The Greatest Game Ever Celebrated

How many professional sports leagues can pinpoint the exact spot, the exact day, even the exact time they “arrived?” The National Football League can: Yankee Stadium, December 28, 1958, 4:51 PM EST. Fifty years ago this Sunday (December 28th), will mark the 50th Anniversary of the legendary 1958 Championship Game between the Colts and Giants called “The Greatest Game Ever”.  The Colts won when fullback Alan Ameche burst through a hole for a one-yard touchdown with 6:45 left in overtime taking the National Football League with him into a new era. The NFL would never be the same again as football was discovered by American pop-culture and started roots that have made it the nation’s new passion over baseball.

During Week 17 around the NFL, “The Greatest Game Ever” will be celebrated everywhere with stories regaling football legends like John Unitas, Raymond Berry, John Mackey, Gino Marchetti, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Emlen Tunnel and Lenny Moore, who were all part of the black-white television spectacular.  Pro Football Hall of Fame head Joe Horrigan said of the 1958 Championship Game, “The Greatest Game Ever moniker has stood the test of time. We can look back historically and see that this game not only played a significant role in the development of television, which it’s often cited for, but beyond that, it was a great catalyst for expansion in the National Football League and the emergence of the American Football League. It was also putting a game in the city of New York, which was of critical importance to the league in terms of the growth of its popularity”. 

Sure there are other games that could be debated as the “Greatest” — The Ice Bowl, Super Bowl III’s Namath predicted Jets upset over the Colts, my favorite the classic Chargers-Dolphins playoff in 1982, the one-yard short Rams-Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, and Super Bowl XLII with the Giants overcoming the Goliath 18-0 Patriots.  But the perfection of the 1958 Championship game was the explosive collision of time, place, and history that will probably never be seen again in sports.  Just think about it….the game had marquee players (Gifford, Unitas, and others), a compelling finish (overtime for the first time ever), was played out on national television for the first time (most NFL games were blacked out back then), was held in the United States’ focal point (New York City), and in the nation’s most revered stadium (Yankee Stadium). 

Long live the “The Greatest Game Ever” and here is hoping more historic NFL memories can be made in the near future.

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