[PDF] ↠ The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL Author Mark Bowden – Thomashillier.co.uk



10 thoughts on “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL

  1. says:

    The best thing, for me, about this recounting of the historic 1958 NFL championship game between the Balti Colts and the New York Giants is the sheer quality of the writing The game, the first overtime championship game in the history of the National Football League, was so full of suspenseful twists and turns that it is still known as The Greatest Game Ever Played and therefore, it is no surprise that a number of writers have turned their attention to it But Mark Bowden is such a skill The best thing, for me, about this recounting of the historic 1958 NFL championship game between the Balti Colts and the New York Giants is the sheer quality of the writing The game, the first overtime championship game in the history of the National Football League, was so full of suspenseful twists and turns that it is still known as The Greatest Game Ever Played and therefore, it is no surprise that a number of writers have turned their attention to it But Mark Bowden is such a skilled writer, achieving such heights of prose poetry through the sheer craftsmanship of his language, that this particular retelling of the historic game truly stands out.In The Best Game Ever, Mark Bowden sets the 1958 NFL championship game in the context of its time quite effectively It helped, to be sure, that the Colts and Giants played tenaciously in a tough game characterized by many dramatic changes in momentum But as Bowden makes clear, there were historical and cultural factors converging to create a social milieu in which professional football could become the wildly popular phenomenon it became Bowden suggests, persuasively, that the post World War II affluence of the suburbanizing 1950 swould prompt sweeping social change.One part of this new America would be an explosion in the attraction of spectator sports Games had long been popular, but they were about to start generating wealth beyond even the most ambitious imagination, particularly in football There was a unique confluence of trends A vast market was forming for pro games just as the technology was being perfected to package and deliver them to every homep 50.It is against that background of technological advancement that Bowden s saga of Giants vs Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL the book s subtitle unfolds Along with those advancements in technology, the game was changing, becoming a faster moving andcerebral game Responding to those tactical changes in the game, and indeed speeding them along, were innovative thinkers like Giants defensive coach Tom Landry, who believed that a strong response to a faster,short pass oriented game would be reducing the number of linebackers from the then current four to three a set up in which everything depended on the man in the center, the middle linebacker He would have to be a kind of superathlete, a man as big as a lineman, quick enough and fast enough to play pass defense, and smart enough to recognize which role to play with every snap of the ball p 100 Fortunately for Landry, he had in mind the perfect candidate for this superathlete position Sam Huff, a Giants defender who so perfectly personified the rough and tumble qualities of 1950 s pro football that he had been the subject of a CBS television special, The Violent World of Sam Huff After some initial hesitation regarding Landry s suggestion of a change in roles, Huff stepped into the role in practice, and it was a revelation He felt like he had found the position he was born to play.Now he was standing upright at the center of the line, and he was amazed at how muchhe could suddenly see It was as though he had played the game his whole life with blinders on, and now they were gone With his peripheral vision, he could see the whole field, from sideline to sideline pp 101 02 The Best Game Ever captures well the excitement and drama of these changes the game is getting faster andinteresting, just in time for the new technology to beam it out to a nation that will fall in love with it.I also appreciated Bowden s willingness to demythologize this mythic game, as when he writes that the early stages of the 1958 NFL championship lookedlike amateur hour than the NFL championship Three of the first four drives had ended with turnovers p 151.As the game went on, however, both teams settled into their routines of doing what they did best the Colts on offense, and the Giants on defense And one player in particular the Balti Colts quarterback, a skinny and awkward looking Pennsylvania native with number 19 on his jersey took command of the game Johnny Unitas, mixing a few runs up the middle with a great many passes to his amazingly reliable wide receiver Raymond Berry, had taken the Giants off their game and When an offense was clicking the way the Colts were, even the most disciplined defense begins to crumble p 200.Sam Huff knew only too well what Unitas had done on that decisive drive almost half a century later, he told an interviewer, John had me psyched, you know I thought he could read my mind after a while because it seemed like the son of a bitch knew every defense I was in You know, it was frustrating to play against him, he was just a mastermind at it p 202 As Bowden chronicles it, the Colts game winning play that ended that drive and the championship game running back Alan Ameche plowing through an improbably large hole in the Giants defensive line and crashing across the goal line was an almost mathematically certain outcome of Unitas mastery of the game.Bowden, a prolific and best selling author, is probably best known for torn from today s headlines books like Black Hawk Down his suspenseful 1999 chronicling of the travails of a group of U.S soldiers caught behind enemy lines in Somalia was adapted for the big screen by director Ridley Scott in 2001 Why then did Bowden turn to the subject of a football game that took place when Bowden himself was just seven years old Bowden states that I had grown up for the latter part of my childhood in Balti, and remembered the great Colts teams and players p 261 And he sounds like a true Baltian when he praises the special relationship between the city and the team , and laments Robert Irsay s unforgivable decision to ship the franchise to Indianapolis p 264 Unforgivable may seem like a strong word but you will hear people around Greater Balti using that word, and stronger words, when the subject of the Balti Colts relocation to Indianapolis comes up.Well illustrated with photographs from that long ago time sixty years gone now Bowden s The Best Game Ever provides football fans with a direct connection to that distant and storied time when professional football was, for many Americans, something new and exciting


