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18 Nov 2010

Walkthrough: Memories

by Mike Tanier

You can't be 20 on Sugar Mountain, and you can't turn 40 on the Internet.

Oooh, a Neil Young reference. That's current. What, couldn't you come up with a Cab Calloway quote?

I turn 40 next week, so of course I feel old, impossibly ancient, especially in the young man's game of Internet writing, where pop culture references go stale seconds after their arrival. Are Call of Duty: Black Ops jokes already out of date? Maybe I need something more cutting edge like ... like ...

Can't think of anything? That's because you aren't teaching anymore. You need 120 teenagers a year to prop you up, keep you current, within two area codes of hip, the blood of the innocent keeping you young, like Nosferatu, or Pat Sajak. Dry up and fade away, buddy. Write a book about the Oorang Indians. Write about your new cell phone, the one with a real keyboard. That had them howling a few weeks ago.

This is drifting into self-interview territory, so I need to let my momma and everybody else know that their baby is OK. Turning 40 is no big deal. Heck, it's a reason to celebrate. This week's Walkthrough is a reflection upon 40 years of watching and loving football. Well, 35 years or so, because I didn't pop right out of the womb with a remote control in my hand. They didn't have remote controls in those days. When we finally got one, it had a long wire connected to the cable box, with 12 buttons and a little knob that let you flick down from the cool channels (WPIX-11 in New York) to the strange ones (that scanner that just showed a flat line 24-7; I think it was Brad Childress' EEG).

You get the idea. To put your mind at ease: This Walkthrough is about football, not about me. While there will be a little nostalgia, there will be no wallowing. Promise. If I mention the time I cried when my parents missed a piano recital, you have my permission to go read Word of Muth and never come back. This is about memories we can all share. Like the cable box.

Anyway, I never played piano.

Lunchboxes and Airbrushed Oilers

In first grade, I had an NFL lunchbox. It also had an AFC side. Notice that the Buccaneers and Seahawks are in the "wrong" conferences. The Seahawks started out in the NFC West, the Buccaneers in the AFC West, then flip-flopped in 1977 so that as many opponents as possible could see/beat the two new teams.

I never used the Thermos, because we bought milk from school. We sat at long tables in the church basement. I ate peanut butter, ham, or Lebanon bologna on white bread, and an apple or a pear, and stared at the helmets. Jamie Romano had the same lunch box, and we used to quiz each other about the teams. Naming all 28 teams is quite a challenge for a 7-year-old.

How much football did I really watch in the mid-1970s? That's a tricky question, like asking how much television you watched as a kid. All of my friends swear they didn't watch television as children. They say they woke up, went straight to the fields to play baseball or football all day, came home for dinner, then rushed out to play flashlight tag, every night, from age six to 16. They then proceed to recite every episode of Brady Bunch without noting the mutual exclusivity of their memories. Many of the guys who swear their parents only allowed 30 minutes of television per month sat right next to me on Saturday mornings from nine to noon, absorbing 90 minutes of Smurfs before someone kicked us out of the house to have a catch with a Nerf football in a frozen alley.

Our memories of childhood are warped because children lack a real understanding of time and space. I went "trick or treating" with my kids three weeks ago, and we travelled all of six blocks. I was shocked at how little ground we covered, because as a kid I "trick or treated" from noon to midnight and covered four counties. Except that I probably lasted all of two hours and six blocks. As a 7-year-old, two hours and six blocks just felt like the whole day and the whole world.

So I probably didn't watch much football, and certainly didn't understand much of what I watched. Monday Night Football was past my bedtime. The Eagles were often blacked out. I remember when Ron Jaworski was a new quarterback, and I rooted heavily for star fullback Mike Hogan, so I was definitely watching games in 1976 and 1977, and they were having an impact on my young brain.

I rooted for the Eagles and the Oilers. Why the Oilers? Earl Campbell was amazing, the rest of the team was just weird: Ken Burrough wore number 00, for goodness sake, and Bum Phillips looked like he walked off the Hee Haw set. And the Oilers always faced the Steelers. In the Philly area, you are required to hate all good teams, so I rooted against the Steelers. The 1970s Oilers helped build a tolerance for playoff losses I would later need.

Mostly, though, I stared at football cards. I shuffled through them, examined them, ranked the players according to who I thought was best based on how tough they looked in their photos. My first cards came from the 1975 set. Julius Adams was among them, as was Curley Culp. Both were very good players for a long time, but I remember them from their cards, not their on-field accomplishments.

Oh, those cards! Go ahead, look through that Vintage Card Gallery for a few hours. Football Outsiders will still be here when you return. Can you smell the bubble gum? Do you marvel at the airbrushing? Topps didn't have the rights to NFL logos in the 1970s and early 1980s, so they airbrushed helmets and other trademarks, which made for some surreal images, like that Through the Scanner Darkly movie or those weird mutual fund ads where everyone has been colored in pastels.

It was Ralph Bashki's NFL. Often, the players looked like they are wearing high school uniforms, and sometimes the colors didn't match. Topps tried to solve the problem by using lots of sideline photos from preseason games or training camp, because you don't have to airbrush a helmet when the player isn't wearing one. The photography must have looked a little dull at the time. Instead of seeing Charlie Waters laying a hit over the middle, you see him helmetless, with long hair and a John Holmes moustache, staring into the middle distance. But 35 years later, the photos look great, with their crazy haircuts, expressive faces, and trees and other oddities in the background.

My nephew recently showed me a DeSean Jackson card from the Topps Throwback series. Check out the uniform. That is some kind of digital airbrush job, right? And there are trees in the background; probably a Photoshop job, because Eagles camp would have high hills in any background scene. It's a beautiful card, touching all the right notes for a little nostalgic jolt.

Those old airbrushed cards are like memories of watching football as a 7-year-old -- nothing matches up quite right with reality. Everything is dreamy and foggy. There were just big men who crashed into one another on television, and shiny helmets on a lunchbox, colorful and fascinating, cooler than any superhero cartoons or anything else.

Sunday Morning Television

My Sunday morning television viewing, circa 1979-81:

7 a.m. or so: The Three Stooges on channel 48. Sometimes, my grandmother would watch the Catholic mass on WPVI Channel 6. But usually, she was OK with the Stooges.

8 a.m.-11 a.m.: Anything that wasn't religious or pro-social. As you may remember, Sunday mornings were once reserved for religious and community service programming, so you couldn't just switch over to SpongeBob (or ESPN, or the Penetration Channel) whenever you felt like it. I couldn't find accurate Philadelphia television listings for Sunday mornings from this era, but a lengthy search of the archives yielded a few shows I truly remember, like Animals! Animals! Animals!, with Hal Barney Miller Linden and the worst theme song ever recorded. Here's another: Big Blue Marble.

You know, I always had a morbid fascination with winsome singer-songwriters, a real love-hate thing. I just discovered where it came from.

I may have done something non-television related with this hour of my Sunday morning, but I doubt it. Maybe I served a mass as an altar boy now and then. My wife reminded me of some of the Philly-region shows that were on during this block. Larry Ferrari, a local broadcast legend, played the organ for 30 straight minutes every Sunday morning from the 1950s until 1997. His last show aired a week after his death. That's a showman. By 1980, even my grandparents couldn't stomach 30 minutes of organ instrumentals. Al Alberts was an old variety show host who invited children onto his Showcase to sing and tap dance. Some of my classmates were on the show. This clip, like the show itself, straddles the cute-sad-creepy borderlands. There's an ad for Ferrari after the poor little girl trapped in the crinoline explosion, plus Sally Starr, so the clip is a must-watch for Philadelphians.

11 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: Penn State Football Highlights. Now here was a show that served no purpose but to feed the football addiction. A forerunner of NFL Rewind, PSFH delivered exactly what it advertised. It was 30 minutes of Penn State highlights from Saturday, hastily edited, with a narrator guiding viewers through the jump cuts in a nasally voice. "We join the Nittany Lions midway through the second quarter at the Panthers 36-yard line after a punt." The program showed whole scoring drives, or the key parts of drives. As I recall, there was also a wraparound segment with a host and some member of the Paterno family offering minimal analysis while falling asleep on a couch.

The PSFH show made me hate Penn State. The jerseys were probably the culprit. Again, we pretend that we had mature tastes as children, that we didn't wolf down McDonalds burgers (or Geno Giants) like they were made with Kobe beef and caviar mayo, that we always valued substance over flash and were too cool for the Smurfs. The Penn State uniforms were boring. Ohio State had glittery silver with pride stickers. Penn State had Matt Millen, then Curt Warner and Todd Blackledge, but Ohio State had Calvin Murray and quarterback Art Schlister, who sadly probably had Penn State and the points.

Here's where memory is really faulty: Penn State was independent back then, and they only played Ohio State once in the early 1980s. I probably saw Syracuse and Pitt in those highlight shows, after watching Ohio State on Saturday afternoons. To summarize: It was a misspent youth in front of a television.

