"I have loved football as an almost mythic game since I was in the fourth grade. To me, the game wasn't even grounded in reality. The uniform turned you into a warrior. Being on a team, the mythology of physical combat, the struggle against the elements, the narrative of the game…" ~ Steve Sabol of NFL Films

Monday, September 12, 2016

When Howard Ruled Monday Night...

When I was a kid, Monday nights in the fall were truly an event of epic proportions for any preteen football nut like myself. For you see in the l970s Monday Night Football on ABC was the gold standard of football play by play, long before John Madden and Pat Summerall ever connected. Back in the day it was the game and the men who played it that mattered. Yet, what made MNF stand apart from all sports broadcasts was the magic of one man- Howard Cosell. Without Howard it would have been just a forgettable game, like it is now. John Gruden will never compare. With Howard it was an event, and even when the game was a blowout he still made it interesting. If only we could have Billy Crystal call the games now and take us all back in time, just for one one quarter even... Sigh :-(

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ode to Football Dreams- The Boys of Fall

When I feel that chill, smell that fresh cut grass
I'm back in my helmet, cleats, and shoulder pads
Standin' in the huddle listenin' to the call
Fans goin' crazy for the boys of fall

They didn't let just anybody in that club
Took every ounce of heart and sweat and blood
To get to wear those game day jerseys down the hall
The kings of the school, man, we're the boys of fall

Well it's, turn and face the stars and stripes
It's fightin' back them butterflies
It's call it in the air alright yes sir we want the ball
And it's knockin' heads and talkin' trash
It's slingin' mud and dirt and grass
It's I got your number, I got your back
When your back's against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall

In little towns like mine that's all they got
Newspaper clippings fill the coffee shops
The old men will always think they know it all
Young girls will dream about the boys of fall

Well it's, turn and face the stars and stripes
It's fightin' back them butterflies
It's call it in the air alright yes sir we want the ball
And it's knockin' heads and talkin' trash
It's slingin' mud and dirt and grass
It's I got your number, got your back
When your back's against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall

Well it's, turn and face the stars and stripes
It's fightin' back them butterflies
It's call it in the air alright yes sir we want the ball
And it's knockin' heads and talkin' trash
It's slingin' mud and dirt and grass
It's I got your number, got your back
When you back's against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall

We're the boys of fall...

A Look at the NFL in the 1960s

Life Magazine's Look at the NFL in 1960

The above article is a combination of published and unpublished images for a Life magazine article on the NFL and the ascent of pro football as a spectator sport. It ran in their December 5, 1960 issue and was called “Fans Go Ga-Ga Over Pro Football.”


The Magic of NFL Films

Without NFL Films would the game we now love and worship, here on this opening night of the 2016 season, be the game it is today.  I contend that NFL Films and Steve Sabol have had a bigger impact on football then we may ever realize, for NFL Films has humanized the game we love and has allowed us to view it through a cinematic lens. The article below appeared in Sports Illustrated and was written well before the death of Steve Sabol, the iconic leader and visionary of NFL Films in 2012. His genius is seen in the short film below...

MIAMI -- If you look very closely -- I mean very closely -- you can see the NFL Films camera quiver ever so slightly as it follows Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram up and down the sidelines at Super Bowl IV. You will remember that Super Bowl film -- that's the one where Stram was miked and said it looked "like a Chinese fire drill out there." A high punt made Stram wonder if the ball had helium in it. And, mostly, the film showed Stram calling the 65-toss power trap, begging for the 65-toss power trap, celebrating his own genius for coming up with the 65-toss power trap. It's fair to say that, because of NFL Films and Hank Stram, the 65-toss power trap is the most famously named play in pro football history.*

*Though Red Right 88 -- the pass play that led to Brian Sipe's tragic interception and a Cleveland Browns playoff loss to Oakland, and a giant hole in my childhood -- is right up there.

