(by ED AGNER)
One's knowledge of Conrad Dobler is a
dividing line between football fans who are in the key marketing
demographic that makes Madison Avenue drool and those whom Madison
Avenue believes are in the drooling, incontinent, impotent demographic.
If you have no clue who
Dobler is or, at best, think he was just some guy who was an actor in a
beer commercial your Dad told you about long-long-long ago -
Congrats! The Spike! Network is your domain. God, I despise
your youth! But if the name
brings a smile or a grimace to your face and you nod at the memory
then...well...those purple pills that give you four hour erections are
pretty nifty, aren't they? I hear. I wouldn't know.
I...Quit staring up at me already! It's been two hours
al...rea... -- Ahem.
So anyway, Dobler was one of football's really great accidents.
He may or may not have been what his press-clippings called him, but he
was certainly shrewd in his ability to ride his on the field reputation
into a few decent off the field payday bonanzas in the commercial
industry. And Dobler's
magical on the field reputation? The dirtiest player in the
game. He even got a Sports Illustrated cover calling him exactly
that. A biting, kicking, punching, gouging, cheating, cheap-shot
artist of an offensive guard mainly for the 70's St. Louis Cardinals
who, aside from the nasty reputation, was otherwise unexceptional.
therein is the beauty of the Conrad Dobler accident - he really was
nothing more than a solid offensive guard yet (yes, I know about his
three Pro Bowls, but really, how hard is it to get in the Pro Bowl
after the star players beg out?), because of his nasty reputation (this
in an NFL that still celebrated outlaws and rogues, mind you), Dobler
became a household name. Every Monday Night game would feature
Howard laughing through some tale of Dobler setting fire to a school
bus full of children. Every NFL pre-game show would have some
sort of funny bit on how Dobler picked a fight with an invalid.
Every magazine and newspaper would run some of goofy story on Dobler's
satanic rituals. And all this as a slightly-better-than-average
offensive guard whom no one would have otherwise known! Beautiful!
And along came the advertising companies! Conrad, shill these
lawn jarts by impaling a kitten with them! Conrad, bust the
Kool-Aid man into a bazillion pieces! Conrad, call Fonzie a
wuss! Conrad! Conrad! Conrad! Ahh, the 70's!
Funny enough, when you really tore apart the myth, Dobler was no more
of a dirty player than your average Denver Broncos offensive
lineman. He wasn't even that scary looking. Shoot, he
probably even liked little puppies, rainbows and walks on the
beach. Dobler was just too smart to attempt to change public
perception about him - let's just say that Terry Bradshaw would've been
accepted into MENSA well before Dobler would ever consider giving some
tear-filled interview to Phyllis George about how he's really a groovy
kind of guy who teaches The Hustle to the underprivileged and loves The
Carpenters. Not such a big deal now, but at the time, Dobler was
well ahead of the game.
The real shock for me about Dobler was that he somehow played his
entire career without becoming a Raider. I can't quite figure
that out. But he did go on to do loads of commercial work -
without somehow entering the world of pro wrasslin', something I also
can't quite figure out - until the novelty wore off and no one cared
about or remembered who he was. And that's a shame because I bet
he'd do really GREAT commercials for those four-hour erection