How I Cost the Houston Oilers a Chance at the Super Bowl!!
Written by Rick Archer, February 2007
Many people meet famous people and celebrities from time to time. I know one man who spoke of riding with Bill Murray on a ski lift out in Lake Tahoe. Another man told me recently about sitting next to Cynthia Cooper at a restaurant out in Sugar Land. Others have mentioned seeing sports celebrities who work out at their gyms all the time.
Personally, I have never met any celebrities except on two occasions. Once I met Patrick Swayze, but that didn't really count since he wasn't famous yet. However my other meeting was a real shocker. Here is the curious story.
In 1983 the big passion in my life was Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Both machines were installed at the dance studio. This was back in the days before I ran the place, so every quarter I pumped into those games went to someone else. I confess that I dumped quite a bit of my life savings into those games. I had a habit so bad that in addition to playing Ms. Pac-Man at the studio, I often played Ms. Pac-Man at dance clubs after classes were over.
I also frequently went to the neighborhood gas station to play some more Ms. Pac-Man during the morning
(picture at right.) Playing three times a day wasn't out of the question. Oh, my wasted youth. Now that I am more mature, I just type on the computer and read my emails all day.
You will have to agree I've come a long way!
Well, back to the story. Practice makes perfect and naturally I began to get very good. The first screen
of Ms. Pac-Man had two levels including the Strawberry and the Cherry. These two levels were pretty easy and soon were no longer challenges. Then came the Blue Screen. The Blue Screen had three levels including the Pretzel, the Grape, and the Apple. Each fruit was worth many bonus points, but you had to make a special effort to capture it. By the fifth screen, the Apple was worth a thousand points!
But the real thrill was the third screen. I am embarrassed to say I can't even remember what color this screen was, but I know for a fact that Level Six had two Pears, which were each worth 2,000 points. However the screen I lived for was Level 7 with the two Bananas. Each Banana was worth was 5,000 points!!
Now it was the conquest of this screen that usually put me over 100,000 points. Clearing 100,000 was my main goal. I usually couldn't quit playing until I had made it past 100,000 points. Does this sound like the frenzy of an addict?? You better believe it. I was hooked big-time.
After Level Seven, the previous screens reappeared although Ms. Pac-Man attacked at a much faster clip. Now the fruits appeared at random. Sometimes a Cherry worth 100 points would come out. Half the time I ignored it because it was not worth the risk of getting eaten by Ms. Pac-Man for a pathetic 100 points. But if a Banana came out, I had to chase it no matter how great the
risk of getting gobbled up. Woo Wee! Too much fun!!
Everywhere I went I set records. I was the best Ms. Pac-Man player I knew. That's not saying much because I never entered the professional Ms. Pac-Man tour or anything.
wherever I saw a Ms. Pac-Man, I never saw a score better than my best. And you can be assured that I looked. Each dance club I went to had a Ms. Pac-Man machine and not once did I see a score higher than mine.
Mind you, I never got any credit for my excellence. No women ever
cruised the Ms. Pac Man machines to tell I was the best she had ever
seen and... well, I was a legend in my own mind.
Two funny things happened. One night I played Pac-Man at Wild West and got a huge score. As I walked away, I noticed the doorman
came over and turned off the machine for a moment. I went over and asked him why he did that. He said the manager had walked by and seen my score. The doorman was ordered to turn off the machine when I was done to erase the score since no one else would want to play since my score was too high.
I took it as a back-handed compliment.
Another time I was playing Ms. Pac-Man at the San Antone Rose. I was hot!!
I was racking up a very big score when suddenly three women from the studio came by to watch. Uh oh. I got full of myself. My ego was too sexy for my shirt!!
The next thing I know one girl started to massage my shoulders. Mmmmm!!
Then another girl started talking about how well I was playing. Well, I had to listen to her just to be polite even though it was kind of distracting. Then the third girl ran her hands through my hair. That did it. I lost it. Boom Boom Boom. Ms. Pac-Man nailed me three times in a row. The girls laughed their heads off. It turned out that
this was their plan all along. They wanted me to quit playing this stupid game and get out on the floor and dance. Gee whiz. Here I thought they came over to see what a great player I was.
Well, as I said, no one cared whether I was any good but me.
So what does this have to do with costing the Oilers a chance at the
Super Bowl? Calm down. I am getting to that.
One spring morning in 1983 I finished breakfast at Denny's and headed to the corner Conoco gas station
on the way home. This station was a block from my home in the Heights. If you have ever been to a club called "Fitzgeralds", this is the gas station across the street. There I began playing Ms. Pac-Man over in the corner all by myself as usual. After maybe one warm-up game, I began to concentrate. I had all four men left as I hit the fourth level.
