Saturday, January 03, 2009



I'm three weeks late to the party on this, but I finally sat down and watched my TiVo'ed version of ESPN Films' "The Greatest Game Ever Played" - it originally aired following the Heisman Trophy Presentation in mid-December.

The big selling points were the fact that the game was being presented on television in color for the first time, and that current and former Colts and Giants were sitting down together to talk about the game.

When you look past the typical ESPN fluff (hosted by Chris Berman, yuck), it was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

In terms of significance, it was the greatest game ever played - but when you actually watch the game, which this show finally presented me (with a chopped up and edited version) the opportunity to do - it was not a great game. It was tremendously sloppy - something all of the current and former personnel noted.

The field was sloppiest of all - the Yankee Stadium field looked terrible that day. But Yankee Stadium itself looked great. I love watching the old (I'm talking OLD, pre-renovation) videos of Yankee Stadium - color or black and white - and this video seemed to have an inordinate amount of stadium shots - maybe the way football was shot showed more of the stadium. Majestic. I would have loved to see a game there.

Besides the Stadium, some of the current players paired up with the old-timers were really impressive. I've always liked Dwight Freeney, but I was blown away by his conversations with Alex Sandusky (a Colts offensive lineman). I was also impressed by Steve Smith, and I thought Adam Vinatieri and Pat Summerall were interesting. ESPN paired Michael Strahan with Art Donovan. I've seen Donovan years ago doing all sorts of TV appearances, though I can't put my finger on what right now, and he's always been entertaining. It seemed like Strahan was trying to yuk it up with him too much, and that was not fun to watch. When the two of them played it straight, it was very good. Mike Tirico talked with Bob Wolff, who did the TV broadcast in 1958. I can't figure out exactly what bothers me about Tirico, but there's something. I enjoy listening to him do play-by-play...but I didn't like him in this situation.

The most interesting technological aspect of the show was an analysis of what was one of the more controversial plays in the game - Frank Gifford ruled short of a first down (which he insists he had) on a late drive that would have helped the Giants run out the clock with the lead. They did two separate analyses on the screen showing with graphs how Gifford was about 9 inches short. That was cool.

And then two revelations came out that I never knew:

1) Late in the game, a fan ran onto the field. It was a pivotal moment - the Colts were driving late, and for viewers at home, they lost the picture. Turns out, NBC had a plug knocked loose, and one of their workers ran out on the field to delay the game, until the plug was replaced. I thought that was funny.


2) Alan Ameche, the famous fullback who scored the championship-winning touchdown in overtime, was not liked by his teammates. A couple of different Colts mentioned it in the interviews. One related the story that when Ameche decided to retire in 1960, he went to coach Weeb Eubank and said, "I think I'm going to retire." Eubank reportedly told him, "That's probably a good idea."

The game footage in a show like this is great - but it's stories like these that set the shows apart. I don't know if ESPN will replay the show at any point in the near future - but it's worth a watch if you see it.

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