Welcome to a new feature for my fellow sports addicts going through withdrawal.
The other day, I watched MLB Network’s broadcast of the 1978 Yankee/Red Sox divisional play-off, the Bucky Dent game. They showed the entirety of the game with a few pop-up trivia overlays, but essentially just gave us the old WPIX broadcast complete with Bill White and Phil Rizzuto.
And I thought, with ALL sports gone for a while, why don’t the other sports channels run old games? They own the films of all of ’em, and could add panels with surviving players the way MLB does, or put in pop-up trivia, or what have you.
But I then I remembered how people upload their own private video stash to youtube, and sure enough, there’s GOLD like this – the complete broadcast of ABC’s Monday Night Football premiere game of 1970, with the original commercials intact.
There’s a lot to digest here – Keith Jackson’s announcing, Howard Cosell on highlights, and Don Meredith on very infrequent color commentary. The differences both in how the game is broadcast and how the game is played from now is pretty striking.
The broadcast is simple – no frills, very few replays. Limited camerawork given the technology of the day, but all the key action captured. Cosell starts the show off with a nice dig at Meredith, introducing him with a lowlight reel of his QB career, but the tradition of the insults flying in the booth wouldn’t really get going until the show aged a bit.
God… those titles and theme song. Hardly the big production and hype we get now. No yellow first down line. No scores or ticker flashing. We don’t even get to see the game clock unless they cut to a shot of the one at the stadium,
And somehow, it didn’t really matter.
The game play is something to see as well. No celebrations or showboating after mere sacks and tackles. Not even after touchdowns. The guys just play, and try to play well. It didn’t seem like there were as many penalties. The refs weren’t even mic’ed up, their calls had to be explained by Jackson unless you knew the hand signals.
And way fewer injuries, even with the defenses playing with a lot more contact, especially in the secondary.
Oh, and those ads! Never mind the Marlboro ciggie ads as a glimpse into a lost world… all the ads with athletes pitching stuff are SO much more likeable than the ENDLESS God damn insurance company drek that runs over and over and over again during today’s sportscasts. We get Len Dawson & Joe Kapp pitching Gillette before Tom Seaver does. Other ads feature Roger Maris and Bart Starr. It almost rivaled the nostalgia brought back by the players on the field… Joe Namath, Emerson Boozer & Matt Snell on the Jets, or the guy with one of the best names in sports history, Fair Hooker on the Browns.
The halftime highlights go through some of the previous weekend’s games, with Cosell selling it like it’s a huge innovation to see league films. Maybe it was back then.
Those Boston Patriots managed to beat the Miami Dolphins, though! But the seeds of the Dolphins’ future Superbowl champions were in place… some highlight plays include Griese passing to Paul Warfield, a combo I remember very well.
And there’s always Rod Serling selling Ford LTDs or Goodyear tires that’ll keep EVEN YOUR WIFE safe if she drives alone… but one of the ads that really jumped out at me was the United Airlines ad touting flying a 747. Look at the people in it – how well dressed they are, how spacious and relaxed that plane cabin looks, the people strolling around. Flying was once glamorous, luxurious… now they cram you in like sardines, nickel and dime you six different ways and take away your water.
This is a lot of fun to watch – and it’s just a regular game from another era. No playoff or memorable game where some record was broken, just a normal weekly broadcast. The Jets were a year after winning their upset Superbowl, the fans in Cleveland still had hope, and no one knew that veteran Johnny Unitas would finally win a Superbowl that season.
Well, if NFL network or ESPN won’t run stuff like this, I’ll post it to share, and invite your viewership and comments! I can’t be the only one who misses present sports and loves sports history.
So as therapy for our sports on hiatus, look for old games here – football, baseball, basketball, hockey… whatever I can find, especially if it has the original commercials and show bumpers. I want the complete experience, right down to the lame synth theme songs, hairstyles, dated celebrity references… you name it.