Remembering some pro football with Dad
Within the annals of pro football history, there are countless exciting contests that stand out in the minds of both fans and participants, while other games are rarely even mentioned.
There are times, however, in which even one of the so-called insignificant games provides a meaningful memory for a single fan.
That’s how I categorize the Nov. 15, 1971, Monday night game between the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
At that time, Monday Night Football was still in its infancy. ABC had taken it through its maiden voyage in the 1970 season, with Keith Jackson describing the action alongside two color commentators in
Don Meredith and Howard
In a publication called “The Sports Encyclopedia: Pro Football,” published in 1978, the new Monday night experience was described very well. “For the first time ever,” it said, “the game itself became secondary to the show put on by the announcers in the press box.”
After the 1970 season, ABC replaced Jackson with Frank Gifford. From that point onward, the team of Gifford, Meredith and Cosell remained in the Monday night broadcast booth for most of the 1970s, as the entire undertaking seemed to become a bigger television sensation each year.
I was nine years old in the fall of 1971, and most of the time I did not get to watch all of a Monday Night Football game.
A popular attraction of Monday Night Football at that time was the halftime highlights, featuring the biggest plays from selected Sunday games from the day before.
In those days — before ESPN and before the internet — getting to see such video footage all in one short package was a big deal.
It was also a big deal in my personal schedule because on Monday nights my bedtime wasn’t until the halftime highlights were over.
When the Chargers hosted the Cardinals in 1971, however, it was one of those rare occasions when I got to stay up and watch the entire game.
It was certainly not one of the greatest contests in National Football League history, but it did have some excitement in the final minutes.
Both teams came into the game with a 3-5 record, and neither appeared headed to the playoffs. They were an even matchup though, and after three quarters of football, it was a 10-10 tie.
Then it got interesting. In the final minutes of the game, San Diego quarter-
back John Hadl rolled to his
right and fired a short pass to teammate Jeff Queen for a touchdown and a 17-10 lead.
Dad and I continued to watch with interest.
Dad was a Cardinal fan — mostly a Cardinal baseball fan — having grown up in Arkansas listening to games on the radio.
As a young adult, he lived and worked in St. Louis for several years, and this helped him develop an affection for the city and for the efforts of the Cardinals in both baseball and football.
As Dad and I watched the Monday Night game with the Cardinals behind by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and with Howard
Cosell saying, “I wanna tell you that Hadl is a darn
good quarterback…” it seemed that San Diego would easily seal up the win.
St. Louis, however, drove down to the goal line and, with 20 seconds to play, quarterback Jim Hart
handed the ball to running back Cid Edwards for a two-yard touchdown run.
The game was tied 17-17,
and that’s probably the way it should have ended. (A tied game did not go into overtime during the regular season until 1974.)
But with seconds to play, the Cardinals tried an onside kick, which San Diego recovered on their own 46-yard line. The Chargers
completed one quick pass and then kicked a 45-yard field goal in the final seconds to win, 20-17.
In retrospect, the onside kick was an ill-advised play that cost St. Louis the game.
“Well,” Dad said, “I can’t believe the Cardinals lost that.”
Dad wasn’t one to get too upset even when a game was a disappointment. He could have yelled at the television or he could have said the coaching decision was idiotic.
But that really wasn’t his way. He believed in approaching life calmly and with good cheer, and he didn’t get too worked up about something that isn’t one of life’s priorities.
In Dad’s mind, after the Cardinal loss, it was merely
time to get some sleep and be ready for the rest of the work week.
Quite simply, putting forth the best effort to provide for family is vitally important.
So the Charger-Cardinal
game in 1971 really doesn’t mean a thing in the vast configuration of football history. But it is of tremendous importance in that it helps me recall Dad’s commitment to those things that matter most in life.
David Wilson, Ed.D., of Springdale, is a former high school principal and is the communications director for the Transit and Parking Department at the University of Arkansas. He has other articles online at DWilsonNotes.com. You may email him at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.