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One to Remember
Rick Reilly
June 17, 1991
Football was king when London won the first World Bowl, way back in 1991
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June 17, 1991

One To Remember

Football was king when London won the first World Bowl, way back in 1991

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But on the last play of the first quarter, a pass from the London 41-yard line, Monarch wide receiver Jon Horton—yes, the Jon Horton; believe it or not, at that point in Horton's career, the NFL didn't think he was any good—totally embarrassed Barcelona cornerback Charles Fryar ( Irving's cousin), letting Fryar think he had an interception, then stealing the ball out of his hands at the Barcelona 19. Fryar fell down, and the safety sideswiped Horton and missed. Horton could've scored the first World Bowl touchdown in a Beefeater's uniform: London 7-0.

Every fifth catch Horton made that year was a touchdown. Not bad for a guy who couldn't make it through one season in the Canadian Football League and had to make a living playing pro basketball in Mexico, eh?

Barcelona quarterback Scott Erney threw his next two passes to Crossman, the second of which was returned for a score. Crossman just sneaked inside a down-and-out, "squeezed the ball like a baby," he said, and floated in for a 20-yard TD. Crossman would get a third interception later in the second quarter. Up in the royal box, actor John Cleese and the Moody Blues (who did not lip-sync God Save the Queen) were having a bloody good time. London was up 14-0.

Then, with 52 seconds left in the half, Monarch quarterback Stan Gelbaugh threw a rope to halfback Judd Garrett—they hooked up 12 times that day—for a 14-yard touchdown. Bring on the marching band from Central State University, in Wilberforce, Ohio, which the Wembley crowd greeted like a Beatles reunion. London 21-0, and you know the rest.

Back in the States, you probably could've heard the Nielsen ratings dropping through the floor, but in London, what one veteran Fleet Street writer called "as fine a celebration as ever seen at Wembley" was building. When the game ended, the idea was for Gelbaugh to go into the stands and accept the trophy, a 40-pound glass globe (it lit up, too) from Lynn and his pals Pete Rozelle, Tex Schramm and Tom Landry. However, Gelbaugh's shoulder was hurting, so he asked Crossman to accompany him into the stands and help him lift the globe. Next thing you know, all 41 players and the coaches were stomping up to the royal box to get their big paws on the globe. Then came the Stanley Cup lap.

"The NFL should do that," I remember Lynn saying afterward. "The NFL just goes in the locker room, and nobody gets to see the celebration."

That's the way that first World Bowl went down, kid—almost 25 years to the day after the NFL and the AFL agreed to merge-in front of a crowd that was 838 short of the attendance at the first Super Bowl, in Los Angeles in 1967.

There was something wonderfully honest, low-rent and delicious about World Bowl I. Afterward, the Monarchs, who finished 11-1, dressed in a "locker room" that was nothing but some partitions put up in the middle of a giant exhibition hall, with portable showers trucked in for the World Bowl. The game was dreadful and terrific at the same time: You didn't know whether it was the beginning or, who knew, the end of something.

"If that wasn't big-time football out there," said London Larry, "I don't know what is." Across the way, Monarch head trainer Mayfield Armstrong was showing off his new and very permanent tattoo, a Monarch logo on his butt.

And to think England's favorite sport used to be soccer.

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