12 p.m.-12:30 p.m.: The Dick Vermeil Show. Vermeil and local sportscaster Big Al Meltzer sat around a table for 30 minutes talking about last week's game and Sunday's big opponent. Meltzer narrated a long Eagles highlight reel from the previous Sunday. Back then, a 90-second montage felt like the whole game, because the NFL was very strict about the use of replays. Vermeil might diagram a play or two. As I recall, there were often guests, usually a star from the previous week's game, John Bunting or Louis Giammona (Vermeil's nephew and the Danny Woodhead of 1980) or someone.

While Vermeil and Big Al were more animated than the Penn State Highlight guys, the show still moved with a speed more fitting Face the Nation than a football pregame show. It was a calm, back-and-forth discussion, taped nearly live, with no jump-cuts to speed the pace. Sadly, I can't find any clips. The next show will make up for that.

12:30 p.m.-1 p.m.: The NFL Today. I am not going to provide a million links. Here is the 1978 theme song, but it is a little distorted. Once you are on YouTube, check out the 1982 and 1983 theme songs and notice how the credits change. The song itself gets a funky wah-wah guitar line, then starts to sound more digital, perhaps because all or part of the live band is replaced by synthesizers. The Fran Tarkenton spiral in the CBS-Eye is replaced by animated football players, then with computer graphics that remind us how fascinating computers were in the days of Tron.

There's a 1977 video in the vault that preserves three minutes of analysis after the song. It starts with Miss America Dorothy Benham wearing Farah Fawcett's hair better than Farah ever did, then cuts to Brent, Irv, and Phillis on the sidelines of a Vikings-Redskins playoff game, where they talk the weather (warm in Minnesota) and about the Miss America Pageant. After Irv discusses the new kicker's cleats, they cut to an almost embalmed Jack Whitaker, who rants for 60 seconds about pride and character.

I could spend 40,000 words unpacking these four minutes, so I will be brief. 1) Benham was gorgeous, and still is. 2) Irv Cross was the Jaworski of the bunch, forced to talk about cleats while Brent Musburger giggles next to two former Miss Americas. 3) Whitaker talks about the Vikings not being sharp, because they clinched early, then says we can throw all of that "out the window." In other words, talking points have not advanced at all in 33 years.

In fact, nothing about the show has advanced much. Pregame shows lasted 30 minutes instead of two hours back then, and a lot of us like to say that those old shows contained more information than our current programs, fattened with 12 talking heads and 50 identical segments. But that four-minute clip features everything that hard-core fans like us don't like about the current shows. There's forced laughter, a plug for another show, pretty girls with no football utility, lots of non-substantive talk about which team is poised, focused, plays with pride, or whatever. Those old shows only had brevity in their favor. No matter how nostalgic you are for the old days, Jimmy The Greek's only purpose in life was to introduce impressionable 10-year-olds to the world of point spreads and slithery Vegas insiders. At least Chris Mortensen provides information and doesn't come across like Creepy Uncle Bookie.

As for NBC, I rarely watched NFL 80 or 81 or 82. Their theme song was funkier, but the Eagles were on CBS, and changing the channel required getting up back then. Plus, NBC had Pete Axthelm, and from an early age I developed skepticism about his tarot card like "trends" approach to handicapping. You know, "the Dolphins are 6-1 at home after a road loss against AFC West opponents," that sort of thing. Later, NBC had a weird computer, a giant prop of a mainframe that acted like Hal and was out-of-date and silly from the day they used it. Couldn't find a link. Help me!

1 p.m.: Doris Day and David Niven star in "Please Don't Eat the Daisies!"

Did I mention that the Eagles were often blacked out? Most of the games from 1980-82 were sellouts, but they also played some late games and Monday Night games in that era. Before and after that, it was up to my bedroom to listen to the game on radio so someone else could watch the Million Dollar Movie.


Super Tecmo Bowl has had a long Internet afterlife. It was a tremendous game but by the time it came out, I was in college.

In the early 1980s, Atari ruled the world, and we were forced to make do with these guys. This screen shot doesn't do the game justice, but the video links I found were suspicious. The players blinked and were barely visible. The Atari 2600 didn't have the memory to display too many characters, so it would draw a character, erase it, and draw the next, in rapid succession. With a total of 12 or 14 characters on the screen, the redraw rates weren't fast enough, so you had all of these blinky blobs who ran in unison. My friends and I played this for hours. One friend had an Intellivision, but for some reason we never played Intellivision football, which had to be better.

I graduated to an Atari 400 with a membrane keyboard. It didn't have a disk drive, but it had cassette tape memory, which we all know is the next best thing. There was a cassette football game for the 400-800 computers, possibly On Field Football, and I made my dad drive to two different malls with my birthday money so I could buy it before Christmas. The game took about 15 minutes to load from cassette tape to computer, after which you could play 7-on-7 football. You called plays with a series of joystick moves. Each receiver knew four routes, the blockers could go up, down, or backward, and since everything was independent, you had the equivalent of about a 500-play playbook once you factored in scrambles and other permutations. The game wasn't very balanced, and we soon learned the West Coast Offense -- snap the ball, wait one second, throw before the receiver breaks, and it's a 10-yard completion. For a break, we would play Defender Football, where you load up Defender, then try to last as long as you could without shooting, dodging and weaving until the aliens took all the humans to the top of the screen, created an army of mutants, then blew up the earth.

In the arcade, Ten-Yard Fight was the crack-heroin-Starbucks fix. The game later came out on Nintendo, and there are emulators out there, but the Nintendo port lacked the vital element of Ten-Yard Fight -- the big arcade joystick.

In Fight, you broke tackles by spinning the joystick rapidly. Tacklers bounced off of you, and once you got a feel for the spin technique, you became Eric Dickerson, John Riggins, and Earl Campbell all at once. You could also toss the ball in the flat, or throw long, or both. One of the game's signature plays was an option pass into the flat, followed by a bomb, followed by some joystick-spinning trucking. Every time you gained 10 yards, the arcade game gave you more time. Once you got good, you could play for an hour with a dollar. The game came out late in the arcade era, when the fad was waning. Therefore, no one noticed that the game was a little too easy, providing 10 minutes or more of football thrills for a quarter.

None of those early games were realistic, of course. But Ten-Yard Fight realistically recreated my football experience, the experience of pickup games at the playground. Pickup was all about simple plays and broken tackles, especially for us husky kids, so Ten-Yard Fight felt real enough. No tactile element in any modern home game recreates that spinning joystick experience. Vibrating controllers don't cut it, and waving a Wii controller around doesn't make me feel like I am trucking anyone. But maybe that's just a sign that I am becoming a fogey.

The Magazines

Street & Smiths came out in late July every year, and I always made sure I had $3 to pick up a copy and read about Why the 49ers Won't Repeat. Back before there were 50 fantasy guides available at Barnes & Noble, Street & Smiths at 7-Eleven was the only game in town.

I can't find my old magazines. I fear I purged everything earlier than 1996 the last time I moved. You know what those magazines consisted of: a few features, then two-page articles about each team, then stats and schedules at the end. Every preview in the world today descends from Street & Smiths, even Football Outsiders Almanac.

Without finding an old Street & Smiths, I can't comment upon the quality of the writing, but I can guess. Those magazines were assembled by stringers and free-lancers, working in late spring. The contributors often weren't credited. I did some of that kind of work early in my career, and you don't delve too deeply into your subject when you are paid in pizza slices and your name is nowhere in the masthead. Even if you wanted to bring your "A+" game, you couldn't, because editors wanted an even-sounding, vanilla publication.

Superficial or not, Street & Smiths was one of the few windows into out-of-town teams we had back then. Remember, there was no Internet, limited cable, and limited resources if you were a teenager and couldn't afford a subscription to The Sporting News. Magazines like Football Digest and College and Pro Football Newsweekly might appear on the newsstand now and then, and rival preview magazines came and went, but Street & Smiths was the symbol of quality for so long that I was still buying them once and a while in the late 1990s. They have since merged with The Sporting News.

There was more to those old magazines than the articles. Every advertisement was a window into another world. Gambling services could advertise in magazines back then, and dozens of them subsidized Street & Smiths. Many of them offered something I found magical back then: data. Buy The Double Deluxe Gold Sheet, or whatever, and you would have home-and-road splits for rushing stats, grass-and-turf splits for receiving stats, and so much more. As a young teen, I imagined what I could do with all of that raw data.

What could I do? No clue. Become a handicapper? Design a game? Write a Baseball Abstract, but for football? It didn't matter. It was easier to get my hands on pornography than that data. Classmates might have a few stolen Playboys to pour through, but nobody stole dad's gambling guide. I tried to convince my parents to buy me a Pro Football Weekly subscription in 1985, but they thought it was too expensive, and parents back then were always convinced that every mail-order operation on earth was a scam. There was no way I could assemble the resources to subscribe to Shifty Vinny's Chrome Sheet, even if I was only coming for the data, not the picks (like reading Playboy for the articles).

