Pro Football Becomes Big Business-The Prelude

Game 1-1956 NFL Title Game; Sunday Dec 30 National Telecast from Yankee Stadium

The New York Giants defeated the Chicago Bears 47 to 7.  The Giants  defense stopped the Bears on almost every series.  The only Bears’ touchdown came after the Giants fumbled at their own 15.   The New York fans gave the Giants’ defense standing ovations each time they left the field.  The news media and football fans suddenly recognized how important defense is to a winning team.  In fact it takes about 20% more energy to play defense than offense.    That is why time of possession is critical to winning.

Prior to this,  every star was on offense with the best known team being the Los Angeles Rams.  Recall the big names in Los Angeles-Deacon Dan Towler, Tom Fears, Woody Strode, Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield, and ElRoy Hirsh. Now football interest moved eastward and defense got more recognition.  Defensive teams all have nicknames since then.  But simply a squad called simply the Giants defense started the trend.

Week 1-Sep 28, 1958 Regional Telecast  New York Giants vs. Chicago Cardinals

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their season in San Francisco.  In those days, it was cost prohibitive to televise that distance to a single area. Instead CBS beamed to Pittsburgh the Chicago Cardinals vs. the New York Giants.  This was a “home” game for Chicago at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, NY.  The Chicago White Sox were ending their season at Comiskey Park.

This was the first time I heard Giants announcer Chris Schenkel and he completely mesmerized this impressionable 11 year old.  Schenkel had a deep flowing baritone voice, effectively understated enthusiasm, and seemed really happy to be there.  His sidekick,  Johnny LuJack had a more blue collar style, similar to John Madden today.   The two worked well together.   New York easily defeated the Cardinals 37 to 7.  The Giants stayed in the ground, running  for 252 yards.  Frank Gifford ran for three touchdowns while Alex Webster did likewise for two.  

Mid October 1958  National Telecast

On its Sunday night news documentary the 20th Century, Walter Cronkite presented The Violent World of Sam Huff.  CBS used the then novel technique of wiring a players during a game.  This brought the sounds of the NFL into our homes.  We saw all the blocking, tackling, and cutting with their impact on the players.  This is where the phrase crunch time took hold.  Once again, defense got a big lift and this helped the NFL’s publicity.

The Middle Linebacker became the “defensive quarterback” attracting the most publicity of any position.  I cannot with objectivity claim that Huff was better or not as good as the other three greats at that position-Bill George at Chicago, Joe Schmidt at Detroit, or Chuck Bednarick at Philadelphia. Huff was in New York with its obvious advantage.  with the coming of the 3-4 the terms middle, right, and left linebacker are obsolete.


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