He is not your typical Oscar Mayer weiner, not a foot-long, a cheese or a chili dog. No, when it comes to professional football's most celebrated hot dog, it is time to say goodbye Hollywood Henderson, hello Mark Gastineau, the Nathan's Famous of defensive ends.
You will know Mark Gastineau when you see him. He's the New York Jets' looney-tune who leaps into celebration every time he sacks an opposing quarterback or makes a big play, which is all right. It's just that when he keeps jumping, and waving his arms, and carrying on as if he had just struck oil on the 50-yard line, some people are not amused.
Gastineau could care less. He hopes to do his sack hop frequently Sunday when the Jets play in Miami, taking on the Dolphins for the AFC title and a Super Bowl trip.
"Yeah," he said the other day, "I'd like to do it a few times this week. I'm not that concerned with what other people think about it. I just do it 'cause it feels good."
It does not look very good, however, to the man standing on the other side of the line from Gastineau. Sunday, that will be offensive tackle Eric Laakso, who has had mixed success containing Gastineau this season.
In the teams' first meeting, a 45-28 rout by Miami in the season-opener, Gastineau had no sacks. In Miami's 20-19 victory Dec. 18, Gastineau had three, "but on one of 'em the quarterback had time to throw, we just didn't have anybody open," said Laakso.
"Does the dance bother me? I can't let it bother me. If it does rattle you, it can cause you problems. The way I look at it, he's going to beat everybody once in a while. I've done all right against him. I'm not that concerned. I betcha if you go back and look at their defensive stats--yeah, they had a lot of sacks a year ago--but if you subtract his sacks from the total number of tackles he had, it's not that impressive."
The numbers bear out that thesis. Of the Jets' defensive linemen, Gastineau had the fewest tackles in the 1981 season, 48. That number included his 20 sacks. The implication, of course, is that Gastineau is dangerous against the pass, so-so against the run.
"If you get behind on them and they know you're gonna pass, that's when he's most dangerous," Laakso said. "If he has to play it honest, it's a little different story. He's a great athlete, so fast off the ball. I just don't want to see that dance this week."
Miami Coach Don Shula was asked about Gastineau at his weekly press conference Monday. "As long as it's an honest thing, it doesn't bother me," he said. "And evidently it's an honest thing, but he'd have to answer that. It just bothers me that we got sacked."
"It is honest," Gastineau said. "I'm not doing it because I'm fake. I'm just an emotional person . . . From what I've heard around here this week, my teammates are getting pretty excited, too. I think everybody has kinda gotten used to it."
His teammate, defensive tackle Marty Lyons, says he has no problems with Gastineau's dance, despite an article in an issue of Inside Sports last fall in which he and linemates Joe Klecko and Abdul Salaam were critical of it.
"That was just blown way out of proportion," Lyons said this week. "The (New York) Post ran a headline that said, 'Lyons and Klecko Abuse Team Hotdog.' That's a crock, but it did cause a lot of dissension among us, very definitely. For a week or so there were a lot of bitter feelings.
"But then we all got together and talked about it. Went into a room at the training camp, and we didn't get out until the whole thing was straightened out. We told each other we didn't need it. You got enough problems in this league without worrying about the guys you're playing with. When we left that room, we all shook hands and, as far as I'm concerned, that's been the end of it."
Still, the Jets' defense has problems going into this championship game. Klecko's knee has not fully recovered from an injury in September. Salaam has a groin pull and a sore ankle and Lyons has been nursing a hamstring problem. A year ago, the Jets had 66 sacks, one short of the NFL record. This season, with Klecko not playing most of the games and Lyons missing two, the total was 20.
"We're still not back where we were last season," Lyons said. "I'd say we're about 75 percent physically, but 110 percent mentally. The biggest thing is we're gonna go out on that field, and we're gonna be playing some very hard football. You'll notice us, I guarantee that."
All the Jets have noticed the recent turnaround of the Dolphins' offense, a unit that has moved the ball consistently in four straight victories over Baltimore, Buffalo, New England and, last week, San Diego.
But none of those teams was known for its defensive prowess this season. The Jets are. Despite the injuries, they were third in overall defense in the AFC, and in the past two weeks they were particularly impressive in snuffing out the Cincinnati Bengals' and the Los Angeles Raiders' Super Bowl aspirations.
"Miami's offense is terrific," Gastineau said. "Overall, they're highly talented, they get great coaching and they're hot right now. But so are we. We have to be fired up, and go in there fired up. We're going down there and do what we do best, team-oriented football. We're ready for good things to happen."
Let's dance, and pass the mustard, if you please.