(every Friday during the NFL season, OOB will run a nostalgic feature about the Lions’ upcoming opponents)
When rookie kicker Jim O’Brien nailed the 32-yard field goal at the final gun to win Super Bowl V for the Baltimore Colts, it looked as if O’Brien’s team was the happiest bunch of football players on Earth. The kick was followed by the usual jumping up and down, screams of elation, and the hoisting of the head coach toward the sky. O’Brien, of course, was in the center of the mob.
Turns out many of the Colts were satisfied. They were glad they won. But they were hardly happy.
“That should have been our second Super Bowl win,” sneered linebacker Mike Curtis for NFL Films years later. And with Curtis, sneer was the right word. Curtis always sneered — even when he was happy, which he most certainly was not in the days and weeks and months and even years after Super Bowl V in Miami, in which the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13.
A lot of the Colts were still stinging from their upset loss to the New York Jets and Joe Namath two years prior, in SB III.
“There’s no way — no way — we should have lost to the Jets,” lamented d-lineman and the pride of MSU, Bubba Smith. “I’ll go to my grave believing that we should never have lost to that team.”
Namath, beating the Colts and scarring them for life, apparently
The Colts were as much as 19-point favorites over the AFL’s Jets, who became the first AFL team to win a Super Bowl. The 1968 Colts were 13-1 and made the rest of the vaunted NFL look helpless in the process. So how could the Jets, who barely made it out of the supposedly weaker American Football League, even hope to give the Colts a game, let alone beat them?
Over-confidence. Cockiness. And that was from Namath, who boldly guaranteed a Jets win in the days leading up to the Big Game. But where those foibles helped Namath, they positively wrecked the Colts, who felt that as soon as the Jets saw the horseshoe on the helmet across from them, they’d roll over and die.
That lack of taking the Jets seriously has been confirmed by a number of former Colts who played on that ’68 team. In a way, who could blame them? The Green Bay Packers had made mincemeat out of the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the first two Super Bowls. SB III didn’t figure to be much different.
Ah, but it was, and it left fierce competitors like Curtis gnashing their teeth, even to this day.
“I really took no enjoyment from that game,” Curtis revealed, referencing SB V. “All I could think about was (losing to the Jets). I never really got over that.”
So instead of pure joy, most of the veteran Colts felt relief that they at least won one of the two Super Bowls they played in. And even that relief was tainted by the realization that if they were to have split the games, the win should have been over the Jets and the loss should have been to the Cowboys. No satisfaction.
Curtis respected the game of football, and abhorred anyone who didn’t — whether that was a player or a coach, or even a fan. Case in point: the celebrated instance when Curtis knocked senseless a drunken fan who had wandered onto the field in old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The fan had grabbed the football and started running with it. Curtis would have none of that. He took a few steps, built himself some momentum, and crashed his entire body into that of the scrawny fan, who went down like he’d been shot. But, as a testament to the dude’s inebriation, he could be seen grinning and laughing, as if he was proud that he’d just been leveled by the great Mike Curtis.
“Bubba (Smith) told me, ‘Mike, you shouldn’t have done that,'” Curtis recalled years later. “I said, ‘That man was violating a city ordinance, and I was just doing my duty in helping Baltimore’s finest enforce it.'”
That was Mike Curtis for you.
You can see the incident below.