By the mid-1980s, many of those gambling sites had 900 numbers. One of them was so enticing: picks, stats, insights, Top Secret Football Knowledge straight from the center of all wisdom (Vegas). By the time I was 14, I had bigger secrets to hide from my parents than an urge to know Tommy Kramer's road passing stats. So I dialed the number on our new push-button phone and waited. It was a tape loop of a guy going from game to game, making picks and talking about the spread. Most of his facts were "trends" analysis: The Oilers were 1-4 coming off a loss to a home underdog. Pete Axthelm nonsense. I hung up.

I never called any other 900 phone line, ever.

The First Blogger

This is a bad sign: Almost 4,000 words in, and we are still in 1985 with Tommy Kramer. And I have wasted a few hours on my end watching old NFL Today segments and looking at old football cards.

The nature of nostalgia changes as you get closer to the present. The world itself becomes more like our world, and your perspective becomes more like your current adult perspective. That creates its own distortions. When you think back to yourself as a 10-year-old, you start to recreate that world, because you have to. You lived with different people, probably in a different place, at a time when your resources were fewer and the technology was different. When you think back on 2005, you make the mistake of thinking that everything was exactly the same as it is now. I have to remember, for example, that I only had one child, had never heard of Facebook or Twitter, and wrote for a site that looked like this.

That's what happens to your memories of the late 1980s and 1990s , if you are my age. By 1990, I have cable in my dorm room, giving Comcast two months of cash up front and then coasting for two free months until they shut me off. Chris Berman is on the pre-game show, ESPN Primetime comes on after the late games, and there are Sunday Night games. Soon, we are watching games in bars, eventually legally, and there are satellite packages so we can watch the Seahawks whenever we want. We play Madden and fantasy football, subscribe to the magazines we want, go to games without waiting for dad to drive, tailgate until we're pickled.

It's all the same. Then you remember how amazing it was when you first went to the bar with 80 televisions showing every game, how you couldn't figure out where to look. You remember when Madden only had player's numbers, not names, and when a window appeared so you could track your receivers. You remember that Primetime was must-see television, how everyone watched and Berman's routine felt funny and cool, and you realize that in 20 years, the concept of an hour-long highlight show (in low def!) will be as quaint as Jimmy the Greek. You called in your fantasy lineup by phone back then, and you tracked your team in the USA Today. It was really very different.

I'll wrap with a story that shows just how quickly time flies. I live-blogged my first draft in 2002, working for a company similar to Rotoworld that produced a lot of capsule updates, player news, and the like. We didn't use the term "Live Blog," because I don't think the term existed. In fact, when I started working for that company back in 2000, my editor had to explain the concept to the writers in a series of e-mails. "You can't just paraphrase the stories from the Associated Press. We have a news feed. Your job is to find the most interesting stories and spin them. Add analysis, or maybe jokes." In other words: blog. But back then, blogging wasn't popular, or didn't exist, and some of my fellow writers didn't understand what to do, which meant more work for me.

Anyway, they decided to do pick-by-pick analysis, and that meant I sat at home, waited for the announcements on television, then submited a pre-written scouting report and a quickly written "spin" on the move, just as I do now. Here's the big difference: I did the whole thing with a dial-up modem.

Yes, back then I was still on AOL. There were two dial-up numbers, and if they were busy, you were stuck. You can also imagine the speed at which pages loaded, which wasn't as big a deal back then, because there wasn't quite as much data imbedded in every page. Still, it was a headache and a half to load ESPN.com at 64K speeds.

I wasn't being technologically backward. Cable Internet existed, but for some reason they never wired my neighborhood. There were other options, but I was content to putter along at 64K until Mount Ephraim got out of the Stone Age. But I was backward in one other respect: We only had one phone line, so I had to tie up our home telephone line for 11 hours to do the blog. Cell phone? Not me.

So I went full speed ahead, sending updates to an editor through an AOL Instant Messenger window, until the phone connection started flickering in and out. Every time I lost the connection, I had to redial and hope not to hear a busy signal. Sure enough, during one of the disconnections, a friend called. "Who do you think the Eagles take? I hope T.J. Duckett is still there!" Getting him off the line was easy. Mom was tougher, because moms talk slowly and plow right into whatever is on their minds. "Mom ... mom ... oh, I am sorry to hear Aunt Matilda is sick ... listen mom, I don't want to cut you off but ..." Once I shooed my mother, I redialed AOL. Wheeeeeeee-arrrrrrrrrrr, gzzzzzzzh, gzzzzzzzzh, gzzzzzzzh. Let's see, I missed Albert Haynesworth and Willie Green.

That draft lasted until nearly midnight, the longest in history. I went out for 10 beers afterward, and when I came home, I woke up every 15 minutes. I kept imagining I heard the little ba-ba-bump noise ESPN used to announce picks, and that I had to scramble to assemble a report on someone named Anton Palepoi.

Want to feel old? Read through the 2002 draft. Jeremy Shockey. Antwaan Randle El. Tank Williams. LeCharles Bentley. Whole careers have risen and fallen. Try to remember a world when David Carr was filled with promise, and you dialed into AOL to see if the brand new Houston Texans planned to draft him. Now, remember how everything else was back then, when Rich Gannon was league MVP. For me, that means remembering a time with no children, no Football Outsiders, no weekly bylines. It's almost as hard as remembering the lunch box or The Dick Vermeil Show. I don't know what I did with my free time before I had kids, though I have a feeling I spent much of it waiting for pages to load with my 64K modem.

Moving Forward

Thank heavens for this Internet contraption. It gives us images of old football cards and videos of old television shows. It also gave me the chance to write. Before the Internet, there was no career path that would take me from a math classroom to your computer screen. Looking back is fun, but cherishing what is special about the present is even more fun. I get to watch football games and write about them for money. It is exciting, fun, and rewarding. I am lucky.

Fandom is such a huge part of our life that it should produce this kind of nostalgia. Football memories should be family memories, and happy ones. We lose sight of this too often. The football fan experience shouldn't be five months of gritted teeth and hope-against-hope for a championship. It should be lazy Sundays, fun and games, football cards and tailgate parties. Twenty years will pass, and you will look back on watching games and reading Football Outsiders. The experience should be rewarding, or at least a pleasant at-work diversion.

Thanks for time travelling with me. Walkthrough disappears for Thanksgiving but returns in December, fully loaded with diagrams and stats. We will all be a little older and wiser then.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 18 Nov 2010

130 comments, Last at 10 Dec 2011, 9:48pm by Darren


by JoRo :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:32pm

Good article Mike, as someone just now in college it's interesting to look at how footballs changed through the years before me.

by Dean :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:34pm

Great stuff. I shared way too many of those memories.

Especially loved the 5 year old site design. Is it too soon to call it "classic?" And why couldn't you - especially these days - find an archival shot with an ad for Catholic Match Girl?

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:43pm

Had the same, or a very similar lunchbox. Totally awesome, used it to memorize all of the NFL teams as well.

by joon :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:54pm

a most enjoyable piece of omphaloskepsis. i'm slightly younger than you, but have many of the same memories.

have a happy birthday and a happy thanksgiving.

by Coaldale Joe :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:57pm

I love the NFL Today sponsors. Tuborg Gold, that's something I haven't thought about or heard of for the last 30 years, and Wang Computers. Wow.

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:36pm

Wait, how about White Owl cigars? they really are masters...(Ricardo Montalban's pregnant pause) at Dutch Masters. First National Citi Bank, the only bank, your family e-ever needs...

I swear, when my mind finally goes, I'll be singing TV commercials from Sunday football games as my wife finally works up the nerve to pull the plug on me. I could tell you more about those circa-1974 advertisers (when I was 10) than I could about today's. Who says kids' minds aren't impressonable? Nobody? Ah, never mind. Hey they were mostly tobacco and liquor ads and I don't drink much or smoke, so maybe those ads didn't work. Sure I can recite them, but they didn't make me a customer.

Mike, this was an awesome stroll down memory lane for views of a certain age--you kids under 30 out there, write your own equivalent of this in 20 years to amuse your peers and baffle your kids.

by Coaldale Joe :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:53pm

The Susan Anton cigar ads were the ones that stuck in my mind...

by Marko :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:05pm

Speaking of cigar commercials, I don't remember if they advertised on NFL games, but I do remember the Muriel Cigars commercials ("Hey big spender!)?

My favorite commercial of that era was the one for Tootsie Pops with the Owl determining how many licks it takes to get to the center. "One, two-hoo, three. (Crunch.) Three!"

Edit: I posted this before I saw post 55. I remember the Susan Anton ads, which also were for Muriel Cigars. The "Hey Big Spender" commercials I searched for online featured Edie Adams, not Susan Anton. The ones with Susan Anton I found online were different.

by beargoggles :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 9:23pm

I was impressed as a roughly 10 year old with the "Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull" and the "You can call me Ray...or you can call me Jay...", let alone the zillions of Lite Beer ads that aired during sporting events. I once brought the "Bull" to a party as a gag (a few years ago), but nobody got the joke, so I guess I was the only one of my current friends watching 6 hours of football on Sundays (when I could get out of church).

