The Hit

Updated: September 20, 2012

By Ali Abu-Talib Son Of AbdunNur


San Diego, CA (BASN)--It was Winter, December 26,1964. The AFL East Champion Buffalo Bills, played the AFL  West Champion San Diego Chargers.

We hated San Diego.  Jealousy. Envy. Class Warfare. Hell! San Diego was in California. Sun Shiny Warmth in January Vs perpetual gloom and a city coated in a thick layer of ice from November till spring sometimes… Bethlehem and Republic Steel workers Vs Surf City movie stars.  Unfortunately for them, the game was played in Buffalo.

Buffalonians Were Pretty Damned Proud Of Our Blue Collars and our ability to cope with the adversity of living in a tundra, and we looked down on all those who did not.

Buffalo is cold. The Labrador Current routinely drops 30 foot snow drifts on the Father Baker Bridge, which separates Buffalo from Lackawanna.  Buffalonians football fans in those days were colder than the weather. You gotta be tough to live in The Niagara Frontier. Cuz the Niagara Frontier is


San Diego? Bunch of wimps! We knew that once they set foot in War Memorial Stadium’s frozen field, they were good as stomped.

At that time Buffalo wasn’t “The Arm Pit of The East.”  She was “the Queen City On The Lake…” “The City Of Good Neighbors,” and she was the home of the roughest, toughest defense in all of football, AFL or NFL.

The Buffalo Bills invented The Safety Blitz that year. Defensive Backs, George Saimes and Butch Byrd epitomized Buffalo brutality.  Mike Stratton, Tom Sestak, Tom Keating, and Paul Maguire incarnated it.

San Diego, on the other hand, had the fanciest, most explosive offense in both leagues.  They led the league in everything offense. They had Tobin Rote, Lance Alsworth, Keith Lincoln, and Paul Lowe: The pass-ingest quarter back, the catch-ingest receiver, and with the number one and two leading rushers in one backfield, they had the most productive ground attack in the league. Everybody in that backfield was as fast as the lightning bolts blazed on their helmets.

The only way The 1964 Chargers could be stopped was to stop them cold.  So the faithful Bills fans lit candles, attended novenas, and not only jinxed Alsworth who pulled up lame before the big game, our blue collar prayers also summoned up General Winter.

The old boy answered the call of his favorite sons and daughters and dropped in at 10 degrees Fahrenheit on game day, sporting a wind chill factor which blew in sub zero Erie feelings off The Queen Lake of The Great Lakes. The Mamas and the Papas from So. Cal. dropped down on their knees and prayed for L.A. Board Walks, and surf music.

It was chilly Willie, man. Only folks who trudged to school in that weather, all winter every day of their life for until they split for college wanted to be out in it.  The Chargers weren’t from Buffalo, and we knew they hated every minute of every minus degree of heat they were forced to endure.

On the first series of downs, San Diego scored easily.  I think they were pissed at the entire state for having such unfriendly weather.

When they got the ball again, it looked as if the surfer boys didn’t give a damn about weather. Then, I witnessed something I will never forget.

If my memory serves me correctly the down was third and short.

Rote dropped back to pass.

He looked right and pump faked.

Nearly the entire Buffalo defense went for that Oscar performance.

Then, as gracefully as Baryshnikov, he pivoted his torso left and tossed a high arching perfect spiral out on the left flats to the number one leading ground gainer in the league, Keith Lincoln.

It fooled everybody except Mike Stratton, Buffalo’s All Pro killer line backer.

poor Keith. He never knew what hit him. That boys arms were in a perfect position to receive a perfectly thrown pass… palms outstretched… way out in front of him… exposing his rib cage.

The hit was timed perfectly. Just as the ball touched Lincoln’s finger tips.  Both men were running. Keith was booking along at a nice clip. Stratton was totally committed… a full head of  steam. He and Stratton COLLIDED.

The hit was like Bushido Zen… text book perfect… every linebacker’s dream. Just as San Diego’s number one leading rusher touched that perfectly thrown pass Mike rammed him. You could hear it on the radio… Mike’s shoulder pads clashing with Keith’s chest pads.

To add injury to insult Mike never let him go. Mike smashed literally pinned that poor guy to the frozen field. The force of that tackle cracked three of Lincoln’s ribs, and knocked out the guy who did the tackling.

It was beautiful. We berserker Nordic sadists nearly busted a nut in unison.  Of all the Christmases I have celebrated in my youth, that one was the best one of my life. We partied for a year.

Buffalo’s Bills went on to totally dominate San Diego, scoring 20 unanswered points.  The final score was Buffalo 20, San Diego 7.

That was forty years ago. Now I live in San Diego. Nelson Rockefeller’s foolish management of New York State, dealt Buffalo a blow that was in no way a game. Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel, The Chevy Stamping Plant, and General Mills, quit Buffalo almost simultaneously.

Taxes.  It was cheaper to do business down south. Just like now, it’s cheaper to do business in Asia. It’s like what my home girl, Ani Difranco said in one of her poems entitled, “Serpentine.” The Conservative Revolutionaries convinced

everyone that:

“… Big Government Should Not Stand Between And Man And His Money.

I Mean What’s Good For Business Is Good For The Country.

And Children Still take That Lie Like Communion.

The Same Old Line The Confederates Used On The Union.

Conjugate Liberty Into Libertarian Unmedicated Associated With Deregulated Privatization,

And We Won’t Even Know We’re Slave On A Corporate Plantation.

Somebody Say Hallelujah.

Somebody Say Damnation.

Cuz The Corporate System Follows The Path Of Least Resistance,

And The Path Of Least Resistance Is What Makes The River Crocked…

Makes It Serpentine.

Capitalism Is The Devil’s Wet Dream…”

God! Not just capitalism. All inordinate forms of freaking materialism… makes the devil nut up more than The Hit Heard Round The World got we Buffalonian Nordic Sadist’s jollies off in 1964.

The Democrats haven’t done any better for us blue collar types, and they’re supposed to be half assed socialists… liberals. We never even saw it coming. And most of us still don’t even know it’s happening. Reagan cut the throats of the unions, and Clinton Stabbed The American worker in the chest, with GATT and NAFTA. And even folks as radical as Amy Goodman, still think that this one party system posing as a two party system can stop the hit the American worker is taking.

Bull Shit!

Buffalo now looks like a ghost town in some parts. My old nice neighborhood is now one of the most dangerous, run down neighborhoods in the city. And me and thousands of other ex-Buffalonians are in San Diego, where the forces of greed have driven up the rents and housing costs so high that pretty soon only the rich will be able to afford to live here.

I don’t even watch football anymore. For what?  Maybe if we all stopped watching the ball, and paid more attention to the system we live in that’s barreling down on us like a colossus Mike Stratton, we could avoid the clash that the forces of greed, corruption, and injustice are determined to lay on us.

Until we do, the hits will just keep right on coming, and continue to knock more and more of us out of the game.

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