It's been several days since Kenny Stabler died, but the sadness hasn't abated. And now I'm feeling another emotion, too: anger.
It's an outrage that he wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame. His numbers compare favorably with the other great quarterbacks of his era – Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach, all of whom are in the hall.
So why wasn't he elected? Because he was blackballed by an influential member of the Hall Of Fame selection committee, Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman, who declared, "Ken Stabler won't get my vote as long as I live."
It wasn't The Snake's performance on the field he objected to; it was what he did off the field. To put it mildly, he had an eye for the ladies. (He used to joke that he studied the game plan by the light of the jukebox.)
But so did Namath and Bobby Layne, as well as his favorite receiver, Fred Biletnikoff, who often joined him in his late night adventures. They're all in the hall.
And for all his off-field carousing, when it came time to play the game nobody was more clutch than The Snake.
He was the king of the last-minute comebacks. John Madden said there was no other quarterback he would want to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line and time running out.
Some of the most famous plays in football history are Stabler touchdowns, including the Ghost to the Post, the Sea of Hands, and the Holy Roller against San Diego in 1978. Trailing by a touchdown with 10 seconds to go at the Chargers 24, he was about to be sacked, so he "accidentally" fumbled the ball forward, and it rolled and rolled and rolled until Dave Casper finally fell on it in the end zone for the game winner.
Here's the classic call of the late, great Bill King: "There's nothing real in the world anymore! The Raiders have won the football game! Fifty-two thousand people, minus a few lonely Raider fans, are stunned! The Chargers are standing, looking at each other, looking at the sky. They don't believe it! Nobody believes it! I don't know if the Raiders believe it! It's not real! A man would be a fool to ever try and write a drama and make you believe it. And now, this one will be relived - forever! Bitterly here in San Diego, joyfully in Oakland. Final score: Oakland 21, San Diego 20!"
As Madden said, "The hotter the situation, the cooler he got." Just before the Ghost to the Post, when everyone in the stadium, including Madden, was freaking out, Stabler calmly looked at the frenzied crowd and drawled, "The fans are sure getting their money's worth today, John." Then he went out and won the game.
He hasn't been among the finalists since 2003, and the situation isn't likely to improve because the committee members are now drawn from a new generation who never saw him play.
But when they sit down to make their selections, they are always told that the crucial question is "Can the history of the game be told without him?"
In Stabler's case, my answer is: Are you kidding?
Now, let's talk about Jim Plunkett.