roaming Bourbon Street in a drunken haze. He called it the “Tooz Cruise” and explained to reporters that he wasn’t really out partying. He was out patrolling.
“I’m the enforcer,” he said. “I’m out on the streets to make sure nobody else is.”
Vermeil was appalled at Matuszak’s lack of discipline. “If he were on the Eagles,” Vermeil said disgustedly, “he’d be on a plane back to Philadelphia right now.”
Raiders Coach Tom Flores scoffed at such a notion. When asked by a reporter what he was going to do to Matuszak for breaking curfew, Flores deadpanned: “Fine him $1,000 and let him sleep it off.”
Flores claims now he was misquoted. “I never told John to sleep it off,” he says. “He’d already slept it off and was ready to roll.”
After the Raiders destroyed Philadelphia 27-10, the Tooz explained the victory philosophically. “The Eagles,” he said, “got so caught up in beating the distractions that beating the distractions became the biggest distraction.”