Monaros 2020 – a vision triumphant


Greetings Tipsters


Miami Dolphins played a great season in 1971. They made the Superbowl. Got their collective arse handed to them on a platter by Dallas Cowboys. One of those seriously embarrassing losses.


Dolphins came outa the blocks hard in ’72. The team kept winning… and winning. All the way to Superbowl VII. The only NFL team to play a perfect season.


Your correspondent has been trapped at home by illness since NYE and, thanks to the digital age, has dived deep into the twentieth century. Carole Lombard in a screwball comedy? Check. Newsreel of Bondi in 1926? Check. Detroit Lions in technicolour, 1939? Check. The Who at Isle of Wight, 1970, really loud? Check.


NFL Films has been running since before I was born, the Superbowl series is beautifully done. The Packers ’66 features summer camp footage. There is a massive amount of American football film on utoob. I’ve watched Tom Landry playing running back for Washington and Bobby Layne passing for Detroit in the 1950s and, of course, a stack of 1970s games.


Ah, the Twentieth Century, the mechanical age. USS Iowa, three hundred thousand pounds of hand-drawn blueprints. SR-71, the fastest aeroplane ever built, of stolen titanium, needed a refuel within an hour of leaving Edwards AFB because the tanks wouldn’t stick together until it had hit 60,000 feet. Akula class submarines, 48,000 tons, swimming pool and gymnasiums. Muhammed Ali taking hits from George Foreman in Guyana. Ford’s exploding Pinto, Holden’s uncornerable HQ. The 1976 Oakland Raiders.


Oakland was a rough area. No coincidence that it was there that Sonny Barger took the Hell’s Angels from a bunch of lazy thugs to the cultural/criminal status they enjoyed in the 70s, just across the bay from the groovy love and peace schtick of San Francisco.


Al “Just win, baby” Davis, the Raiders’ owner and GM, was a bit of a mad bastard. He’d been involoved with the old AFL since 1960 and Raiders since ’63. By ’76, the team had lost several conference championships to the eventual Superbowl champ, usually the Steelers. The Raiders hated the Steelers. The Raiders was a team out on the edge, geographically too, with a practice field in the middle of a desolate industrial area.


“There ain’t many stops after you leave here” – Gene Upshaw, Hall of Fame left guard.


By ’76, the guts of the team had been there for a while. The flamboyant John Madden, whose name has adorned the official NFL vidgame since inception, had coached since ’69. Ken Stabler, began his college career as backup to Joe Namath at U Alabama, had been starting quarterback since ’72.


“How much sleep do you need to play football?” he said, referring to his reputation for late night partying, one shared by his teammates. He reckoned he studied the playbook by the light of the jukebox.


Including Madden and Davis, but not Stabler, the ’76 roster featured eight eventual Hall Of Famers, handily distributed across the lines, receivers and D backs. It was a great all-round team. It was the mid 70s. Two years later the NFL would introduce the Blount Rule, because Steelers D back Mel Blount would run around the backfield hammering receivers into sleepytime.


Phil Vilapiano, linebacker, has spoken admiringly of having his forearms bandaged pre-match. The bandages were soaked in plaster, they ran onto the field with plaster casts on their arms, some with plastered thumbs, depending on position – linemen had different requirements to linebackers – and they would swap hits with their opposite players. It was a tough, brutal sport and the Raiders were the toughest and most brutal of all. They had a ferocious line on both sides of the ball, a quarterback playing the best season of his career and a corps of runners and receivers that made it count.


From Round 2 they played five straight road games, including the only loss of the season to New England, avenged in the first round of the playoffs. Conference playoff, Raiders 24, Steelers 7. “We haven’t done anything yet” – John Madden, post-match.


Superbowl, Raiders 32, Vikings 14.


The Raiders were outsiders, nobody liked them aside from the relatively tiny fanbase. They knew it, ‘Fuck the world” might have been their slogan.


Now, out there at Olympic Park, the club ought have purchased Helen Frankenthaler’s 1974 ‘Sundowner’, a beautiful abstract piece of many oranges and a few streaks of black and white, and hung it in the foyer where it would be an inspiration to every player and coach who’d get together and mutter in muted tones, “You watch Bengals at Raiders?” “I watched Raiders at Eagles, in the snow.” Then talk about how everyone hated the Raiders, a team based in a deeply unfashionable area full of tough nuts, with a reputation for losing the big games and how they got it together and showed those fools up.


Leon Cameron channelling John Madden and David Matthews Al Davis, badda bing, badda boom. Lachie Whitfield collects his premiership medal and yells “This is for Fred Beletnikoff!”


Then they’d get together at the hotel and watch a few episodes of Rockford Files, ‘cos James Garner was one cool cat.


All that and the ’72 Dolphins.


Cheers Tipsters


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About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.


  1. Earl, a classic, left field analysis to find a way to ‘just win, baby’! You transcend national and sporting code boundaries to plot 2020 success for the Monaros. Good luck!

  2. A great read, thanks Earl.

    Wasn’t the Gene Hackman film “Class Action” loosely based on the Ford Pinto?

  3. Brilliant Earl.

    I’m no boxing fan or expert but for sporting theatre the Rumble in the Jungle is unsurpassed. When We Were Kings is great and Norman Mailer’s The Fight remains right up there for me as non-fiction. Depending on your viewpoint he makes you want to rush to the typewriter, or give up forever.

  4. Great stuff. Lucky we don’t have drug testing at the Almanac.

  5. Earl O'Neill says

    Ian, there are no boundaries.

    Smokie, yes, based on the Pinto action. Ford crunched the numbers and figured it would be cheaper to pay out claims than fix the car.

    Mickey, I’m no fan of boxing but it lends itself to grand tales. When We Were Kings is great. Also, check The Set-up, 1949, the best boxing movie.

    Peter, some beer lubricated the second draft, which shrank by 200 words when editing the next morning.

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