Forgotten Player of the Moment – CONRAD DOBLER
(by ED AGNER)
One’s knowledge of Conrad Dobler is a dividing line between football fans who are in the key marketing demographic that makes Madison Avenue drool and those whom Madison Avenue believes are in the drooling, incontinent, impotent demographic. If you have no clue who Dobler is or, at best, think he was just some guy who was an actor in a beer commercial your Dad told you about long-long-long ago – Congrats! The Spike! Network is your domain. God, I despise your youth! But if the name brings a smile or a grimace to your face and you nod at the memory then…well…those purple pills that give you four hour erections are pretty nifty, aren’t they? I hear. I wouldn’t know. I…Quit staring up at me already! It’s been two hours al…rea… — Ahem.
So anyway, Dobler was one of football’s really great accidents. He may or may not have been what his press-clippings called him, but he was certainly shrewd in his ability to ride his on the field reputation into a few decent off the field payday bonanzas in the commercial industry. And Dobler’s magical on the field reputation? The dirtiest player in the game. He even got a Sports Illustrated cover calling him exactly that. A biting, kicking, punching, gouging, cheating, cheap-shot artist of an offensive guard mainly for the 70’s St. Louis Cardinals who, aside from the nasty reputation, was otherwise unexceptional.
And therein is the beauty of the Conrad Dobler accident – he really was nothing more than a solid offensive guard yet (yes, I know about his three Pro Bowls, but really, how hard is it to get in the Pro Bowl after the star players beg out?), because of his nasty reputation (this in an NFL that still celebrated outlaws and rogues, mind you), Dobler became a household name. Every Monday Night game would feature Howard laughing through some tale of Dobler setting fire to a school bus full of children. Every NFL pre-game show would have some sort of funny bit on how Dobler picked a fight with an invalid. Every magazine and newspaper would run some of goofy story on Dobler’s satanic rituals. And all this as a slightly-better-than-average offensive guard whom no one would have otherwise known! Beautiful!
And along came the advertising companies! Conrad, shill these lawn jarts by impaling a kitten with them! Conrad, bust the Kool-Aid man into a bazillion pieces! Conrad, call Fonzie a wuss! Conrad! Conrad! Conrad! Ahh, the 70’s!
Funny enough, when you really tore apart the myth, Dobler was no more of a dirty player than your average Denver Broncos offensive lineman. He wasn’t even that scary looking. Shoot, he probably even liked little puppies, rainbows and walks on the beach. Dobler was just too smart to attempt to change public perception about him – let’s just say that Terry Bradshaw would’ve been accepted into MENSA well before Dobler would ever consider giving some tear-filled interview to Phyllis George about how he’s really a groovy kind of guy who teaches The Hustle to the underprivileged and loves The Carpenters. Not such a big deal now, but at the time, Dobler was well ahead of the game.
The real shock for me about Dobler was that he somehow played his entire career without becoming a Raider. I can’t quite figure that out. But he did go on to do loads of commercial work – without somehow entering the world of pro wrasslin’, something I also can’t quite figure out – until the novelty wore off and no one cared about or remembered who he was. And that’s a shame because I bet he’d do really GREAT commercials for those four-hour erection pills. Yeah.