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:03am

Liked thosoe ones were a customer would aks for a Lite and batrender would give customer a light of some kind. Like a lamp or lantern or spelunker headlamp or anything lighty.

by dryheat :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:43am

Even way before that...when they had a running conversation between LC Greenwood and Bert Jones (attempting to crush a can), one with one of the Zendejas brothers, and a few others.

And of course the epic Mean Joe Greene. Hey Kid...

by TomC :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 3:09pm

My favorite Lite Beer ads were Butkus and ... oh hell, was it Deacon Jones? ("I always thought it was the easy-opening can.")

by Marko :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 3:14pm

Bubba Smith.

by TomC :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 3:27pm

Duh. Thank you.

Only 39, and dementia has already started to set in.

by billsfan :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 1:22pm

Tastes Great vs. Less Filling

...and the Swedish Bikini Team

(I also like the Eagles)

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:52pm

Steinbrenner: Billy, you're fired.
Martin: What, again?

Bubba Smith's greatest commercial was for the Multiblade razors (for you Odd Couple fans). He was supposed to be the dumb jock but turned out to be an articulate pitchman and got shaving cream on Oscar's nose when he headlocked him.

Damn, I'm old.

by Andre LaPlume (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2011 - 6:31am

It wasn't Bubba Smith, but rather Deacon Jones.

"That's really speakin', Deacon".(FU)

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:10am

Susan Anton! Thanks for refreshing gthe memory banks. How about Joey Heatherton singing about a Perfect Sleeper by Serta? And some babe shaving Joe Namath--let Noxema cream your face, so the razor won't.

I think I've used that Tootsie Pop owl trick on my kids....

by PatsFan :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:24pm

As a Pats fan since 1976 I was more of an NFL'8X kinda guy. Sadly, aside from a 9 second clip, none of the NFL'8X themes seem to have made it to YouTube.

by clark :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:43pm

It's from 1973, but here is an NBC opening that has the theme music from NFL '7X/'8X


by PatsFan :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:55pm

Thanks! Though in retrospect I was thinking about the NFL'85 era version.

That's the one that started with a rocked-up version of the GE/NBC theme. Here's the 9 sec clip I was referring to:


by MCS :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:26pm

Happy Birthday Mike! I turned 40 just three weeks ago. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


by MCS :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:29pm

For those that want to read something about Thanksgiving from the esteemed Mr. Tanier, check out this Walkthrough from 2008:


It's one of my personal favorites.

by dmb :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:10pm

That's my favorite, too!

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:37pm

I remember it well....

by jds (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:22pm

Mike, fantastic, as always. I have an offseason project for you. A book compilation of the best of Walkthrough. The 2008 thanksgiving one, the Watchmen one, the Oakland Raiders pigeon play diagram, the first "burn this play", ... and with a foreward by Raiderjoe. Its easy to read archives online, but I would plan to gift give a book like that and would want a hard copy lying around through Thanksgiving for quick diversions from family(and/or in the john year round) - you know, for times that you just can't be online. I think you could easily compile a "best of" list, or it would be easy to solicit votes (or just track clicks or total comments on each article). I know you've got a current project to finish, and probably have other stuff going on, but that one would write itself. If you had that available in print form and reasonably priced by next Thanksgiving, I predict a best seller.

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:04pm

I think that's something we could do around here. Though I think if Raiderjoe wrote a book and I wrote the foreward, it would be even better.

by beargoggles :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:38pm

"Foreword", Mr. English teacher. Although maybe RaiderJoe already is your editor or it's a tribute to him. :)

by AudacityOfHoops :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:45pm

As I asked in another thread ... Has anybody actually seen Tanier and Raiderjoe in the same place at the same time? Just sayin'...

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:11am

Math, actually.

by beargoggles :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:49pm

Sorry, Mr. Tanier. What that other poster said about dementia.

by Dean :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 9:56am

Great idea, but I woudln't bother with the watchmen one. Not even Tanier scores a TD on every carry.

by BigCheese :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 2:19am

"Not even Tanier scores a TD on every carry."

True, but what that has to do with the greatest article ever posted on this site is beyond me...

Also, does anyone have the link to the pigeon play? I missed that one.

- Alvaro

by tuluse :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 4:03am

I think Walkthrough: Interventions is the right one.

Looking for it I ran across so many old favorites: Walkthrough: It's a Good Life, where he parodies a Twilight Zone episode. Walkthrough: Enter the Elam-verse. Remembering Steve McNair. Then I remembered a Tanier article that predates Walkthrough, his essay on Swagger. That one is probably my 2nd favorite after Who Watches Walkthrough.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 2:10pm

When I saw all that blue, I really expected the links would be UGG-boot-related.

by tuluse :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 4:44am

double post

by dryheat :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 12:02pm

And proving that everything comes full circle in here, that link contains another link which goes to an interview with the immortal Eric Hipple, who mentions a game where he threw four TDs and ran for two more.

So Mike Vick was able to equal what Eric Hipple could accomplish. Two peas in a pod.

by Martial (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:42pm

The days were longer then. I’m sure of it. I often accomplished five impossible things before breakfast, whereas now I’m doing well to manage just one - getting the kid to school on time (growing more impossible with every passing year too).

I remember that lunch box but don’t recall if it was mine, though it must have been because I know I had that thermos. Why did the thermos build a stronger memory of ownership?

Thanks, Mike. There is very little the same on the old street and all but one person from my youth has moved away or died, but I might walk over there on my way home tonight and look at again with ten-year-old eyes. The walk would add about fifteen minutes to my commute, but there is always time enough for a pleasant memory.

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:41pm

Martial, when I recently told my wife that I not only walked to and from school in 1st grade, but that I went home for lunch every day as well, she was mystified. We had a full hour and it was about six blocks. And mom had a hot meal waiting most days. (in the days before microwave ovens!)

Our kids are a little more coddled--nobody here walks to school, lunch is like 25 minutes for my three in elementary school, and my wife works, so if they came home for lunch they'd find me working or... um, reading Walkthrough in the home office.

by Rich in Atlanta (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:43pm

Mike, very enjoyable article. My oldest son is about 4 years younger than you are so the nostalgia for me is vicarious, but there are still many familiar elements there.

Having read your stuff for the last couple of years, I have occasionally wondered how old you were, as there were some references that made me guess younger (from my perspective), but I had finally concluded that you had to be at least in your 50's because your knowledge of pop culture that would pre-date your time was so in depth. I'm impressed.

by ammek :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:47pm

My nostalgia trip is a little different from Mike's, in that I followed the game almost exclusively through stats. Growing up first in the UK, where there was one hour of NFL highlights a week, broadcast with a seven-day delay, then in France, where there was no football on tv at all, I got to see my team, the Packers, just twice in one decade for a total of 90 minutes: 1983 vs Washington; 1989 at San Francisco. (As Pete Axthelm would note, Green Bay had a 100% record when I watched them!) I mostly scrutinized the boxscores in newspapers. Above all, I pored through the NFL Record & Fact Book so often that I could put figures to names of players whose faces I had never seen.

Consequently it took me longer than it should have to leave the 'Lunchboxes and Airbrushed Oilers' stage. Many of my judgements about teams were based on their uniforms and helmet designs: those were the only color pages in the book. On the other hand, I was ace at American geography. But the bit that fascinated me most was the history of pro football: all-time team vs team results; team statistics; obscure facts such as Al Nelson's missed field goal returns and that list of mostly forgotten quarterbacks who'd thrown for 7 tds in a game. I think my passion for this stuff was part of a wider Americanophilia which was as much linguistic as anything else: the possibility of a place where people were called Ernie Nevers and Bum Phillips and Art Monk, and a game that had scrimmages and fumbles and waggles, seemed beyond fantastical, especially compared with the visually mediocre, hooligan-marred local sporting product.

My first (and last) football computer game was American Football for the Commodore 64. Offenses and defenses had four plays each. It wasn't great.

I lost my interest in football for about three years in 1990-93. Did that ever happen to anyone else? I still watched a few games but didn't seem to care as much: the same teams kept winning, and the game lacked personalities. Then I spent a year in the US, got to see some live games, and grew mad keen again.

Thanks Mike for a trip down memory lane!

by Jimmy :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:20pm

I was nearly lost to football in about 1999-2000. I had just gone to university and couldn't watch any games, or highlights packages, or use the internet very well and the Bears sucked pretty badly. So I hardly paid it any attention. Then my brother asked me what I thought of that rookie linebacker we had drafted (a certain Mr Urlacher) who I rememebered being very keen on the Bears getting in April and lo and behold he was ripping the league to shreds. So I started watching again now I lurk around sites like these (actually pretty much only this site) and watch the Bears every week in HD on a big screen and gibber like an eejit. Then I calm down and watch some other games, all is good.

by mathesond :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:58pm

Did American Football for the Commodore 64 have a play called "Razzle-Dazzle"? I remember having a "burned" copy of a football game with that play in it

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:07pm

I remember there was a board game called Football Strategy by Avalon Hill that had a play called Razzle Dazzle. Depending on the defense called, it was either a touchdown, a 10 yard loss, or a fumble or something.