  2. says:

    If you are a football fan this is a must read The title says it allit probably is the best game ever or at least in the top 5 in modern NFL history The author, who also wrote Blackhawk Down, captures the excitement of the game and the weeks before the championship He concentrates on several of the players, their backgrounds and personalities..Johnny Unitas a guy next door type , Raymond Berry a driven loner , Frank Gifford a prima donna , Gino Marchetti a beast on the field , a If you are a football fan this is a must read The title says it allit probably is the best game ever or at least in the top 5 in modern NFL history The author, who also wrote Blackhawk Down, captures the excitement of the game and the weeks before the championship He concentrates on several of the players, their backgrounds and personalities..Johnny Unitas a guy next door type , Raymond Berry a driven loner , Frank Gifford a prima donna , Gino Marchetti a beast on the field , and Art Fatso Donovan an overweight joker who liked a couple of beers before the game.This was the first game that ever used the sudden death rule and many of the players thought that the game had ended in a tie and headed for the locker room Obviously someone forgot to tell them that this rule was now in effect You can feel the excitement and disbelief that gripped the crowd as the teams reassembled to continue play.The author traces the change in training regimes..most of the huge linemen packed on food, drank beer, played dirty, and smoked at halftime But players like Unitas and Berry followed a different route which soon became the training model used today It was indeed the birth of the modern NFL and pro football came into its own and was no longer considered a bunch of ruffians whose objective was to break the limbs of the opposition.A terrific book, beautifully written Highly recommended


  3. says:

    Adequate, short book, about the Giants vs Colts 1958 NFL Championship game, the first to go into sudden death overtime, the game that affixed football as the made for TV sport, and it still is said the greatest game ever played.


  4. says:

    The 1958 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the Balti Colts is one of those games that sports legends are built around Billed as the best game ever, it was the moment when a multitude of factors came together to give birth to the most popular sport in the world, the NFL Unfortunately, footage of the game is lost to the ravages of time.That only makes Mark Bowden s account of the gamecompelling and extraordinary Bowden interviews players who played in the game, c The 1958 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the Balti Colts is one of those games that sports legends are built around Billed as the best game ever, it was the moment when a multitude of factors came together to give birth to the most popular sport in the world, the NFL Unfortunately, footage of the game is lost to the ravages of time.That only makes Mark Bowden s account of the gamecompelling and extraordinary Bowden interviews players who played in the game, coaches and staffs as well as looking at the unique series of factors that led to the crossroads in history Bowden puts you in the action, making you feel like you re there, watching the game unfold or even playing the game The story of the strategy, the hopes, the dreams and the game itself will keep you turning the pages Even if you re not a football fan, you ll find something intriguing about this account of events


  5. says:

    So there I am, cruising along when I see this book just kind of sitting there As I am a sucker for the printed word, I thought Hey Mark Bowden, I know him and took the book along with me Then I cracked the first page.You don t have to be a huge football fan to appreciate what Bowden put together on football and the Giant Vs Colts game of 1958 He tells the story of the game so well that you find yourself blitzing through the book, and double checking who won on Wikipedia while you re at it So there I am, cruising along when I see this book just kind of sitting there As I am a sucker for the printed word, I thought Hey Mark Bowden, I know him and took the book along with me Then I cracked the first page.You don t have to be a huge football fan to appreciate what Bowden put together on football and the Giant Vs Colts game of 1958 He tells the story of the game so well that you find yourself blitzing through the book, and double checking who won on Wikipedia while you re at it Bowden also has a gift and natural ability to weave the many other smaller, but no less important, stories of the men, the evolving game, and all the technological shifts that helped make Football the game that it is today.A fast, fun, and very enjoyable book, certainly for sports fans, but great for journalism fans as well


  6. says:

    Cool history of a gone time Tons of familiar names.


