I remember 1983 as bleak. I remember getting in trouble. I remember being 14 and unable to focus on homework. I just talked to girls, walking around the hallways, hoping to get some attention. I was also on the cross-country team and on my way to a varsity season as a freshman, but I loathed it. Most people approach their day of competition with a zombified dread, the kind #45 Dwayne Crutchfield described in Sports Illustrated as a college senior running back at Iowa State in 1981. You just feel like one of Sartre's characters in No Exit, thinking that this may be the day that you die, or maybe it's not. I would throw up before meets and spend most of my time on the bus thinking that if I didn't die, it might just be the day I crap myself in fear. Literally.
I hate competition. I still pale in the face of it. In cross-country, I competed against myself. As you leave the aural mayhem of the starting line and endure the near panic of the first mile, you enter into a meditative place of solitude with pain. Your adversaries disappear in and around your peripheral, the gentle quiet of the long course becomes your background and you don't pay attention to anything but your own breathing and your constant dialogue with the desire to give up. I ran fast and well, but I know I didn't run competitively, which didn't bother the coach at the time because I was simply a promising young runner. When I quit right before the next year, he was furious. I don't blame him, but I felt liberated from having to endure pain for no other reason other than endure it. I didn't want to win any more than I was afraid to lose. And I am a Jets fan. I wasn't afraid to lose.
If Dwayne Crutchfield had known about losing any more than winning, perhaps he would have been ready for a career that was typically short for the NFL. Observe how often in the SI article it's mentioned that, as a promising draft choice for the following year he had a low "center of gravity." Today a running back needs to be powerful but short, explosive, compact. He needs to be a Honda Accord that drives through walls. Your adversaries do not disappear. They envelope and collapse around you. Or so it certainly seems. The model for such people is still LaDanian Tomlinson, although he is a senior citizen at the position for the Jets. In 1981, Earl Campbell was still the model, with a low center of gravity and huge thighs, which are also a weirdly mentioned attribute in Dwayne Crutchfield, as if he were a piece of livestock.
(The photo comes by way of "Steve K" on UniWatch - the ridiculously, beautifully obsessive website. Steve "was watching some old NFL footage and spotted Jets FB Dwayne Crutchfield wearing a non-standard NOB font." In other words, his name is sewn on with a different typeset than, say, Marvin Powell or Scott Dierking next to him. If you were a uniform geek, you'd know what that mean, too. When I was a kid, I noticed these things. Now I know I am not alone.)
The game chews you up at the core of the line and spits you out. After a promising rookie season where he ran for 577 yards, Dwayne Crutchfield then gained almost an identical amount in 11 games in the middle of 1983 but was immediately traded to Earl Campbell's Houston Oilers. He would have one more year with the Rams. Earl Campbell followed Bum Phillips to New Orleans, where he played little longer, while Houson went to the air with Warren Moon. Because of his low center of gravity, Earl Campbell is today sometimes wheelchair bound at the age of 55. Perhaps Dwayne Crutchfield was fortunate enough to carry the ball much less than Earl. Don't be afraid to lose sometimes. It hurts much less.
And don't be afraid to be wrong. When I first wrote about #39, which was only six numbers and a year and a half ago, I noted that safety Harry Howard played one year for the Jets in 1976, and even then, apparently only one game. You can still find the write-up on the all-time roster here, though it mistakenly offers #45 Louie Giammona's information instead. Harry Howard remains a mystery. The Jets' site, more focused on the exciting Now, has little time to offer anything of interest about the past; the all-time roster is temporarily inaccessible beyond just giving names and numbers. Maybe because they need to clean up the errors. Maybe because they just don't care about the past anymore. Jets aren't losers (the Past). Jets are winners (the Present). No mistakes.
In Louie Giammona's write-up on Harry Howard's page, Lou Holtz is quoted in 1976 as saying, "when you list height, weight, speed, statistics and the intangibles without a name, there is no difference between Louie and Archie Griffin." Guess which player won the Heisman twice? When you think about it, the quote says more about Lou Holtz's one year of professional football coaching than it does about Giammona's potential. Lou Holtz was wrong, but then all of us have intangibles without a name. These may not make us stars, but they will pay off somehow.
(Giammona is here seen playing against the Patriots in a 1976 loss at Shea, which was the last game Dad and I attended while on his season tickets. Though I think I remember it being was too cold for short sleeves, the database tells me that Giammona gained 26 yards that day, while there are no actual statistics for him in 1977, the only other year he was technically a Jet.)
The note about his induction into the Utah State Hall of Fame mentions that after he joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978, Giacomma eventually became the Team Captain for an Eagles squad that won more often than they lost and went to the Super Bowl in January 1981. At 5'9", his good luck may simply been those intangibles: he was plucky (that word again) and tough in the way that Dick Vermeil obviously liked (see Mark Wahlberg in Invincible), and he also came from the same town in California as Vermeil. In this sense, there can still can be distinction born from mere attitude and origin. The Jets all-time roster, its full information indefinitely on hold, was wrong about Harry Hamilton, but maybe Lou Holtz was right about Louie Giacomma without really knowing why.