The point is if you watch closely, you can see the camera shaking just a tiny bit. That is Steve Sabol laughing. There are a million beautiful things about NFL Films -- its history, its writing, its voices, its music, the way Films changed the landscape of storytelling in and out of sports. But if I could sum up the thing that made NFL Films different and such a special part of my life as a sports fan, it would be, simply, the humanity of it. When Stram was riffing on the sideline, Sabol -- now president of NFL Films -- was filming. He heard it all through his headset and could not keep himself from laughing. And that, too, is part of the record of Super Bowl IV.

"My Dad was so mad when he saw the film," Steve Sabol says of his father Ed, who unwittingly started NFL Films when he bought the 1962 NFL Championship Game rights for $5,000. "But I told him: 'Dad, wait until you hear what the guy's saying. You won't be able to stop laughing.'"

* * *

Here are five of my favorite NFL Films coach quotes:

1. Vince Lombardi at the chalkboard: "What we want is to get a seal here and seal here, and run the ball in the alley."

2. Bill Cowher: "Yeah, I'd like to have 75 degrees and sunny all the time too, but that's not football."

3. Marty Schottenheimer: "This is a game of the heart. Focus and finish."

4. Lou Saban: "You can get it done. You can get it done. What's more, you GOTTA get it done."

5. Jerry Glanville to official: "This isn't college. You're not at a homecoming. ... This is the NFL, which stands for 'Not For Long' when you make them horse-bleep calls."

* * *

Steve Sabol is an interesting case. Here is a guy doing something he has wanted to do all his life. And that is special. Only in Sabol's case, it's jaw-dropping because the job he has wanted all his life did not actually EXIST when he was young. There was no NFL Films and no particular reason to have such a thing. It would be like someone today dreaming of, I don't know, getting paid to sit in baseball dugouts and come up with snarky comments or making the NBA by just shooting half-court shots at the end of halves and games. Make pro football films? Who is going to pay you to do that?

Then, Steve Sabol came from a family of dreamers. His mother, Audrey, ran an art gallery in Philadelphia and had a remarkable feel for the direction in which art was heading -- she championed (and was friends with) pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Wayne Thiebaud, Ed Ruscha and, frankly, a bunch of other people I never heard of until Steve mentioned them. Steve's father, Ed, sold overcoats, but he had been a spectacular athlete in college and performed on Broadway in his younger days. Steve's sister, Blair, would write for The Village Voice and be a radical force on the fashion scene. She still writes.* The Sabols were people who felt certain their bodies were too small to contain what they wanted to do while living on this earth.

*Steve Sabol: "My sister is the kind of person who, if she calls you, well, if you are in a certain business you don't want her to call you. You better be careful. She's a tough critic."

Steve Sabol, perhaps, felt that even more than the rest. "I'm more talented than Jimmy Brown," Sabol told Sports Illustrated in one of the more fascinating stories ever to appear in the magazine. The story is fascinating not so much because of what's in it -- it's an interesting story -- but because it was ever written at all. The story appeared in 1965 -- before Sabol had even started working full time for NFL Films. He was just a moderately talented running back for a decidedly non-football power, Colorado College. As you might suspect, moderately talented running backs at small losing schools do not generally get 3,000-word features in SI. Sabol literally talked himself into national stardom. He took out advertisements in the program and local paper celebrating his own greatness. He invented an exciting past for himself.* He created this character -- Sudden Death Sabol. He made himself into a piece of pop art.

*The story is called "The Fearless Tot From Possum Trot," -- Sabol had claimed to be from a place called Possum Trot, Miss. Of course, the place doesn't exist. Possum Trot was not Sabol's first choice as imaginary hometown -- originally he claimed to be from Coaltown Township, Pa., another place that doesn't exist. Sabol had grown up in Villanova, Pa., which does exist but was not romantic enough for Sabol's football sensibilities.

