Friday, February 4, 2011

There Were Giants in Those Days, and Oilers Too

I'll be traveling on Sunday, so I'll get to see the second half of the Super Bowl, at most. But I still have plenty of NFL action to distract myself with, thanks to the magic of YouTube. Lately I have been trolling for professional football games from the 1970s, of which there are a surprising number, contained in ten-minute chunks, as per YouTube style.

I grew up watching the NFL in the 1970s, so these games are as much a cultural referent for me as they are a sporting match. In addition to the odd Super Bowl, there are some seemingly random games, uploaded from old videotapes. I'd much rather watch the long-forgotten mid-season games. I know the score of all the Super Bowls, so none of those games would provide much of a surprise, but when I see a Giants/Bills clash from 1975, well, who knows what's gonna happen there?

My personal preference is for the broadcasts that are entirely intact, commercials and promos included, which makes for a much stronger cultural moment. In addition to seeing what was new from Ford in 1974, you occasionally get to see things like Teri Garr - as late as 1977 or so, although I've lost track of which game this was in - starring in a Schlitz ad, playing a barmaid who challenges an unseen, unheard presence who dares to take away her clientele's gusto.

Here are some games to get you started:

1970 Giants vs. Eagles
: From the first season of Monday Night Football, a game at Philadelphia's frozen Franklin Field. If you believe the legend, this is the game in which Howard Cosell got so drunk he threw up on Dandy Don's boots at halftime, then took a cab back home to New York during the second half. Cosell talks sparingly in the first half, then is indeed absent after halftime, but Meredith mentions near the telecast's end that Howard had been fighting the flu, and wishes him well, a kindhearted gesture for a man with someone else's vomit on his shoes. Keith Jackson, by the way, was the play-by-play man, with Frank Gifford not coming aboard till 1971.

Near the end of the game, with time winding down, there are repeated shots of the Franklin Field official game clock, which was the old-fashioned analog kind, with circular numbers and hands. The digital clock, it seems, had yet to come to Philadelphia, although artificial turf had. Man had walked on the moon, yet the NFL was still counting down the seconds with a second hand.

1970 NFC Championship, Cowboys vs. 49ers: A completely intact game, commercials and all. Watch for the young Teri Garr, the young Sam Waterston, and the not-so-young Vic Tayback. The downside is, if you think about it for a minute or so, you'll figure out who wins before the game even starts.

1977 Rams vs. Browns: The improbable team of Vin Scully and NFL legend/car smasher Jim Brown handles the announcing chores for this miserable, snowy game at old Cleveland Stadium. Brown opines that his old team is doing a poor job of tackling because it's cold out, and it hurts to hit people hard.

1978 Dolphins vs. Oilers
: Bum Phillips' mama always told him not to wear his hat indoors, so he is bare-headed, letting his crew cut fly free, for this game at the Astrodome. Another Monday nighter, it's dominated by Bob Griese, now without his great running game and forced to put the ball into the air to the tune of 300-plus yards, and the rookie sensation Earl Campbell of the Oilers.

Nowadays, if you take your helmet off on the field, it's a 15-yard penalty. But Griese had just started wearing these huge dork glasses, which apparently didn't fit under his helmet all that well. He takes his helmet off on the field, I swear, after every third play.

1980 Cardinals vs. Colts: Just a crappy game between two going-nowhere teams, in front of a few thousand bored fans at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Announcer Dick Stockton is terrible, too. Thankfully, less than half the broadcast survives, mostly just the Cardinals' drives, although you do get to see Phyllis George's halftime interview at the rural Maryland home of Bert Jones.

The Cardinals do look gorgeous, though, in those rich red jerseys and solid white helmets, with no center stripe or adornment aside from a little bird head. I always loved those helmets. And Cardinal receiver Pat Tilley - the second-most-famous Cardinal in history whose name starts with "Pat Till" - makes an incredibly sweet, one-handed, backhand touchdown catch.

Big thanks to Wisconsin JB for pointing out that 1970 NFC Championship game to me, and getting this whole thing rolling


  1. This is a huge post. I know what I'm doing with my next hour, and it's spelled G-I-A-N-T-S-B-I-L-L-S-7-5.

    I just watched the first 5 seconds of that YouTube clip and you can see the Philly Eagles wearing their green-on-white helmets.
    Sweet sauce.

  2. Now I'm looking at the 1970 Eagles game.
    You can tell it's from a long-ago time because Norman (er, Norm) Snead is catching the warmup tosses as they come back to him.
    Nowadays they have some third-string wide receiver catch the ball and hand it back to the quarterback.
    (Supposedly some QB got injured catching the ball during pregame warmups, but I no longer remember who it was.)

  3. I don't want to give you any spoilers about that Bills-Giants game itself, but I'll say this: YOU WILL SEE GABE KAPLAN.

  4. I vividly remember that Monday Night Oilers/Fins matchup. All my friends and I could do the next day at school was talk about the great Earl Campbell. Dude was a force of nature.

  5. The "Monday Night Football" theme music in the early '70s filled me with joy.