Avalon Hill may have ported Football Strategy into a computer game.

by beargoggles :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 9:18pm

There was also Avalon Hills' "Paydirt", and "Bowl Bound" as well, although I didn't play that as much. Paydirt you had I believe 9 offensive plays and 6 defensive, and involved strange dice to determine the outcomes. You could also do QB sneaks too easily--I often did consecutive QB sneaks on 3rd and 2 and converted. My game had the '78 season; it was hard to lose with the Steelers and Cowboys, although the Patriots graded out pretty well as well since there's no such thing as "heart" in a board game. Every now and then, we'd do like the Bucs vs. the Chiefs or Bills or Giants for a laugh.

I loved the Atari football as well with the 3 blinking guys. Once I lost the game because I danced on the goal line to run out the clock (a la Brandon Stokely, only misexecuted), and had my game winning touchdown nullified by stupidity when I was tackled and the clock ran out. I don't recall the INtelliVision game, but I was already an unrepentant crank and thought most of their games sucked compared to the Atari.

by Coaldale Joe :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 11:50pm

Intellivision was awesome, especially the sports games compared to Atari, I think Atari might have had the advantage on Space Invader-type games, but Intellivision ruled for sports. I always though the football game was way ahead of its time in some respects. You could pretty much create your own plays. You entered a 4 digit code, the first digit was for say type of play run or pass, the second digit was formation, the 3rd digit was the target player and the 4th digit something else. There was something similar for defense. Anyway, over time it felt very roughly like the NFL in the way that certain defenses and offense go in and out of style. Every so often someone would come up with an unbeatable play on offense or defense and use it to crush everyone else, until suddenly someone would discover the anti-dote to shut it down and then we'd reach equilibrium until someone discovered the next big thing. It was very cool, at least for a 12 year old.

by BigCheese :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 2:36am

I got into the NFL from a computter floppy game where the teams were literally X's on Defense and O's on Offense. You chose a play from your play-book (about 6 formations each with 10 plays or so) and so did your oponent/the PC. Then the game simmed the play with the X's and O's.

It had the real NFL teams and rostersm and you could play a season up to the super-bowl.

I remember the screen pass to Sweetness was almost unbeatable. And that's how a life-long Bears fan eventually was born in Mexico City, just in time for the 85 Bears season...

- Alvaro

by cfan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:55pm

Got you by about 16 years - remember watching Green Bay Packers on newly colorized TV with my dad ("look at that green and gold"!) He was from Buffalo, and a Bills fan...bequeathed to me a lifelong love of football. Thanks for the writing.

by dryheat :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:10pm

One of my favorite articles to appear on this website. There's so, so, much to comment on, but I guess I'll leave it at this:

Yes, IntelliVision football was far, far superior to Atari. Oh...and Dorothy Benham's a knockout.

by billsfan :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:33pm

Atari football must have been atrocious, based on the countless hours I spent playing "Super Pro Football" on INTV.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Joseph :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:00pm

It would be interesting for FO to give us this data based upon registered users:
How many of us are between 35-45, and as such, share many of these same memories? I know I fit in that group.
Re: video games--I had an Atari 2600, then the 7800. Sadly, it was ruined in my brother's house during hurricane Katrina. We accumulated almost 80! games including multiple football & baseball titles. Even worse--we are debating getting a video game system for my kids for Christmas, and I JUST FOUND OUT ABOUT IT. I was soooo disappointed.
Thanks for the memories, Mike.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:10pm

I'm 25. I remember we had an Atari when I was little. We got an NES in about 1992 and the Atari was gone by then.
However, the first football game I remember was Super Play Action Football for SNES, which we got in, I think, 1995. If you could time it right, you could onside kick every time and if you didn't score on that, call one play (I think called "shotgun bomb") and throw it into the endzone--every time. I once beat the Raiders 154-0.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:21pm

I'm 46, so I'm just a little bit older. I definitely share many of these memories. I had the Atari 2600 and loved the football game, even though it was very primitive.

One thing that really stood out from that era and should be mentioned is the impact of Monday Night Football, including the halftime highlights narrated by Howard Cosell. It was hard to find highlights on TV in that time period. It was especially difficult to find highlights of your team if you didn't live in that team's market. As a Bears fan who has never lived in Chicago, I didn't get to watch many games live until satellite TV made it possible to see out of market games. There were some highlights on CBS and NBC during halftime and on the postgame shows, but after that, you pretty much had to wait until Monday Night Football.

But it wasn't just that the highlights were interesting; it was that Howard Cosell made them even better. I wonder how many younger fans even realize that a lot of Chris Berman's shtick is an homage to Cosell, as he imitates the way Cosell narrated the highlights (for example, "LOOK at him go!" and "He could...go...all...the...way!)

by AudacityOfHoops :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:41pm

I wonder how many younger fans even realize that a lot of Chris Berman's shtick is an homage to Cosell

So Howard Cosell was an annoying blowhard?

Seriously, though, I'm 29, and I had no idea.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 9:18pm

Yes, Howard Cosell was an incredibly annoying blowhard. He was so universally known for being a pompoous, arrogant blowhard that the following exchange takes place in Woody Allen's 1973 film Sleeper (which is about the adventures of the owner of a Greenwich Village, NY health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an inept totalitarian state):

Historian (showing Miles a tape of Howard Cosell): At first we didn't know exactly what this was, but we've developed a theory. We feel that when citizens in your society were guilty of a crime against the state, they were forced to watch this.

Miles Monroe (Woody Allen): Yes. That's exactly what that was.

But Cosell was great at narrating highlights.

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:21am


You are a god for bringing up Cosell and Woody Allen in the same post.

I really didn't care for Cosell at the time, but miss him now.... My response to the annoying blowhard question was to find a link to the Odd Couple episode in which Oscar sat in the MNF booth with him. Cosell deserved major props (which didn't exist at the time) for allowing himself to appear to be a manipulative pest.

So, Madison, do you really-believe-that team X... is the better team out there tonight?

Of course I do, that's why I put down $100 and gave points and... I'm in big trouble, ain't I?

Do-my-ears-decieve me, Madison, or did you just admit-on-national-television-to-gambling on tonight's game? I suspect you'll be receiving a telephone call from-Alvin-Pete-Roselle very shortly....

I like the Sleeper response better.

by Jerry :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:02am

Cosell actually has a part in Bananas where he interviews principals after a couple of non-sports moments.

The impact of Monday Night Football in the '70s is hard to overstate. It was such a big deal that when a team wasn't selected for the highlights package, the city's mayor would sometimes complain. These were pre-cable days when only one or two college games would be televised on Saturday, then the NFL doubleheader on Sunday.

I got the 1979 World Series DVD set a few years ago. The Series happened to be on ABC that year, with Cosell as the third man in the booth. At the beginning, I thought about how nice it was to hear Cosell again. It didn't take long before I remembered why I disliked him so much.

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:54pm

Oh yeah, with Louise Lasser! How could I have forgotten that? Been living outside NYC too long....

by Basilicus :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:06pm

Mike, you're one of the few online writers I go to for good storytelling. It's you and the Naomi Kleins and Roger Eberts of the world who do a little bit every week to keep each of your styles of journalism interesting and relatable without delving into spin, and that is very much appreciated.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:10pm

1970s abd early 80s Topps caeds gfeat. Have. many of them. Had a lunch ox with helmets too. S

Had action figures and toy cars. Liked Matchbox ones more than hot wheels ones. Electric footbsll had that too. Crap game. Line up players, turn on game and watch palyers go in all different dirextions like Broncos would do. Best fun ever had with it was when light some players on fire amd watch melt

by AudacityOfHoops :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:29pm

I am dying to see "a lunch ox with helmets"

by MCS :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:48pm

Gotta get in a dig at the Broncos. Love it.

by dryheat :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:49am

Awwww The Denver Broncos ???!!!

I think it's good to own the Denver Broncos.

Marge, you don't know anything about football

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:55pm

Yeah, but wasn't Homer's first wish for the Cowboys? I'm thinking right about now..... coin flip.

by cfan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:20pm

Yay for electric football! We had one too - awesome game ~~ anybody now can play Madden and have the players do what you WANT them to do - it took real courage to line up little plastic pieces and watch the thing vibrate and shake and hope for the best....

by Joseph :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:59pm

Interestingly enough, I used electric football to memorize the (then) 28 football teams, in alphabetical order by nickname, instead of the lunchbox.

by countertorque :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 7:44pm

mine was handed down from my Dad. It had metal pieces. And it did not work any better.

by Harris :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:29pm

Nice work, Mike. I miss the days of locally-produced television. The shows were awful, the production values nonexistent and the whole thing was kind of embarrassing, but it made every city unique.