Steve prepared to be an artist because, as mentioned, he did not have even the slightest suspicion he would be able to make a career out of filming football games. Then Ed hired him to be a part of NFL Films. And together they created a whole new vision of the NFL. The editing, the cinematography, the sound, the music, the rhythms -- a lot of people are responsible for the NFL Films style. But the vision comes from Steve. When it came to football, he heard John Facenda's voice of God narrating in his head long before he knew John Facenda. In his mind, even as a kid playing sixth grade football, the games were epic struggles. The players were gladiators. The uniforms transformed mortals into gods. The autumn wind was a Raider. No, Steve Sabol never thought small.

To make the point: Before the Sabols and NFL Films, mud on the football field was just mud on the football field. NFL Films turned that mud into something holy, something that reflected guts and manhood and courage. Mud proved a Herculean test for the players' souls. NFL Films showed cleats sloshing in mud, mud dripping off taped hands, mud caked on arms, the way mud turned linebackers into heroic and dangerous figures. We take that for granted now because NFL Films has created this image of pro football, but there's nothing intrinsically romantic about mud. This is best demonstrated by Eric Dickerson's semi-famous and unfortunate "This is a cleat" sideline report during a Monday Night Football game.

But this was the lens Steve Sabol saw football through long before he carried around a camera. Mud! Snow! Heroes! Warriors! Villains! Sabol will tell you that he spent his childhood mainly doing two things -- playing football and going to movies. And he was never entirely sure where one began and the other ended. Truth is, he never thought one or the other ended. It was all the same thing. The plays did not matter. The scores did not matter. The only thing that mattered was the story.

* * *

Here are five of my favorite characters on NFL Films (in no particular order):

1. Lou Saban. NFL Films turned Lou Saban -- a nomad who coached at 10 places in his life and who had a losing record in the NFL -- into an every-man legend. He's the guy shouting, "They're killing me, Whitey!" And, as mentioned, who can forget the gritty yet desperate look on his face when he told his men: "You can get it done...."

2. Earl Campbell. One of the greatest players in NFL history anyway, but NFL Films took him into a whole other stratosphere. My vision of Campbell is of the NFL Films where he runs over Los Angeles Rams linebacker Isaiah Robertson. The thing that turns the amazing run into art is the voiceover that NFL Films uses of Campbell. He essentially says, "I saw this guy standing straight up and I thought, 'You don't really think you're going to tackle me standing straight up." In later years, Campbell -- one of the classier men you will meet -- has refused to talk about that run because he was told it really messed with Robertson's head and he never quite recovered from it.

3. Marty Schottenheimer. One of the great sound-bite coaches of all time -- he's the man behind the already mentioned, "Focus and finish." There's "One play at a time for as long as it takes." And, another of my personal favorites, "There's a gleam, men. There's a gleam.... Go get the gleam." Whatever the hell that means.

4. Art Donovan. I was having a discussion with someone -- who are the funniest athletes in the history of sports? That's probably a whole other story. I think Bob Uecker would have a real shot at being No. 1. Bill Lee: Hilarious. Casey Stengel. Charles Barkley. But it's possible that Artie Donovan is the funniest of them all. Then again, part of it is the delivery. Donovan can read a Denny's menu and I'd be on the floor laughing. Especially when he said, "Moon over my hammy."

5. Ken Stabler. It always shocked me that the Snake is not in the Hall of Fame. Then I look at his numbers -- 194 touchdowns, 222 interceptions, only played in four Pro Bowls and made All-Pro once -- and I think: "Meh." The thing is, NFL Films made Stabler seem larger than life. The Holy Roller.* The sea of hands. The Ghost to the Post. Stabler was a throwback, a wild-off-the field quarterback who on the field was a rock of steadiness in the final two minutes. Read that last sentence in the voice of Facenda, by the way. I think Stabler belongs in the Hall of Fame... but I get that from NFL Films.

*Bill King's famous call: "Stabler back... here comes the rush... he sidesteps. The ball is flipped forward. It's loose. A wild scramble. Two seconds on the clock. Casper grabbing the ball. It is ruled a fumble. Casper has recovered in the end zone! The Oakland Raiders have scored... on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play. Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it's real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here. He does! There's nothing real in the world anymore."

