My favorite Kenny Stabler story takes place very late in 1966—or very, very early in 1967. Every version is set before Alabama’s Sugar Bowl game against Nebraska (as opposed to their Orange Bowl game against Nebraska the previous year). That point is important, as it is Stabler’s first season not splitting time with Steve Sloan.
Each version involves a bar fight.
In some versions, it’s Kenny’s friends from Foley starting a ruckus; in others, it’s fans from an opposing team; in many, Kenny’s right in the middle of it. Some people say this happened in the Flori-Bama bar. Others say a joint on Bourbon Street that got shut down in the next couple of years. Wherever it is, the cops find it.
However many folks were involved—let's say, seven—six of them get crammed into the back of the first squad car, and Kenny gets a solo ride in the other. They get taken to jail, and if the arresting officer had bet his money on Nebraska, Kenny would’ve joined them.
Alabama beat Nebraska 34–7. How much the cop walked away with is not known.
Kenny Stabler’s favorite Kenny Stabler story—the one he tells at booster clubs or if he’s cornered by a few fans after a few—is from his Oakland Raider days. It’s early in the morning, there’s a big game the next day, and Kenny’s phone is ringing. Kenny’s not liking that.
Who’s dumb enough to call a professional quarterback during his beauty rest? Only a lineman would take that risk.
An hour later, Kenny drives across the bridge to a San Francisco police precinct and is led back to the drunk tank. And there’s his lineman—Kenny never rats out his position, but you’ve got to believe it’s a tackle—alone, drunk, and bare-ass naked save for a pair of bright blue cowboy boots.
Posted bond, a cup of coffee, and a beach towel later, Kenny’s got his lineman in the car, but he’s still not liking this, and he asks the cowboy, “You know, they only give you one phone call. Why didn’t you call a damn lawyer?”
“Hell, Snake,” he says, “I was too drunk to give directions and I figured you knew the way!”
Kenny Stabler won a lot of games and won a lot of gamblers money. Just recently, during some tacky pre-game stunt, an asshole from a cable network pulled the nearest barely(est)-legal he could find from the crowd and asked her to toss a football into one of those inflato-targets that sells Dr. Pepper or steroids or whatever.
After a couple of her embarrassing ducks landed well short of the target, Kenny walks over from his radio spot, takes a ball, threads the needle in one shot and tells them to give her the money.
So there are other stories, all of them someone’s favorite.
One of my favorite folk tales is about the frontier woman gathering brushwood during an especially harsh winter when she finds, coiled frozen on the ground, a little snake.
The snake pleads with her to take him inside because he will surely die if left in the cold. The woman says, “Oh no, I can’t do that. You are a snake and you will bite me.” But the snake continues his cries, and the woman’s heart goes out to the pathetic little fellow.
Once inside, the snake tells the woman that her fire feels nice, but he would feel better if she could place him closer to the fire where she sits. “Oh no,” says the woman, “You are a snake and you will bite me.” But again, the snake pleads, and again, the woman relents.
Once more the snake says that sitting next to the woman is nice, but he knows he would thaw completely if she would place him in one of her pockets. Again, there is protesting and pleading, but in her pocket goes the snake.
And the snake is right. He does thaw completely, and as soon as he does, he slithers out of the woman’s pocket, and strikes the woman just as she feared. “Why?” cries the woman. “I saved you from the cold, I moved you to the fire, I kept you in my pocket—why would you bite me!?!”
“Lady,” he hisses, “you knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”
There’s an archaic quality to that story, to be sure. It’s little more than a backwoods version of Little Red Riding Hood—a poorly disguised fear-appeal for women to avoid bad men. However, once we admit that, I think there’s a lesson to be learned, no?
This past week, the local hacks in Birmingham and elsewhere have been shocked—nay, appalled—that Stabler was issued a DUI over the weekend. His third in a dozen years, and his second while employed as Alabama’s radio analyst. They are near unanimous in their opinion that the time has come for Kenny Stabler to leave the booth, that he is unfit to represent the University of Alabama.
You knew he was a Snake when you picked him up.