Tony Dorsett ruined the taste of Rolling Rock beer for an entire population of NFL fans. It’s not that both are originally from Western, PA (Dorsett from Rochester and Rolling Rock from Latrobe); it’s worse than that. A common heritage can be overlooked. No, the connection is far more overt. Mysteriously imprinted on every bottle of “Old Latrobe’s” flagship lager is the number 33, the same number Dorsett wore with the Dallas Cowboys. Dorsett’s motivation for wearing number 33 and, specifically, whether it was connected in any conscious way to his home region’s native adult beverage, matters not. What matters completely is that no ‘Skins fan can drain a bottle of The Rock without sporting a “bitter beer face.” Sure, D.C. had its own number 33 of some consequence – Slingin’ Sammy Baugh – but a lot more people remember Dorsett’s torments than Baugh’s considerable exploits for the “Skins in the 1930’s and 40’s. If anything, Dorsett’s soiling of the memory of the number 33, like Robert Newhouse’s audacity in wearing number 44, only further solidifies his presence on this list.
Admittedly, Dorsett’s worst crime against ‘Skins nation wasn’t robbing its ability to enjoy a particular beer with only the rightfully accompanying joyous thoughts. He did us much worse than that. Between 1977 and 1987, Dorsett was an absolute beast for the Cowboys and a constant and immovable thorn in the ‘Skins’ side. His speed and elusiveness presented serious problems for the good guys on defense and a constant worry for fans. The threat and near inevitableness of Dorsett getting loose created perpetual anxiousness; and, no matter how much the ‘Skins kept him bottled up, Dorsett always seemed to validate the nervousness with a big play.
The memory of Dorsett in the minds of ‘Skins fans isn’t solely evil, though. In this season of giving, there was one fabulous thing he gave back: a primetime introduction to a rookie cornerback from Texas A&I by the name of Darrell Green. During a Monday Night Football game in 1983, Dorsett, in trademark fashion, broke loose through the ‘Skins’ secondary. Normally this meant one thing: touchdown Cowboys…nobody ran Tony Dorsett down from behind. As Dorsett was flying down the sideline and fannies across the D.C. area collectively slump into couches, an image too fast for the non-digital T.V. of the age streaked across the screen. The burgundy and gold smudge, invoking childhood memories of The Flash, collared Dorsett and tossed him out of bounds short of pay dirt. After a tumble out of bounds, the T.V. image caught up with the superhero and defined him as #28, Darrell Green. That was the first moment when ‘Skins fans realized they might have a player in Green. It proved to be a sign of things to come. Green ended up being pretty good, don’t you think, and Dorsett was the first entry into his substantial career highlight reel.
Minus that play, Dorsett would have likely been higher on this list. Fortunately it happened. Number 9 fits number 33 just fine, thank you very much.
Hail…Sons of Washington!