Now you punks get the hell off my lawn.

Hail Hydra!

by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 2:38pm

Mike inspired me to listen to "Live Rust" today.

by TreeRol (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:02pm

Great column. NFL Gameday and Primetime were the two best pregame/postgame shows ever, and will probably never be equaled. Or maybe that's nostalgia speaking. Who really knows?

That said, every time I see "once and a while" I wince.

by Jim C. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:04pm

More from the proof-reading police:

It's "A Scanner Darkly." It's Bakshi. We pore over written words, not pour over them.

But this is still one of the best reads I've had in a very long time.

by jtduffin :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:29pm

Oh, speaking of which: this appears to be one of the very few times Ralph Bakshi and the NFL have ever been linked, at least based on a quick look at Google. :-)

by Coaldale Joe :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:18pm

Raise your hand if your bedroom was festooned with these:


by PatsFan :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:52pm

OMG. I totally forgotten about that. Yes, I had it, but only the bedclothes, not the drapes.

by dryheat :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:54am

I had a slightly more modern edition...probably 2-5 years later. My God...getting the Sears Wishbook was one of the highlights of my year back then. I would just circle the things I wanted for Christmas. Unfortunately, many items were not available in Patriots, so I ended up with far too much Steelers, Cowboys, Dolphins, and Bengals (like the uniforms...first year after they changed the helmets in the Early '80s) stuff, but I was happy nonetheless.

~1980 in suburban Boston. Go to the local K-Mart or Kings or Sears to buy a Patriots duffel bag and finding out you're S.O.L. and settling for a Steelers. Hard to imagine that happening now.

by Jerry :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 7:14pm

OTOH, there was no problem getting tickets at the local stadium. Or even the local ballpark, if the Yankees weren't in town.

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:47pm

In that vein, Bobman and Rickman got a new set of NFL jammies every year for Christmas from the Sears catalog. One year, inexplicably, Santa brought Bengals jammies for the Vikes fan and Dolphins jammies for the Colts fan. Either Sears was running low on stock, or Santa was hittin' then eggnog early.

I don't think we ever went whole-hog with the bedspread, but probably did have the sheets. And when our grandmother asked us what colors she should crochet our afghans, my brother got one of Vikings purple and gold, thereby defining both dedicated fandom and grandmotherly love in one fell swoop.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:20pm

I can relate to your afghan story. My grandmother made an afghan for me in Bears colors (Navy blue, orange and white).

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:23am

She did? That woman's a saint. (or color blind)

by jtduffin :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:27pm

A 64K modem! Luxury. I remember spending hours and hours on BBS message boards at 1200 bps. I could read the text as fast as it loaded, and counted my blessings that it wasn't 300 bps. Later we upgraded to 14.4kbps and that was pretty astonishing - a whole page of text at a time! (Of course, this was rather a number of years before the 2002 NFL draft, so I do sympathize with how painful that must have been in the not-just-text world. ;-)

Good stuff, Mr. Tanier, thanks for the memories. I only started really following football pretty recently, so the "lunchbox Seahawks and Buccaneers in the wrong conferences" reference really confused me until I looked up the history and learned that the Seahawks had been in the AFC until 2002.

by Levente from Hungary :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:40pm

Happy Birthday, Mike! My birthday is also next week, I'm 2 years younger than you. Obviously I can't have such old memories of the NFL than most of you, guys, but I sometimes think back to the times when announcers talked about college guys like Kordell Stewart and others as suture stars in the NFL.

by JPS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:51pm

Pre-football programming on Sunday mornings in Houston c. 1975:

Don Mahoney & Jeanna Claire Kiddie Troupers
Houston Wrestling (w/Paul Boesch. Theme song was jazzed up version of something from the Nutcracker Suite)
NFL pregame shows
Bud Adams blacked out my COWBOYS so that folks would support the Oilers

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:58pm

Hah, there's a Drew Pearson highlight about 53 seconds into that 1977 NFL Today youtube video that is clearly and obviously not a catch. Oh, the days before replay.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:20pm

Playboy actually has solid writing, along with crappy airbrushed photography. Now if we could make a magazine with Playboy's writing, and Maxim's photographers...

by Dean :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:23pm

Playboy had writers?

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:49pm

Of course they did! I remember clearly, their turn-ons were long walks on the beach, chili-cheeseburgers, and road underdogs who consistently beat the spread over playoff teams.

by jbrown (not verified) :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:47pm

They actually do get some solid writers in there every so often. I don't care for the mag but a friend who subscribes keeps an eye out for interesting pieces for me. One in particular that comes to mind is some of the last writings by Hunter Thompson before his death. That's the only issue I own

by swami :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:24pm

A truly beautiful piece, Mike. Led me to waste an hour watching old NFL Today intro clips! You are looking live at a man wasting his time strolling down memory lane!

by Alaska Jack :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:33pm

Good stuff. I just turned 40 too.

1. I'm suprised you liked Street & Smith's; I thought there was a universal consensus that anyone who had a more than a superficial knowledge of football agreed that Don Heinrich's Pro Preview was the only way to go. I still have a whole bunch of them. They're actually quite a bit like Football Outsiders -- not the stats stuff, but in that they're both informative and amazingly well-written. The magazine went downhill then folded after Heinrich died. (I've often thought the people here would get a big kick out of seeing some of these posted online, but I have no idea how I'd do that.)

2. Wasn't there a table-arcade football game that had a giant trackball you would spin? Pretty sure it was Atari.

3. Also, I want to say John Elway's something-or-other; it had a little spring-loaded lever you would pull back then let go to pass. That was early 90s.

4. Finally, this is funny because I was just explaining to my wife what watching football was like in rural Alaska, with our little 12-inch black-and-white TV that got one channel. No computer-generated line of scrimage, first-down line -- not even scores! If you came into a game in the middle you'd need to wait a while until the announcer mentioned the score.

Good times.

- Alaska Jack

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:00pm

I'm 26 and English. I was too young to hit the craze for NFL in the 80s, so my only early NFL memory is NFL Blitz, which was on on Saturday mornings on Channel 4, some time after Trans World Sport. Presented by Gary Imlach, who I swear looks exactly the same now as he did then.

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:20pm


Welcome to your 40s, Nosferatu. I've felt your pain since I turned 30. The blood of the innocent schtick had be crying I laughed so hard.

As an associate told me last week when he noticed me reading a menu with "long arms" (I bought my first pair of "cheater glasses" last night at Barne=s and Noble), when you get to be my age, if you wake up in the morning and don't feel any pains it means you're dead. And he's a doctor, so he should know.

by Sophandros :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:31pm

1978 NFL Today Intro, 25 seconds in: one of the greatest things ever.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Dean :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:37pm

It's not so much Sunday Afternoons themes that bring back nostalgia for me. It's the old pre-Bocephus Monday Night Football theme. Now THAT got a boy ready for some football!

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:51pm

Even for craptacular games, I'd often stay up past midnight in NJ watching MNF because... probably the same reason Ralphie wanted a red Ryder BB gun. It's just what a boy did.

by Rick Killing (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:51pm

I'm three years older than Mike. I remember my brand new Adam-12 lunchbox. I also remember dropping the Thermos on Day 1 of school and shattering the inner lining. The liquid still looked fine, but my mom wouldn't let me drink from it. She threw that thermos away.

I thank that happened with every new lunchbox. Then she stopped buying them for me.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:13pm

I recently found my old Hot Wheels lunch box while cleaning out my Mom's house. Very sad to find that they're only going for $20-30 bucks on e-bay.

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:45pm

I'm quite a bit younger than Mike (my nostalgia is for the 90s). I also wasn't that interested in football until I was older, I was in highschool before I really appreciated it.

However, my grandmother got me an awesome Chicago Bear (quite literally, a teddy bear). It was giant, or seemed like it when I was a kid, and it had an 80s style Bears sweater (like Ditka wore), and a hat of some kind. I think the ears poked through the hat. I can't find a picture of it online.

It seems like team merchandise these days is more generic and lacks some of the personality they used to have.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 7:34pm

I think I know exactly what teddy bear you are talking about. The one I know of was white. The hat that the ears poked through was a knit cap. They sold them at Carson Pirie Scott.

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 7:42pm

Yeah it was white.

by Led :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 7:11pm

I chose my favorite player, Wesley Walker, because he looked cool on a Topps card. And that was before I even discovered he was a legally blind touchdown machine (or so I remember him)! Sundays for me meant Davey & Goliath, trying to avoid going to Church and then FOOTBALL! If you were lucky, you got Father Gartland for 12:30 Mass. He was a big Giants fan and you were guaranteed to be outta there by 5 minutes to 1:00.

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:17pm

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes. Happy birthday to fellow turkey kids out there, including my son CJ, whose birthday is the day before mine.

