Mondays With Murray: Rented Defenses




Rented Defenses

  They were playing the American Football League playoff game in San Diego; so I packed up my adding machine, abacus, ran over the multiplication table again in my mind, told Barron Hilton to send the plane around at noon and took off.

  There’s always a lot of suspense going to San Diego these days because you never know when President Johnson might order it closed or mothballed — or transferred to Newport News. But I guess they’re afraid of a serious dislocation in the tattoo industry.

  The AFL, as you may know, is not a league so much as an exercise in geometric progression. I don’t think it prepares defenses, I think it rents them, at the last minute. Or they send a truck down to the Union Rescue Mission an hour before game time, load up the first 11 guys they can find and draw positions out of a hat. The ‘defense’ is just a costume masquerade. The score is usually 7-7 by the kickoff. In fact, I’m not sure AFL games don’t come like taxis — with points already on the meter before they start up. If one team is late getting on the field, they’re behind 20-0 before they can make it. The officials don’t notice when there’s no defense on the field because the team with the ball runs through them even when there is.

You Watch the Scoreboard

  You don’t really watch the game, you watch the scoreboard. The touchdowns come too fast for the naked eye. Actually, when you see your first AFL game, you think the scoreboard has developed a stutter. The stock market ticker would run a day behind. The radio announcers broadcasting the games sound like tobacco auctioneers. They should really start both teams at -10 to give the crowd a chance to keep up.

  There were only 61 points scored in the championship game, only 10 of them by Boston which had its hands on the ball only about twice. I think the Boston Patriots not only got their defense from Union Rescue but their offense as well. They should change their name to Boston Patsies. You would have thought they were blindfolded. I have seen guys find a keyhole in the dark after a night of wassailing easier than these guys could find the ball.

  You don’t need shoulder guards in this game. You could play in sunglasses, in fact, in a monocle. The only resistance you get is from the wind. A vendor got in front of me making change for a quarter and I missed three touchdowns and a field goal attempt. Even at half-time, the bands play three songs in the time it takes normal ones to play one. There is more body contact in Olympic sprint heats or a Willie Pastrano fight. The only reason they ever got bloody noses in these things is the altitude. All a trainer needs is Kleenex.

Chargers on Run in a Hurry

  San Diego reeled off more ground faster than a guy who suddenly hears the husband coming home. On the second play from scrimmage, a guy went 54 yards. With his shoelaces untied. You could play in your stocking feet.

  The Chargers’ Keith Lincoln alone almost equaled the two-year rushing total of the German army in 1939-40. But Boston could have moved faster underground.

  The Charger crowd began chanting “We want the Bears” after the second touchdown, which took two whole plays. The first touchdown took four plays and coach Sid Gillman was understandably cross when his team ran off the field. “What kept you?” he wanted to know. There were three touchdowns in the first 10 scrimmage plays.

  The Chargers have a right nice little team. Ron Mix is an offensive tackle who knocks down more people than a missing top step. Dave Kocourek scattered more Bostonians than a bomb scare in Scollay Square.

  But the game wasn’t a test of much except arithmetic. It did show the San Diego Chargers far and away the best team south of the lower reaches of the National Football League. Even in wind sprints, 610 yards. Total is impressive. And when the history classes in San Diego in the future say “What did Lincoln do?” the kids may answer, “He made 329 yards against Boston in 1964.

  This is a league that has been kept alive by wholesale injections of money. The Texas Big Rich poured it through the windows of 10-second halfbacks like coal chutes along with such glittering promises of jobs that Texas in the future will be run by football players, which may or may not be an improvement over the present system.

  But this league moves the ball — and its customers. It plays its All-Star game two weeks hence — and I think the score is already 21-21. The Bears might prove them to be just bull — or bush. But the Bears wouldn’t beat them 100-0 as some predict. Of course, they might beat them 1,000-100. But at least the game would be a great challenge to the electronic industry and they might have to score it by logarithm. Well, why not?

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116


What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website,


A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.


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