Time Change: Part II

The same story today

This is the conclusion of a two-part series on a gambling probe that impacted the Chiefs on the eve of their Super Bowl IV championship.


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Imagine a similar report on the Dawson gambling probe on the eve of today's Super Bowl extravaganza. It has become the most conventional of conventional wisdom that no amount of coverage is too much. There is, after all, a "challenge of making a splash in a new world increasingly dominated by the values of digital journalism," notes Wall Street Journal columnist Edward Kosner. 

Indeed, ours is a time where Millennial Americans are decidedly connected to all the "new platforms of the digital era" - from Facebook to Twitter -- according to a study recently conducted by the Pew Research Center. Imagine how fast the news would have traveled.

Moreover, Millennial's are the most cynical and distrusting generation ever recorded, the report said. Only 19 percent think most people can be trusted. Imagine their cynicism when they heard that the gambler carried the same last name as the quarterback. 

As soon as the game began, any miss-thrown pass would have drawn raised eyebrows from broadcasters followed by repeated showings of highlights and elicited immediate opinions on blogs and tweets. A fumbled football by the quarterback on a bootleg and the conspiracy theorists would have been at full throttle. 

"Hall monitors," James Wolcott of Vanity Fair calls them - those people who dominate the digital age, wait for a well-known public figure to make a mistake, or just stand accused in some circles, and then quickly descend on him.

Programs would have filled hours with ex-players and former FBI investigators on set quoting rumors and plenty of someone "I spoke with who has knowledge…."references tossed around.  You would find among the chattering class few, if any, cheerleaders for restraint. New Orleans would have become a one-story town, and that story wouldn't have been what was to take place on the field.. (For comparisons sake, think Bret Favre-is-thinking-of-coming-back writ large.)

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THE AFTERMATH

But back in 1970, anyone who knew Len Dawson, or knew of him, could not believe he would knowingly associate with such a person or compromise his team's chances for a world championship. Respect for sports stars of that time still carried some weight.

The support for Dawson was overwhelming from the moment the story broke until after the game. Moreover, Dawson did not see a reason to run for cover or assemble a team of attorneys to protect him. He simply told NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle what he knew – and apparently the league already knew plenty of gambler Dawson -- and that was enough for the man in charge. It was also enough for long-time Kansas City Star sports editor Joe McGough, who said of the quarterback in a column, "there is no subterfuge in the man."

Even the president of the United States was quick to get into the act, throwing his support to the Chiefs quarterback.  Before the game was even played, Stram had received a call from Richard Nixon, a football fan of the first order, who told the head coach without any prompting that he knows "there's not anything to the rumors that were let out early in the week, and Lenny shouldn't let it upset him." Can you imagine a president today issuing such a statement in advance of a supposed ongoing investigation? 

Nixon was not alone in immediately speaking out on Dawson. His teammates, for sure, were with him but so were players from the Vikings and other teams and, of course, the fans.  But even the nation's columnists who flocked to the Super Bowl didn't give much credence to the charge. Dawson's play further diminished its importance as he was named Super Bowl IV's MVP.   

It was a different time, but change was coming.

Photo Flashback of Super Bowl IV Chiefs Win in New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings


Epilogue

Earlier this year, the public seemingly became outraged by reports that there was a noticeable increase in misbehavior by college basketball coaches resulting in a rise of technical fouls and expulsions from games. The report grew legs and cries followed for a crackdown on coaches and even calls for more dismissals. In turn, media coverage grew.

But, as it turned out, a report surfaced in the Wall Street Journal, determined to look deeper into the matter, that it was not so, revealing information that there was no increase and it was no different than in the past. It simply appeared so because more people saw the behavior replayed again and again on the web and on television. The new information went largely unreported by other media.

It is a different time, for sure.

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