Thanks for so many responses. And for linking to that old football article, where I got so much help from so many people.

The vibrating football game didn't make the cut in this article, though I played it for hours. The trick was getting guys to run into your "run in circles" guy to straighten him out so he would go straight. It could be marketed these days under the name Reggie Bush football.

The trackball Atari video game was an arcade staple around 1980 or 81, but at the arcade in Deptford it was always monopolized by the older kids. It had x's and o's and realistic plays.

I also didn't want to go on forever, so I didn't mention setting up spreadsheets of stats using Lotus 1-2-3, Fleer stickers, or about 20 other things that were incredibly 70's-80s, like Fran Tarkenton on That's Incredible!

by CathyW :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:47pm

Happy 40th and welcome to the dark side! I'm 42, so I have many of the same memories you do - oh, how I miss Lebanon bologna sandwiches on white bread. I liked them best with butter and yellow mustard, and either Gibbles or Middleswarth potato chips on the side. I'm getting heartburn now just thinking about it.

I had Nancy Drew lunchboxes; my brother was the lucky one who got the NFL ones, and the groovy Eagles sweaters as well as those kelly green knit hats with the pom-poms on top in silver and white.

Anyway, thanks for the stroll down memory lane! Happy birthday and enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday!

by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:31am

If you bring up Scramblin' Fran on That's Incredible! you should also bring up the impossible to duplicate "The Superstars" on Saturdays after cartoons. Where else can you have bodybuilders face off against pro water skiers and NFL QBs? Carr a fridge? No problem. Then run a mile? Okay. Then swim 200M? Yikes.

I had no idea Theismann was such a stud athlete until then. Nor did I know who Wayne Grimdich was or how a pro water skier even makes money, but I wish there were some uslesss things I could scrub out of my brain.

Can you imagine gathering the top-tier athletes from major pro sports these days and paying them to risk their careers? First off, when could you do it? Second, who insures it? Third, what payments would they require and could you possibly break even? I doubt it. Finally, what happens to all these pro athlete giants when Apolo Ohno or a wispy Olympic fencer takes the gold? They'd never return.

Damn, that was a fun show.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 8:20am
by Bobman :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:07pm

Oh MY GOD! That was so awesome! Joe Frasier is a man of monumental courage, or no brains. I am glad he did not drown. Johnny Bench was a freakin' beast until he cramped up (I assume) and started walking in his lane.

McKay as commentator: Bench has stopped, now he'a backstro--you have to think he'll be disqualified for walking in the pool.

Though I could have done without the discussion of Rod Laver's lithe muscles.

And my old hero Johnny U in his late-career Beatlemania long-hair mode. I wonder if he and Frasier duked it out in the losers bracket.....

by dmb :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 7:14pm

Theismann actually returned some punts before he became a starter at QB.

by masoch (not verified) :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:42am

Count your blessings that the older kids monopolized that game... it was a money sucker (I think maybe 2 minutes for a quarter), AND it killed your hands. It gave me many a blister back in the day (and also, sadly, caused many a silver dollar to vanish. Ah, the folly of youth).

If you you *really* want to see what you're missing, or take a mini-trek down that particular memories lane, you can go through the hassle of setting up an emulator and you'll find it here:

but you won't get that pleasure of the trackball induced lesions.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 8:11pm

not necessarily true ... although the trackball controller I have does not appear to have a similar gap (or whatever it was that bit your hands), or perhaps that's because I haven't played Atari Football on it.

by ibanez_ax (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 8:19pm

Great picture of the cable box with the toggle. I've told my (mostly) younger employees about it, now I can show them in our next meeting!

by phillyangst :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:26am

Mike, Happy Birthday and thanks for some of the best writing anywhere. I can't wait to read your book. And thanks for the flashback... here are a few of mine.

HR Pufnstuf, The Brown Hornet and Hong Kong Phooey
Smear the Queer (and yes, it has to do with football)
I also walked back home for lunch from school. I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich everyday.
Campy Russell - great name and loved to imitate his jumpshot.
Called a 1-900 sportsline 15 times in one day. Couldn't sit for the next 3.
My first pro game with my Dad, December 1976 - Browns 13 Oilers 10 in Cleveland! BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
'77 NBA Finals. Doctor J becomes my sports hero. On taped delay.
Magazines: MAD and X-MEN Wish I still had them.
Any Bounce - my generation's Stickball.
Cable box had 32 push buttons, but only 7 working channels.
Cried when I couldn't wear my O.J. endorsed cleats for pee wee football. They were pleather with orange plastic sole and spikes.
"Skoal, brotha."
Jayne Kennedy
PONG to Mattel Football to IntelliVision - REVOLUTIONARY
Artesian water?
Uncle's shed. Playboy. Boyhood never the same.
Second pro game September 1980 Lions 27 Vikings 7, Silly Bims (that's what my Dad and I called him) broke a long run for a TD.
Jayne Kennedy
Another one bites the dust hey hey
Best game I never heard. Dolphins-Jets on NBC. No announcers. Should be done now.
Watching basketball in the Silverdome. Weird.
Philadelphia International Airport. January 11, 1981. 42 yard TD run. Gates erupt with jubilant cheers. A love(hate) relationship begins.
Jayne Kennedy
July 1981
Copy in safety deposit box.

Happy Thanksgiving fellow FO readers!

"DVOA loves Philadelphia!"

by AudacityOfHoops :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 10:58am

YES! I was waiting this whole time for a comment to mention this beautiful baby:


I'm only 29, so it was before my time, but once upon a time I found one in my grandmother's basement, and after that my brother and I would spend what I remember as hours down there passing it back and forth between us. (Going to grandma's house really was like going back in time. She also had a console record player system.):

by MCS :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:43am

I had the upgraded version, Football 2.


Many, many hours.

by phillyangst :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 2:48pm

Picture of boys: Replace the WALKMAN with an IPOD and the HANDHELD with a SMARTPHONE and time stands still. Except for the haircuts.

"DVOA loves Philadelphia!"

by Jerry :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:11am

I looked up the 1975 Pittsburgh TV listings. You could watch cartoons from 9-10:30, then watch the Penn State highlight show for an hour, then the Notre Dame show for another hour (with Lindsey Nelson IIRC). That would take you to 12:30 and The NFL Today or Grandstand. That night, you could watch The Six Million Dollar Man and/or Kojak.

by Pat Swinnegan :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:33am

That lunchbox brings me to muse... Does the NFL sell much merchandise these days that promotes all 32 teams? A quick perusal of NFLShop.com turned up lots of stuff with just the NFL shield, but nothing like the lunchbox, or those sheets and drapes.

by the K :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 6:42am

An always excellent article by Tanier compels me to offer some memories of my own.

I didn't watch quite as much football in those early days as I did today. I watched probably a couple games a year until I was in junior high, at which point I started watching the Bills every week. My fondest TV memory of back then compared to now was NBC still having the AFC on Sunday, and us having two different NBC stations, each usually showing a different game...one the Bills, and one the Jets. Plus CBS having another game usually meant 3 to choose from when the Bills weren't playing. I can't even get that now, and not having DirectTV means my only option is RedZone, which is what I'm usually watching in the morning, and when I don't go to the bar for the Seahawks game. (Now living in the northwest instead of the northeast and all.)

For the videogames: Intellivision football was the supreme master of those early days. It was incredible. Also very good was Mattel's own 2600 football game, easily the best on that system. I didn't really like any NES football except for Tecmo Bowl, and that only because it had real players. When the Genesis hit, video football hit its stride, with the original Madden, Joe Montana football (not as good, but still quite good) and Cyberball...football with robots. It was awesome. Back then the one thing I knew was going to be under the tree for Christmas every year (even after I'd moved out) was the new Madden, which came out for the holidays back then instead of before the season started.

Finally, I can't say I remember much of the pregame shows before the late 80s and early 90s, and even those I don't remember much of. Even then I remember thinking they were shallow and uninteresting, except for Chris Berman, who was like your awesome uncle at a lame family holiday gathering. I read Sports Illustrated pretty regularly, because honestly, in a small town back then there wasn't much else.

by TomC :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 3:23pm

It scares me how non-unique our childhood experiences are. I am also about to turn 40, I also had that lunchbox in first grade, and I even rooted for the Oilers (when they weren't playing the Bears). That last one seems weird in retrospect, because the Oilers provided the low point in the otherwise magical 1977 Bears season with a 47-0 thrashing, and yet when my older brother and I would play catch, we'd call it "Dan Pastorini to Billy 'White Shoes' Johnson" (probably because not even a six-year-old would think "Bob Avellini to Brian Baschnagel" sounded fun). I think I only had room to hate one team, and it was Dallas for a million different reasons, but mainly for ending that same 1977 season with a 37-7 playoff drubbing.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:10pm

Not that anyone asked for them, lol. In Ten-Yard Fight, you got extra time for a first down, not necessarily 10 yards ... and the time decreased based on the down on which you got the first down. If you got it on first down, you'd have just enough time to kill a play quickly if your formation was bad, but after that, you had no choice but to gamble.

