Friday, December 21, 2007

The Hidden Microphone: Stram Wore It Well In Super Bowl IV

If ever an NFL head coach was made for NFL Films microphones, it was Hank Stram.

Stram, the late coach and TV and radio analyst, was the Kansas City Chiefs' first-ever coach, back when the team played in Dallas in the AFL under the name Texans. He was a close friend of owner Lamar Hunt (himself recently deceased), and was the franchise's only coach until he was dismissed following the 1974 season -- after 15 years of service.

Stram's on-field trademarks were the rolled up program he kept clutched in his hand, and the staid coat and tie he wore -- often with a red vest underneath. Sometimes he donned a hat, too.

But another of Stram's traits was that he was one of the most affable coaches in league history. It also served him well in the broadcast booth.

All this is why the marriage of Stram and NFL Films was a rock solid one.

The most famous sound bites occurred in Super Bowl IV -- when Stram's Chiefs took on the Minnesota Vikings in January, 1970.

Perhaps you've seen the clips. One of the most famous was when a crucial first down measurement was performed directly in front of the Chiefs sidelines.

"No, he's alright!," Stram shouts when Vikings players protest the placement of the ball for the measurement. Then, after the referee signals "first down," Stram launches into his most famous sound bite ever.

"Thatta boy! You marked it good! You marked it good! Helluva job! You marked it good! That's a great job! You marked it good!"

But the most precious bite happens when a side judge zings Stram wonderfully.

"How can all of you miss a play like that?," Stram asks the zebra.

"What play, coach?"

"The ball arrived before we made contact, and -- "

"Oh," the official interrupts. "I thought you meant the play where you're standing on the field illegally."

"No!," Stram says, then adds, "WHAT?"

Good stuff.

Doesn't get much more enduring than this: Stram being carted off the field after Super Bowl IV

Stram's Chiefs won that day, evening the AFL's record against the NFL at 2-2 in Super Bowls. The leagues would merge the following season. Another famous image is that of Stram, still clutching his rolled up program, grinning broadly on the shoulders of his players as he's carried off the field.

Stram went on to coach the New Orleans Saints in 1976, and he seemed to have some tools. The QB was Archie Manning, the running backs were "Thunder and Lightning" -- Chuck Muncie and Tony Galbreath -- and the situation looked promising in the bayou. But Manning missed the season with a shoulder injury, the receiving corps was weak, and the defense was very suspect. After just two seasons in New Orleans, Stram was canned. TV and radio beckoned.

But unbeknownst to him, Hank Stram's communications career got a start when he donned a microphone in Super Bowl IV.

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