Linus and I are giving our PS2 an all-time blowout before we (eventually) get a Wii. To do this, we are playing a Madden (06 version) tournament featuring 140 or so of the historic teams featured on the game. So, for example, tonight the 1968 Jets (of the famous Joe Namath guarantee) just beat the formidable 1974 Steelers. That this happened due to a complete choke job on my part on a last-second field goal is of no consequence to our conscience–we simply apply the “Any Given Sunday” rule in those circumstances. And, since it’s a single-elimination tournament, that means perhaps the best edition of the famed Steel Curtain is one and done.
It’s been great fun so far, and we’ve both enjoyed looking at the rosters of these old teams and figuring out their relative strengths and weaknesses. A particular highlight for me was playing with the 1981 San Diego Chargers, the heyday of Don Coryell’s famed “Air Coryell” offense, which featured a Grizzly Adams-esque Dan Fouts at QB and one of the nastiest combinations of offensive skill players ever assembled. (Wes Chandler and Charlie Joyner at WR, Kellen Winslow at TE, and fumblin’ Chuck Muncie and a young James Brooks at RB.) I grew up rooting for the Chiefs, and there was no more boring offensive team to watch in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s than the Chiefs. Watching them play the Chargers was always the highlight of my year. That’s how you know your team sucks.
Linus, for his part, has been a solid game-playing partner, willing to be any team, willing to play with or against me, and always offering constructive guidance. But, as any game player knows, when things don’t go your way it can be upsetting. As an adult, I can deal with this in various ways. I can turn the game off and walk out. I can swear. I can throw the controller at the game console, accidentally hit the reset button, and inadvertently erase hours of compiled history. Or I could roll like Friend of Pipeline CliffP, who once missed a putt in a multi-player golf game, then booted the game out his front door all the way out to the street. It happens.
Well, Linus thankfully isn’t that invested in any of this. And it’s not that he has a problem with losing; he has a problem with being routed. And that’s OK, unless you have to face the full arsenal of Air Coryell. True, the fact that he was playing with the 1990 49ers, a higher-rated team, should have given him a chance. But there’s no stopping history, and the 1981 Chargers were a team cheated by history. Or, more accurately, the weather. A week after playing one of the most famous games in history (the near double-OT thriller against the Dolphins that saw multiple players cramp or collapse due to the steamy Miami conditions), the Chargers then had to go to Cincinnati and play a very solid Bengals team in a near 40 below wind chill. I vividly remember players on the sidelines having to change their pads and uniforms because their sweat was freezing to their bodies and their pads were sticking to their skin. The Chargers just didn’t have enough left in them after the epic in Miami, and that was essentially the end of the great Air Coryell dynasty.
That is, until I resurrected them like a Bill Walsh/Dr. Frankenstein hybrid. (And the Walsh comparison is intentional; Coryell’s offense was a modified version of the offense Walsh created under Paul Brown in Cincinnati in the early 1970s. All of which means the West Coast Offense actually started as the South Ohio offense…)
Air Coryell returned from the digital dustbin of history with a vengeance, and soon I was up 28-0 in the first quarter. This resulted in the first objectionable language I’ve ever heard Linus use, when he half screamed, half sobbed, “Jesus! What’s happening?!?” We decided to let the computer play that one out. Then I counseled him about the value of detachment, and also gave him suggestions for other exclamatory remarks.
But in my head I was thinking, “What happened? Air Coryell happened. Over and over again.” Someday, when he’s old enough, I’ll share those thoughts with him. Then, when he’s even older, he’ll be the one sharing those thoughts with me as he’s beating the bejesus out of me. Full circle.