My favorite part of that call -- the "He does!"

* * *

Sabol talked a little bit about some of those things that have made NFL Films legendary.

• The slow motion shot of the spiral. The most iconic shot at NFL Films is probably the one of the spiral pass hanging in the air for what seems like weeks. Sabol says that shot -- like so many of the things that worked at NFL Films -- came out of luck and happenstance. The Sabols were watching an AFL Championship Game film -- that was the competition -- and they weren't especially impressed with it. But one shot caught their eye -- some cameraman was able to follow a ball in mid-air. It wasn't that great a shot because it was at regular speed, but Steve was awed. "I remember saying, 'That's an unbelievable shot.'"

The shot was taken by an old Navy guy with ridiculously steady hands named Ernie Ernst. So, Sabol hired Ernst and told him to get that shot again and again. And when they slowed it down, slowed it way down... magic.

"That's what we call the Jesus Christ shot," Sabol says. "Because it makes you go, 'Jesus Christ, who shot that?' It's a signature shot for our films, and it's something that's very, very hard to do."

Ernst incidentally -- or perhaps not incidentally -- is also the only cameraman who followed the ball all the way into Franco Harris' arms during the Immaculate Reception.

• John Facenda. You probably already know this but Facenda -- the Voice of God whose deep voice defined NFL Films -- knew almost nothing about football. And the owners wanted no part of him.

"The owners said to us, 'Why don't you use Jack Whitaker or Curt Gowdy or Chris Schenkel. These were the big sportscasters then. And my father said, 'No, wait, we're trying to show Pro Football in a whole new way. We're trying to show Pro Football the way Hollywood would. We don't want a sportscaster. This is the guy we want."

Ed Sabol was a natural salesman. And even though the NFL owners were a famously conservative bunch, he convinced them to let NFL Films use Facenda.

Steve: "I remember when we were making 'They Call It Pro Football,' which was our Citizen Kane. The first line is 'It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.' Well, we had John read it. And as soon as he read that line, that one line, I remember looking at Dad, and our eyes met. And we both just knew this was something really great. John was a unique talent.

"But it is true that he didn't know much about football. My Dad told the owners: 'He doesn't HAVE to know about football because Steve is writing it.' But people never quite got that. I used to kid John: 'I'm working so hard writing these lines and everybody thinks your just ad-libbing them.'"

• The early years. When NFL Films first began, Steve Sabol would take the film -- and he would usually take along a couple of NFL players like Frank Gifford or Del Shofner or Alex Webster -- and they would go to a Kiwanis Club in Reading or an Optimists Club in Pottstown or a Rotary Club in Binghamton. And they would show the movie -- usually on a bed sheet or a blank wall -- and then answer a few questions. That's what NFL Films was for a few years.

"I remember when we had our first premiere," Sabol says. This was 1962, before the operation was called NFL Films. It was 'Blair Motion Pictures' -- named after Blair Sabol -- and Steve had come back from college to help out. They had filmed the championship game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants -- and they had absolutely no idea how to promote this thing. That game was lousy, and it was on a cold miserable day -- Ed Sabol would say it was the second most miserable day of his life behind only the day he stormed the beach on D-Day. They called the film: "The Longest Day."

"It wasn't a great film," Steve says. "We were still learning then."

They decided to show the film at Toots Shor's, the famous bar in New York where sportswriters were likely to be hanging out anyway.

"All of a sudden, halfway through, the image disappears. And there's this sickening crash. I look up; someone had tripped on the cord and there was the projector and film laying in crab meat and shrimp sauce. You could not have thought of a worse disaster. Dad's cursing, I'm trying to clean it up with a wet towel, we're screwed.

"And then Pete Rozelle stands up. And Pete starts taking questions. There were some players there -- Gifford, Pat Summerall -- and they join in. They're holding a press conference while I'm desperately trying to get the film back up. Some of the writers left, but some of them stayed and they saw the rest of the movie. And the ones that stayed gave us pretty good reviews."

