Re­mem­ber­ing some pro foot­ball with Dad

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - DAVID WIL­SON

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

Cosell.

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 dwnotes@hot­mail.com. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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