My Treatment For Missing Sports 1: Monday Night Football, September 21, 1970. Jets vs. Browns

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.

My Past Continues To Die

A flurry of celebrity deaths of people all connected to the entertainment of my childhood and beyond…

First, producer Gene Reynolds died at a ripe old 96. He’d produced the early seasons of M*A*S*H along with Lou Grant and Hogan’s Heroes, Room 222 and a bunch of other stuff. Especially considering that M*A*S*H’s best years were under his & Larry Gelbart’s supervision, countless hours were spent (and often still are) watching Reynolds’ shows.

Then Orson Bean got hit by two cars while walking in Venice Beach. The first knocked the 91 year old to the ground and the second ran him over. I haven’t read any more about it – I hope it wasn’t some moron on their phone. Bean was a mainstay on game shows like To Tell The Truth back in the day, and more recently was wonderful in Being John Malkovich. Long ago, a friend of mine appeared with Bean in a small theater production out here – a very odd musical about John Cleves Symmes’ attempt in the 19th century to find the hole at the north pole leading to the center of the Earth. I’ll always remember hearing how after the playwright got stone-drunk after witnessing the flop of premiere night, supposedly Bean, playing Symmes’ old professor narrating the tale, came backstage and announced something along the lines of “Looks like we got us here a real bomb, folks!” and everyone erupted in laughter.

For the record, the actors were fine, some set design items were clever… but the script? Ye Gods!

Every backstage story I heard about Bean fit his TV persona.

And then, Robert Conrad died yesterday, star of one of my favorite old shows, The Wild Wild West. Conrad was always reliable for fist fights with his stuntmen buddies in numerous scenes (usually the legendary Red West and Whitey Hughes), and for playing tough guys. He played one of the scuzzier Columbo villains as well, a fitness guru who runs a string of crooked health clubs and murders the guy who discovers the Ponzi scheme behind them. His WW2 TV show got made fun of a lot in its day, but looking back on it in reruns, it’s a decent wartime adventure show with its plots loosely based on the memoirs of Conrad’s role, “Pappy” Boyington.

Conrad had a sense of humor about his image, doing those silly battery ads or losing foot races to Gabe Kaplan on Battle of the Network Stars. Many years ago when Howard Stern’s fans made it their business to phone into the Larry King Live show on CNN and annoy King with endless Stern promotion after King and Stern had some feud, Conrad was on King’s show being interviewed about some project he had coming up, and the Stern-themed calls started rolling in. King kept getting angrier and angrier, but Conrad couldn’t stop laughing and playing along with them.

It’s what Jim West woulda done, with Artie Gordon calling in.

Want more treasured elements of the past to blow up before your eyes? Well, why not start with tonight’s Oscar Awards.

I won’t make any Oscar predictions this year. I just don’t care anymore. I haven’t watched the broadcast in the last couple of years, and I’m not missing anything. I still love movies, but this event no longer has any sort of luster or importance to me at all.

And the WORST of all?

Well, I just got back from running some errands which included a stop at the 99 Cents Only store. And as I browsed the aisles, I noticed more and more items that are NOT 99 cents, but are labeled as supposed “bargains” at 2.99, 3.99, 9.99 and so forth.

They ought to change the name of the store to 99 Cents On Some Stuff, Anyway instead of 99 Cents Only. Amirite?

AND they didn’t have a big plastic pasta strainer to replace the one I have that developed a few cracks. NOR did they have the brand of deodorant I like. THOSE BASTARDS.

But karma – the shopping Gods smiled upon me, and I found a very nice wool winter jacket up the street at Goodwill for only twenty bucks. SO SUCK IT, 99 CENTS FOR WHAT WE BAIT AND SWITCH YOU WITH STORE.

Now I’m home, about to check the math on my friggin taxes. Bah.

Larry Storch Tested For James Bond

Little known outside of Hollywood lore, when Sean Connery quit playing Bond the first time after You Only Live Twice, numerous actors were tested to replace him before they settled on unknown Australian model George Lazenby.

Adam West was one. And while they were bringing in television actors whose series were over with, they brought in Larry Storch, who assumed somewhat of a make-over for publicity shots like the one above.

Continue reading “Larry Storch Tested For James Bond”

A Meandering Sunday Post

Enjoying a Jack Daniels & water on this lazy Sunday before my classes begin.

I’m watching a Monkees episode with Rip Taylor as a guest star, so all is well.

It’s got what had to be Jeffrey Epstein’s favorite Monkees song “Cuddly Toy” featured, as well as “The Door Into Summer,” a tune co-penned by Nesmith’s bud Bill Martin. I was apartment neighbors with Martin for a while some years back. Nice guy.

And for MORE small world coincidence, I was also neighbors with Martin’s screenwriting partner for a few years before that. Another nice guy.

But not Rip Taylor. I never got to be his neighbor. I wonder if he’d throw his toupeé over my fence.

Now they’ve switched over to the Fairy Tale episode, one of the weirder and more clever ones, actually. Complete with “Daily Nightly” just to run the table on making it a 1967 time capsule.

I’ll savor my drink, do the crossword, and make dinner. Back to work tomorrow. Oy.

New Baseball Cards For My Collection

Let’s have some fun with Topps’ Customized Baseball cards, shall we?

That’s right, you can upload any photo, set it within a few choices of Topps classic baseball card designs, and have them custom printed.

OR, if you’re a troll moron like me, you can have fun just taking some screenshots of imagined cards for FREE! So I think I’d like a 1986 Ro-Man. I think he’ll make all the difference for the Dodgers this year when he cranks up that bubble machine and kills everyone on Earth except for a small group of morons near Bronson Canyon in Los Angeles.

Unless, of course, he’s stopped by my 1973 Big Jim Slade

Yeah, yeah, I know… Big Jim really played for the Kansas City Chiefs (and the capital of Nebraska is LINCOLN!), but only baseball card designs were available.

Continue reading “New Baseball Cards For My Collection”

RIP, Arte Johnson

He did a lot of other stuff besides Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, but that stuff’ll stick with you…

Ruth Buzzi is from Westerly, Rhode Island. This recurring bit became so well known that there is a park bench named after her there.

So long, Arte.

Possibly The Greatest Cast Ever Assembled

Let’s park ourselves on the sofa for tonight’s entertainment, shall we?

Sweet! Another cop-gone-bad early ’50s crimefest, with tough talkin’ fedora wearin’ men and dangerous dames.

Our cop gone bad finds a dark alley, shoots a numbers runner in the back and lifts the twenty five grand he carried. And then he starts the big cover up, claiming the guy ran on him and a shot went bad.

You can tell the bad cop by the Bill Belichick scowl and ciggie… none other than Edmond O’Brien, stalwart character actor found across genres. His former protegé, now Det, Sgt, is John Agar, who’d go on to appear in tons of westerns and some notably awful scifi like Attack of the Puppet People.

So why did O’Brien murder for money? Well, to afford his 1950s dreams of domestic suburban bliss, you dummy! Can’t do that on a cop’s salary, ya chucklehead. Watch him take his good-girl squeeze to the model house in the new neighborhood.

A swell modern living room.

Yes, a fully furnished model! None of this real estate-staging BS for these two. A place where you can dream that every dinner party has the candelabra for that Liberace feel.

The innocent girlfriend is Marla English in her first credited role. She’d do a few more minor films in the ’50s before getting married for real and leaving the biz behind. I’d like to think she got an actual living room like that.

But outside…. our crooked cop is hiding the dough.

And it goes from there.

Continue reading “Possibly The Greatest Cast Ever Assembled”

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