• On Ed Sabol and the first incarnation of NFL Films. "My Dad hated his job," Steve says. "He sold overcoats, but he wanted to make movies. He had a failed career working with the Ritz Brothers -- they were like the Marx Brothers, only a tier below. I always had a picture in my mind of him in a straw hat.

"But as a wedding present he got an old windup movie camera. And so everything I did as his only son, he would film. Pony rides. Haircuts. He filmed everything. He especially loved filming my football games. I was pretty good, and so he would film every game. He would film from the end zone. He would shoot slow motion. Nobody was doing that stuff in those days.

"And I remember we used to invite all the kids on the team over to watch the games. We would put out ginger cookies. And everybody would watch themselves play. My Dad would put in a John Philip Sousa march in the background go to with the film. It was really neat, and you can see the direct connection to NFL Films.

"In fact, when my father bid $5,000 for the 1962 Championship Game, that was a huge amount. It was double the bid the year before. Pete Rozelle was flabbergasted. Who was this guy who was willing to spend so much money on what seemed like relatively worthless rights to the NFL Championship Game? And, Rozelle got a little concerned. He asked my father what experience he had shooting football. And my Dad said -- this is absolutely true -- that his experience was filming his 14-year-old son."

* * *

Five of my favorite Steve Sabol/John Facenda lines:

1. "Lombardi. A certain magic still lingers in the very name."

2. Sabol's poem, "The Autumn Wind is a Raider"

The autumn wind is a Raider Pillaging just for fun He'll knock you round and upside down And laugh when he's conquered and won.

3. "Do you feel the force of the wind? The slash of the rain? Go face them and fight them. Be savage again!"

4. On defensive linemen: "It's one ton of muscle with a one-track mind."

5. "The third quarter was dying. And so were the Colts."

* * *

After all this time, it turns out Steve Sabol is an artist after all. He is having an art gallery opening here in Miami during Super Bowl week. I'm no art critic, of course -- can't even claim I would know art if I saw it -- but I like the Sabol stuff because it's interesting and weird and nostalgic. It blends football and advertising and America... which I think was the magic of NFL Films, too.

You know: I love the Ice Bowl film. That's the film that featured the NFL Championship Game between Green Bay and Dallas when the field was frozen solid* and the temperature was minus-15. I love it because NFL Films turned such a disastrously cold day -- a day, you could argue, clearly NOT meant for football -- into legend. You could feel the cold rushing through the television set. You could feel the despair of the players trying to get any footing. You could feel the hopelessness everyone felt and yet they went on because winning and losing still mattered.

*You probably know this: Sabol insists Facenda never actually said the words "The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field." Not only that, but Facenda was not the narrator for the original Ice Bowl film.

To me two of the most arresting shots from the Ice Bowl film -- beyond the great shots of Bob Hayes running routes with his hands stuffed in his pockets -- had nothing to do with football. One was of the Green Bay cheerleaders, layered in clothes, frozen solid, trying still to go on. And the other was of a single fan pulling out a flask, drinking from it, and then looking at the camera as if to say: "Ain't life funny?" There's that humanity again. Sure NFL Films is propaganda -- sweeping music, military references, some overwrought words. But I love it still. Because of the humanity.

One of my editors at Sports Illustrated called me before I wrote the Sabol essay that appears in this week's magazine and said that something struck him. He had been watching a History Channel documentary on the battle at Stalingrad. I guess he's something of a student of Stalingrad. And as he watched it, it occurred to him: This is NFL Films! The icy ground is Lambeau. The voice is Facenda. The music is emotional. The narration is poetic.

And ever since then, I have thought about how often I see something on television or in movies or just in daily life that was inspired, at least a little bit, by NFL Films and Steve Sabol. I think it happens all the time.

"I think we looked at the game like a Cubist painter," Sabol says. "We wanted every angle. We wanted different perspectives. I think we were studying the game the way Picasso studied a bowl of fruit."