I was pleased with myself because I was playing very well even by my own standards.
Ding Ding Ding. I was racking up the points.
Then I noticed someone had come up to stand
behind me. This was unusual because no one ever watched me play at the gas station. It was my own little world. However I was determined I wasn't going to let the spectator ruin my concentration like those rotten girls had a few nights before. I zoned in and cleared the screen.
The man behind me spoke up. "You're pretty good at this."
I said thanks, but I didn't look up. I did however notice as the screen took a moment to change that the man was taller
than I was, wore cowboy boots, and was a pretty husky guy. As I started my fifth screen, the man continued to watch intently, but said nothing. I was pleased to be able to clear this difficult screen with him watching. I made two miraculous escapes and the man whistled.
His appreciation brought a smile to my face. I
wasn't used to getting any credit.
The sixth screen marks a new level. There is a thirty-second delay before the next screen comes up. I turned around to have a look at my guest. It was Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers!!
Oh my God!!
I blurted out, "Terry Bradshaw!! What on earth are you doing here?"
He grinned at my obvious shock. He said, "I'm here filming a commercial for Conoco. Right now we're taking a break
and you are the only action around."
This made sense. I had noticed an unusual van outside when I came in. It obviously had the video equipment inside. I turned back to the screen as the next
level started. To my surprise he continued to watch while he drank a
Coke. Despite the fact that I had my back to him, I decided to strike up a conversation. "Terry, are you guys going back to the Super Bowl next season?"
"Well, I don't know if we will make it or not, but that's the plan."
There was something I had to get off my chest. "I am so sick and tired of you guys beating the Oilers!!"
This made him laugh. These were the Luv Ya Blue/ Bum Phillips years when the Steelers always seem to beat the Oilers no matter how hard the Oilers tried. Terry Bradshaw turned out to be a pretty good sport. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, I think the Oilers are a pretty damn good football team. It may just be their turn this year."
Surprised that he responded so candidly, I continued the conversation. "I just don't know what it is you guys do to stop Earl Campbell so easily. He destroys every other team, but when we play you he never seems able to break free."
This got another chuckle. "You seem to know something about football too."
Mind you I had my back to Terry Bradshaw the whole time as I played Ms. Pac-Man.
Terry stood right behind me watching the action intently over my shoulder.
To my surprise I continued to play well. I guess not making eye contact helped me keep my composure. "Earl just seems to run sideways against your team. He never seems able to go up-field. What is it you guys do?"
"If you promise not to tell Bum, I will let you in on a secret. The best way to beat the Oilers is to stop Campbell. We put extra men on the line."
At this moment, someone called to Terry that they were ready to shoot again. "Uh oh, gotta to go. You hang in there, buddy!!
Thanks for letting me watch!"
"Okay, Terry, thanks for keeping me company!"
Terry Bradshaw was such a regular guy!! I couldn't believe I had
been talking man to man with Terry Bradshaw, All-Star Quarterback of
the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers! The moment he left, I completely turned to jelly. Up till now Ms. Pac-Man had not caught me once, but now I quickly lost all four of my men. Rattled beyond belief, I realized my nerves were far too jangled to play again. Instead I watched
for a while through the window as Terry Bradshaw filmed his commercial outside.
Once he saw me watching and waved at me. I waved back. Then I started to feel a little foolish as my hero worship got the better of me, so I got in my car and drove home. If I had any sense, I should have invited him over for a beer and a peanut butter sandwich.
Yeah right. LOL
I suppose I also should have gotten Terry's autograph, but I was so pleased that he talked to me like
a regular guy that I felt better not turning into a "fan".
As I drove home I was beset with conflict. I felt I should have reported
immediately to Bum all the important secrets Terry had shared with me. But since we were buddies now, I decided to honor my promise to keep things just between me and my new close personal friend Terry B…
However in retrospect 25 years later I worry that maybe I made the wrong decision. I should have told Bum. If Bum had only known the Steelers were intentionally stacking the line against Earl, that probably would have made a big difference!!
Maybe Bum coulda changed the game plan to pass more and the Oilers could have beaten the Steelers and gone to the Super Bowl and maybe we would still have the Oilers in Houston and maybe things would have turned out different.
Maybe Terry Bradshaw coulda gone on national TV and said he never shoulda trusted that jerk back in Houston and maybe Oprah would have wanted to ask me what the hell was going
on and maybe
Bum would have invited me to his ranch and maybe this and maybe that… but no, I stupidly kept
this important knowledge to myself.
So today I remain just another boring dance teacher. Oh well.
And now that I think of it, I really miss playing Ms. Pac Man.