Originally published January 2016. You should watch it every year. It's great.
My God, aren't you sick to death of Super Bowl hype? This year has been miserable, and hell, my Seattle Seahawks are in the the damned game! Between the deflated balls and people crying real tears because Marshawn Lynch won't talk to them, I just can't take it anymore. I'll turn on the TV Sunday at 6:30 pm. just as the opening kick sails through the dry Arizona air, but that'll be about it. What I provide below is a fun distraction from all this garbage if you are in need. I know I am.
The National Football League is a many-tentacled behemoth, but for some reason they've chosen a hands-off approach to the myriad of blurry old games from the 70's and 80's on You Tube. There's some real treasures there, saved for decades and lovingly uploaded. How long will these time capsules be allowed to exist? It's anyone's guess, so I suggest you have at it while there's still time.
Our rules are simple: 1) NO NFL Films productions. Those are top-flight to be sure, but to really get a feel for what a game was like, we need the over-the-air broadcast. Bonus points if the source left the commercials in. Those are their own kind of fun. 2) We won't be looking at any video 1990 and later. More bonus points, of course, for anything from the 70's. Since the long-obsolete Betamax was introduced to the market in 1975, and the VCR in 1976 (also long-obsolete when you think about it, except for at Ricki C.'s house ) HUGE bonus points for pre-'75 material. I don't know how, but it's out there, as you'll see.
These are in no particular order of importance. Please share fun ones you find, especially games you remember seeing. The mind is a funny thing, and you'll be amazed by what you've forgotten, and by the same token you'll shake your head at things you thought happened that didn't.
January 4, 1981 Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns. AFC Divisional Playoff.
This game had everything! A minus-37 degree wind chill, legends like John Matusak, Lester Hayes, and Lyle Alzado, the great Don Criqui on play by play and quite possibly the worst kicking performance in NFL history. Kids, the Browns' Don Cockroft was one of a dying breed: the straight- on kicker. You'll laugh out loud as he misses an extra point and two other field goals. Due to Cockroft's ineptitude the Browns passed up what would have been the game winner with :41 seconds left, and instead ran the infamous Red Right 88.
You'll see the predictable result at the 34 minute mark of part 3 above. The end to yet another sad chapter in Cleveland sports history.
A side note: If you watch carefully one of the crowd shots features two Cleveland fans sharing a flask of booze in cavernous old Cleveland Stadium. Think to yourself how different the NFL is now. In 1981 the stadium was filled with drunken working stiffs instead of today's drunken rich guys. And do you think today's NFL would just allow piles of snow to remain close enough that the players run knee deep into them out of bounds? Hell no! This was real football.
I Didn't Go To Bed Until Halftime Highlights Was Over. October 22, 1973.
I never missed Howard Cosell's Halftime Highlights on Monday Night Football as a kid. I begged my parents to let me stay up to see them. In those days there was no ESPN. You got the games you got on Sunday and didn't see much of anything from the others. Fun fact: 1973 was the first season where you could see your local team if the game was sold out. Up until then it didn't matter. Not even the Super Bowl could air live in your town if your team was in it. Commissioner Pete Rozell wouldn't back down even when President Nixon called for the blackout to be lifted so he could see the Skins and Dolphins in Super Bowl 7. Can you imagine! The owners had no idea what a gold mine they were sitting on.
Anyway the above gem is from week 6 (Raiders/Broncos) of the 1973 season. The Sunday highlights begin at the 3:30 mark with the Colts and Lions from Tiger Stadium. The Lions mascot is hilarious in his raggedy Halloween get up. The goal posts were still in the front of the end zone and the crowd noise in the package was a cheap loop. Classic!
December 23, 1972 The Immaculate Reception. Oakland at Pittsburgh. AFC Divisional Playoff.
Okay, I cheated a bit. You can tell by the modern bug on the screen that this was a rebroadcast by NBC at some point. Still it's such an important moment in league history it's worth pointing out. The legendary Curt Gowdy on the call.
December 31, 1983. Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins. AFC Divisional Playoff.
After crushing the hated Denver Broncos in the AFC Wild Card game for Seattle's first-ever playoff victory, the 9-7 Seahawks traveled to Miami as heavy underdogs to the 12-4 Fish. Marv Albert is on the call as Dave Krieg immediately kicks off this video by throwing an awful interception. After the Dolphins score Steve Largent makes a couple of huge catches (he didn't make his first of the day until the 2:25 mark of the 4th quarter!) and Curt Warner seals it to send Seattle off to the AFC Championship Game. Also: Chuck Knox!
(Note: You might be confused at the 8:15 mark. This video seems to be right off the satellite as it includes booth banter during a break. Sadly Marv doesn't say anything weird.)
Monday December 11, 1972. Live From The Moon. Jets at Raiders.
This portion of Monday Night Football is extraordinary because it begins with the end of an ABC News live report on the final Apollo Mission to the moon. That's followed by Glen freaking Campbell singing the national anthem and then Joe Willie Namath and the Jets in the East Bay to take on The Raiders. As long as we're on the space travel kick, you'll note the man they said came from the University Of Mars Otis Sistrunk was an Oakland rookie. Opening with a blimp shot seems anti-climatic after watching men on the moon, eh?
December 28, 1975. Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings. NFC Divisional Playoff
I couldn't find much of the "Hail Mary" Game, but this is the best part anyway. Staubach heaves up a bomb to Drew Pearson for the winner.
Bonus! The NFL Today pre game live from Metropolitan Stadium!
Yessir! Brent Musberger, Irv Cross, and the smoking hot Phyllis George. Ads included and a cheesy "making of the NFL Today" feature.
December 26, 1970. Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys. NFC Divisional Playoff.
This game is only noteworthy because it's damned hard to find any over-the-air footage of something this old. We find Frank Gifford before he went to work for Monday Night Football and his harpy wife Cathy Lee was probably still in the Baptist kids choir. All that said, this may well be the most boring playoff game in history as the Cowboys beat the Lions 5-0. The video mercifully ends with the opening kick-off.
Well, this is funny. I found the post-game too.
A young Dick Stockton handles the highlights and an excruciatingly long interview with coach Tom Landry. At the 2:45 mark you see what might be the first-ever Gatoraid commercial.
December 12, 1982. Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots. The Snow Plow Game.
This seems like a good place to stop. Before there was Deflategate, Spygate, and The Tuck Rule there was The Snowplow Game. John Smith kicked the game winner in a 3-0 victory after a work-release inmate named Mark Henderson plowed a bare spot on the Schaeffer Stadium turf. Coach Don Shula would protest the game to no avail, though the league would pass a rule several months later banning snow plows during games. Today the tractor hangs from the roof of the Patriots Hall Of Fame. What is it with this team?! Anyway, sorry for the lousy footage here, it was all I could find.