The last thing that can be said about that fascinating day is that a California computer analyst hired by the NFL owners has figured out that if the Giants of 1934 and the Redskins of 1940 had been playing the game for the World Football League championship the score would have been 73-72, it would not have been on the radio, the paid attendance would have been 1,037 and an FBI agent would have gotten the game ball.
Pro football between the end of World War II and full network TV exposure is a montage to most of us: a time when linemen seemed to grow, overnight and collectively, to the size of elephants; when swift black runners came one after the other; when the Laynes and Grahams and Van Brocklins almost made it seem like volleyball.
The game had become sophisticated, but the men who played it were as rowdy as the stories they told on each other. They were still playing out of love instead of for riches.
A Bobby Layne would have said, "Litigation? Ain't that somethin' that sets in after you pull a muscle?"
A "plaintiff" was what you became if the Scotch didn't come across the bar fast enough. If a guy had said he was playing out his option, his teammates would have figured he was selling his home to a stockbroker.
A strike was still a touchdown pass. Harassment was something linebackers did to quarterbacks—when they weren't doing something worse. A negotiation was something that took place in a tavern booth with a blonde. And when a player ran a pass pattern he didn't have to go past the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Historians may well refer to it as the Pre-Rozelle Rule Era.
It may not have been the "Best Game Ever Played." Frank Gifford uncharacteristically fumbled left and right, after all, and 64,185 New Yorkers still say the Giants made that first down in overtime at Yankee Stadium. It was, however, the most important game ever played, for literally millions had become riveted to their TV sets in time to see the Baltimore Colts' Alan Ameche bounce into the dusty, dimming end zone and bring a "sudden death" to the Giants in the championship game of 1958.
If this was the singular event that planted pro football in the American tissue forever, one has to think of all it has been responsible for. In a sense, you can thank or blame the "Best Game Ever Played" for everything on this list:
?The abrupt disappearance of Monday night from your life.