Also, you didn't really have to spin the joystick, you just had to wiggle it back and forth ... well, "wiggle" is the wrong term, given the speed at which you'd move it to free yourself. (Don't want to get hit by a diving defender; that's an instant tackle.)

What killed the Nintendo version wasn't the lack of a sizable arcade stick (because of course you'd have Advantage joysticks), but rather the change in gameplay. They tried to make it work more like "normal" football and failed badly. Passing was nothing at all like the arcade version, and thus it simply wasn't worth the money. You're better off getting the ROM image for it ... uh ... I mean, purchasing a board and inserting it into your full-size arcade console, yeah.

tbwhite is dead on with the recollection of Intellivision football. Run plays use two keys, 7 to call a run and 1 to 9 for the formation. Pass plays use four keys: 9 for pass, 1 to 9 for the formation, 1 or 2 for the eligible formation, and 1 to 9 for the "passing zone", which is numbered not unlike gaps for RBs: 1 is short middle, odd numbers wiggle back and forth on the left (lower number = shorter pass), even numbers wiggle back and forth on the right.

What? From the playbooks, duh. Don't you all have an Intellivision at home that you could use to check this? oh.

Our Intellivision seemed to overheat during a long session - perhaps this was because we didn't have AC - and late in the game, weird things would happen on the screen. We tried putting a Ziplock bag with ice on the hot part of the console, but I don't think it helped that much.

My younger brother got me a vibrating football game for my birthday or Christmas a few years ago ... sadly, it's not been used. There's something about the time it takes to set up and play ...

If there was a football game when I was a kid, the odds were about 50/50 that I owned it at some point. (Ah, the Sears Wish Book ... Penney's was so much less interesting. No games.) 3M's Pro Football, with the grease pencil for keeping score, open-field run and broken-field run for kick and punt returns ... some electric thing that was almost like a psychology experiment; two buttons on one side and four on the other (one was for offense and one for defense), the offense would choose a play, each would press a button and one light bulb would light up, then you'd trace the play to find the result (and you could "play" several different sports with this) [EDIT: this is it, I had the smaller five-in-one format with the plastic board] ... NFL Strategy Football (one of the "earlier" editions) with the spring-loaded "randomizer" ... NFL Draft with actual NFL trading cards and a football-shaped card holder, I think with some kind of wheel that you would spin for some reason ... Pro Foto Football where you put your offensive play in an envelope and lined it up on the board, the defense would put down their overlay, and then you'd reveal the play to see where the ballcarrier was tackled or where the pass was broken up ... Monday Night Football (the talking version) with the mini records that you'd put in the player, spin to select a play, and hear the result (but we put one in backward and pushed that in; marked the record for life) ... APBA Football, well beyond the patience most of my friends had (did you know that if you take a successful passing offense and run the ball a lot, you won't do well?) ... and I'm still bummed that I never got See-Action Football for Christmas. My stepmother insists that it couldn't be found anywhere, ever, that they couldn't even find it in the catalog where I said it was. My child brain says that she is wrong and they screwed up. lol. (See? It really exists! Wish I could find an old edition of the Sears catalog that shows what page it was on ...)

NFL-branded merchandise was great unless you lived outside your home market, and central Indiana prior to the arrival of the Colts was pretty much outside everyone's market. I vaguely remember Dolphins and Cowboys stuff ... sigh ... it's so much nicer to be able to order Lions gear online ...

and get off my lawn! Happy birthday, Mike.

by Subrata Sircar :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:21am

There was an unstoppable play in Intellivision Football - 9723? anyway ... it was a power sweep one direction with a lone receiver on the other side of the field. The defender had control over one player, as did the offense ... but the offense had the QB and he could react faster than the computer defenders. So if the defender's MLB moved with the QB, he'd chuck it back across the field, and reliably pick up four yards before the MLB could reverse field and run him down. If the MLB jammed the passing lane or hung back, the QB could run the ball for four yards. And it worked all the way down the field, because the computer defenders would always flow to the ball.

Turn the QB into a ballcarrier, key off the unblocked player - hey, it's the stretch offense!

Strat-o-Matic football/baseball was big with us for a year or so; the games and card-sets for a few years are probably still in my parents' closet somewhere. I remember desperately trying to come up with a play my buddy wouldn't have the right D for (the Force was strong with him that day), and, as the 1977 Cardinals, calling a bomb ... to the fullback. He had the right D but double-covered Mel Gray, keyed on Terry Metcalf, and Jim Hart completed a 76-yard TD to Jim Otis. He was incredulous that this could possibly happen - mostly because he couldn't believe that Otis could actually run that far without getting caught ... boy I guess that does bring back memories, huh? :)

Oh, and I totally had that lunchbox, Mattel Electronic Football (be-be-be-boo-be-beeep!) and NFL bedspread+sheets combo (I'm 43). Good times ...

by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 2:53pm

Wasn't that 9123? And you could run it in reverse with a 9213? I used to call this, "the option"

It doesn't matter. I would have stopped you by playing either the "4" or "5" defense. I used to call this "the flex" defense, because I thought it was "flexible".

by Don N SF (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 2:03pm


Perhaps today's thrashing of the Bucs will serve notice to you 'East Coast' cats that the Niners are for real. Now that Alex Smith has been dumped to the curve we are rollin'. The Bucs lack of pass rush will hurt them today along with Frank Gore's running.

by ammek :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 5:04am

Did you mean 'fuhreal'?

by Greetings from Gloucester, NJ (not verified) :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 10:29am

Larry Kane, Jim Gardner, and Jim O'Brien. Channel 6 Action News team!

by mmaarrkk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:06am

Grew up in the same media market in the 60s so I'll add a couple of similar memories.

Notre Dame Football with Lindsay Nelson, on Sundays at about 1130 am on channel 6, I believe. Showing you highlights of the game from the day before. Back when ND was a true powerhouse, it was good football after church every Sunday.

On Mondays, the Inquirer used to publish a full page of photo sequences of the big plays from the Eagles game, maybe 3 or 4 pictures per big play, taken from the pressbox with a telephoto lens, often with white arrows and circles guiding you to what to look for in the grainy black and white photos.

by Justin Amorim (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:53pm


Congrats on 40 and I know this is a football page but I am still waiting for you to challenge me to a rematch in basketball.

One of your students from the Clayton class of 1999!!!!!


P.S. My football memories start at about 1985 and there were still only 28 teams, and damnit I didn't use the thermos for that lunchbox either think i traded it for a bag of chips!!!

by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 2:46pm

Very, very strong posting. Many of us have lived parallel existences, no doubt.

Also, thanks for clarifying one of my life's two great mysteries: I never understood the airbrushing thing due to logos. I grew up thinking (and still did till about 3 minutes ago) that those photos must have been taken during pre-season or exhibition games where logo's hadn't been taped or painted on the helmets. I grew up playing football--through high school--where we had to affix stickers of tiger paws (our logo) on our helmets. I always figured that they did the same, though thinking about it now it doesn't make any sense.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 10:24am

Going through mom's house, found the ol' lunch box.

by chris ryan (not verified) :: Sat, 02/12/2011 - 1:52pm

In 1977 The Jimmy the greek segment was always sponsored by Muriel Cigars,where a gorgeous Susan Anton would sing 'where theres muriel smoke here fire" to this handsome cowboy as she slobbered all over him.

by Darren (not verified) :: Sat, 12/10/2011 - 9:48pm

Everyone seems to think that Cosell said "Look at that little monkey run" about Alvin Garrett but THATS WRONG!

1. Howard Cosell never said, "Look at that little monkey run" about Washington Redskins wide-receiver Alvin Garrett during an ABC Monday Night Football (MNF) game on September 5th, 1983 between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
2. Howard Cosell never said "Look at that little monkey go" or "Look at that monkey run."
3. Howard Cosell did say, "Joe Gibbs wanted that kid, and that little monkey gets loose doesn't he" when referring to Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett after his sixth pass reception during an ABC Monday Night Football (MNF) game on September 5th, 1983 between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
4. Howard Cosell did say, "That little monkey --- you know, the theorem was that he was too small for pro football" referring to white Kansas City Chiefs running back Mike Adamle in the July 29, 1972 "Hall of Fame" game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton Ohio.
5. In 1982, Cosell called white Atlanta Braves second baseman Glenn Hubbard a "little monkey" while praising his fielding skills, saying something along the lines of "that little monkey can really pick it."
6. Howard Cosell did say "Look at that little monkey run!" (PLAYER AND GAME UNKNOWN)
7. Howard Cosell never said "Look at that little monkey run!" about running back Joe Washington during the September 18, 1978 Monday night game between the Colts @ Patriots or any other game.
8. Howard Cosell did NOT get fired for any of his "little monkey" comments. The decision to retire from ABC Monday Night Football was his alone.