And Sabol stopped -- he wondered if he was sounding immodest. Cubist painters? Picasso? Well, it's how he felt. And Sabol knew that it would have sounded even better if John Facenda had said it.

A Season Awaits With Glory In Its Eye ~ John Facenda

Well, it is official, the NFL season has arrived! And with the help and inspirational magic provided by the the Pro Football Hall of Fame, legendary "Voice of God" John Facenda and NFL films, this site, and our companion sites, over the course of the new season will post essays on the artistry, history and inspiration that is professional football.  Unlike other sites, The Autumn Wind and our companion Cardinals and CFL America sites are and will be devoted to more than just statistics. I intend to provide you, the reader, with a look at those aspects of the game that, though seemingly trivial, keep us all enthralled and forever entertained.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Old School Football Memories

The Autumn Wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea.
With a rollicking song, he sweeps along, swaggering boisterously.
His face is weather beaten. He wears a hooded sash.
With a silver hat about his head, and a bristling black mustache.
He growls as he storms the country, a villain big and bold.
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake, as he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn Wind is a Raider, pillaging just for fun.
He'll knock you 'round and upside down, and laugh when he's conquered and won.

Miami Dolphins QB- Bob Griese
It was on January 9, 1977 that the Autumn Wind entered my Iife and I witnessed (from what I can recall) was my first football game and NFL championship (Superbowl XI), and was immediately hooked. Months later I turned ten years old, started the fifth grade, and began rooting for what was then my favorite team, which was not m my beloved Cardinals, but rather the Miami Dolphins.

Why the Dolphins?  I honestly have no recollection some 40 years later.  It stemmed from a few things I think, I liked their uniforms, a lack of any good football in Chicago, and our family trip to Florida.

With that said though, exactly how it came to be that I became a Dolphins fan I don't really know for sure.  They were by then a team on the downward slide, and the only one I really identified with on the team was their quarterback, the by then bi-spectacle Bob Griese, who, as luck would have it, in 1977, was quarterbacking a resurgent offense in the post-Csonka era.  I wore the same style glasses that I immediately became a fan. I was such an over eager Dolphins fan that for the remainder of the 1970s I asked for literally every NFL licensed piece of merchandise a boy could find in the Sears and J.C. Penny's Christmas catalogs (more on that facet of football culture in a future article).

Back then of course I just couldn't stream a game or turn to the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch my team. No, back then we got what the networks gave us and relied on the newspaper and Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football to show and tell us what happened the day before. Or I could write a reminder for myself to watch the syndicated NFL Films Game of the Week highlight show.

For you see, this was before the advent of cable TV at my parents house!

On game day TV we had two competing pregame shows on CBS and NBC, of which I was an NFL Today fan, in part because of the introduction music and also because it was just simply better.   Of course I am not pining for those day here, with the exception of Brent Musberger, and the old "NFL Today," for advancing technology coupled with the Internet are truly a godsend for all sports fans.

I wasn't just a pro football fan either, besides being back then a giant Cubs fan, I loved watching high school football and going to games under the Friday night lights in my hometown at what would eventually be where I attended high school and played football for three uneventful years occupying the bench.

When I didn't go to the games I listened to my school if they were lucky enough to be on the radio, and followed them religiously in the home town paper, especially in 1978 when they made it to and lost their first trip to the state championship. However, despite my second and third string status I did get to write the story of my high school's first state championship for the school paper.  It was there I think that my love for writing was born.

For any kid of my time the portal to the world was obviously not the Internet, nor was it really the TV, though to be honest I watched way more than I should have ever been allowed, especially during the summer months.  The best portal was the library where I wished I would have spent much more time as a kid in grade and high school. Though I made up for that in college when it was my second home.  It was in the books my parents allowed me to order where my love of football was further grown. For most of us who grew up and loved reading, we had a chance nearly every month to place an order for books to read.  For me I loaded up on the football titles, for back then, as John Facenda once said (I will talk about the voice of God and NFL Films at some later date) our football heroes were larger than life.  There were no scandals, period, that a fifth grader like me could either could comprehend or take notice of in the news.

So, as a Dolphins fan back then I only had a few chances to see my beloved 1970s era Dolphins (whom I still love) was when they were on national TV. Sadly, in 1977, the Dolphins were not on Monday Night Football due to their losing season (6-8) the year before.  However, the Cardinals were on twice, as they were a power house team and Super Bowl contender during the mid 1970s.

Of course I am sure I watched the Cardinals on Monday Night Football, as I know I watched a lot of Bears games.  The hometown Bears that year were a team on the rise, and during the course of my career later in life, I had the privilege of having a long conversation with Walter Payton's fullback- Roland Harper, and felt like a fifth grader again. as we talked about Walter and the issues the NFL and football in general faces, as well as the plight of the players of that era.

Needless to say, football is a violent sport, but it is also a beautiful and poetic one, thanks in large part to the artists at NFL Films.  I have nearly every DVD made by the film house.  The music of Sam Spence, the words of Steve Sabol, and the voice of John Facenda turned what were highlight films, in to artistry.  Without NFL Films many of us would likely not be the passionate fans we are today, for the imagery of the game is what we remember, not the newscasters reporting.  Fortunately the other leagues are playing catch up, especially the Canadian Football League.

November 24, 1977

Busch Stadium- November 24, 1977, St. Louis, Missouri
So it was that as a ten year old kid I found myself, during the Thanksgiving meal, on November 24, 1977, in football heaven watching first Walter Payton and the Bears torch the Lions, after which I saw my first Dolphins game in which Bob Griese destroyed an injury depleted riddled Cardinals defense for six touchdowns in a 55-14 embarrassment on national television.  As the score suggests, the Dolphins were in control of nearly all aspects of the game, with Griese connecting with Nat Moore for three of the six touchdowns.

Bob Griese under center
The first two drives of the game by the Dolphins ended in touchdowns with Moore hauling in the first from four yards out, with the second coming on a seven yard strike. After the second score, Jim Hart walked the Cardinals down the field and capped it off with a one yard run by Terry Metcalf to cut the lead to 14-7.

That was the closest they would get as the Dolphins took a stranglehold on the ballgame. The running game was setting up the pass and the offensive line was letting Griese do his job at ease.

In the second quarter Griese connected with Moore from nine yards out, then hit him again with a 28 yard pass that ended with seven more points to put the score 28-7, at the half.  With three touchdowns already thrown, Griese's All-Pro performance would continue in the second half. The first score in the third quarter came when he hit Gary Davis on a 17 yard catch, which was then followed it up by his longest and last touchdown pass of the day, a 37 yard strike to Andre Tillman to extend the lead to 41-7.  However, that was far from the end of the scoring in the third quarter as . Leroy Harris rushed for four yards to extend the Dolphins lead to 48-7.

The Cardinals finally answered back in the fourth quarter with a 19 yard touchdown pass from Jim Hart to Ike Harris from Jim Hart. The scoring came to a close with a touchdown run by Benny Malone that capped off the Dolphins win. The story of the day was Griese, yet when you see a six touchdown headline then you would expect to read about how the quarterback threw for 350, 400 or possibly even yards. Such wasn't the case for Griese, he went 15 for 23 and threw for a pedestrian 207 yards in this one. Instead it was the post-Csonka, Kiick and Morris running game that provided the wheels for the offense in this game, as the "no-name" backfield rushed for 295 yards.

The Dolphins handed the Cardinals the biggest defeat they would suffer during their time in between Chicago and Phoenix; however, as history has shown, the beatings would continue for years until finally, under a closed roof in Glendale, the team shocked the world in 2009 and hoisted the Halas Trophy on their way to a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl 48.

Yet, as I reflect on that game, it isn't the six touchdowns that Bob Griese threw that I remember most. No, the most memorable moment came when Cardinal guard Conrad Dobler tossed his helmet into the Busch Stadium stands in complete frustration....