  7. says:

    A good book that tells a great story about one of the most fascinating moments in football history.Before flower websites paid 3 million for a 30 second ad before the Black Eyed Peas and a thousand neon dancers pranced and prattled in auto tune at halftime before juiced up, ultra fit, millionaire athletes zoomed around in HD inside a Dallas spaceship the Balti Colts and New York Giants made it all possible in 1958 The game is a fascinating microcosm of everything football would become.I A good book that tells a great story about one of the most fascinating moments in football history.Before flower websites paid 3 million for a 30 second ad before the Black Eyed Peas and a thousand neon dancers pranced and prattled in auto tune at halftime before juiced up, ultra fit, millionaire athletes zoomed around in HD inside a Dallas spaceship the Balti Colts and New York Giants made it all possible in 1958 The game is a fascinating microcosm of everything football would become.I already forgot who the New York coach was, because he was overshadowed by his two top assistants, Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, who would go on to legendary head coaching careers in Green Bay and Dallas Around this time, Landry started experimenting with a new defensive wrinkle called the 4 3 previously, the idea of subtracting a man from the defensive line, giving the offense a one man advantage in the era of scrum football was unheard of He placed his star, Sam Huff, at the novel middle linebacker position, who became a terror, revolutionizing defensive strategy.Whereas the Giants were a top team in a glamorous city, Balti had never achieved much in a decidedly blue collar town At the start of the 1958 season, John Unitas was an unknown back up recently cut by Pittsburgh He was soon approached by an equally anonymous receiver named Raymond Berry, who entered camp that year thinking he d probably get cut Berry is described by the author as being glaringly unathletic, even by the standards of that era But he also had a unique and almost neurotic drive to be great in an era in which most players guzzled pizza and beer at the local pub after practices and games.To the constant amusement of his teammates, Berry practiced And by a sheer stroke of luck, in August 1958 he had a future Hall of Famer as a backup with time on his hands For apparently the first time ever, a quarterback and receiver worked together on routes and timing, and studied film After seeing a formation in which a linebacker shifted over to cover the end, they decided if that ever occurred in a game that Berry would forget the called route and run a slant to the now unoccupied part of the field.By the time the two teams met in the NFL Championship game in December, Landry s 4 3 was creating havoc and the Unitas to Berry combo, now a star tandem, was in an evolutionary groove on offense This game happened to take place in the exact year in which football s television viewership, and popularity as a whole, was beginning to take off The ratings for the 58 game would shatter the previous record And this unprecedented audience found itself watching the Colts, down 7 in the 4th quarter, mount a furious comeback.With less than two minutes to play, on 3rd and long from their own territory, Raymond Berry split wide in preparation to run an out route Berry had already obliterated the receiving record in the game, and Tom Landry had had enough he sent the linebacker out to cover Berry With the game on the line, Berry recalled that one film session five months earlier and looked to Unitas lining up under center, wondering if he did too Vocal audibles had yet to take effect, so Berry took the eye contact from Unitas as an affirmative signal, and ran the slant The pass hit him in stride for a huge gain the 3 52 mark here Considering the way another Colt would run his offense fifty years later, this was like the ape discovering tools in 2001 A Space Odyssey.The Colts would score and regulation would end in a tie On top of all that had occurred the new offense, the new defense, the new viewership it was the first ever sudden death NFL game The rule was so new, half the players thought the game was over and started trotting into the locker room The Colts would hold the Giants in OT and score on their first possession, and football would never be the same.Lombardi, Landry, Unitas, Berry, Huff and many of the other players in that game would become Hall of Famers Salaries would begin to skyrocket and teams everywhere would start adapting to what the Colts and Giants had introduced to the game Football would become America s new pastime And thank God, because I don t know what I d do without Christina Aguilera butchering our proud anthem, Fergie caterwauling alongside a comatose Slash, Usher doing flips and splits for no reason, and Kim Kardashian, aka the 2011 Raymond Berry appearing in the first ever nationally televised softcore porn episode


  8. says:

    There are a lot of better sports books, football books, and even books about this particular game This book is okay, but suffers from some strange writing and a bit of amateurish knowledge about football It s also not really passionate about the game in general or the particular game that it covers, even though it tries to make the point that the game was all about passion.First, the basics On December 28, 1958, the Balti Colts played the New York Giants for the National Football League c There are a lot of better sports books, football books, and even books about this particular game This book is okay, but suffers from some strange writing and a bit of amateurish knowledge about football It s also not really passionate about the game in general or the particular game that it covers, even though it tries to make the point that the game was all about passion.First, the basics On December 28, 1958, the Balti Colts played the New York Giants for the National Football League championship This was about a decade before the Super Bowl was created The Colts won a thrilling game in overtime, and it s considered one of the greatest football games ever It s also the most influential football game ever because it was both exciting and the first highly watched game across the country, due to the rising prevalence of TV sets in homes and bars A direct path can be charted from that game to the massive hype machine that is pro football today.Author Mark Bowden gives some background and perspective on football leading up to that pivotal year and date It s amazing that players had off the field jobs some of them during the season like selling insurance because football rarely paidthan 10,000 per year Average salaries were half of that Few players trained outside of the season, and even during the schedule, everybody drank lots of beer A guy could play on the defensive line at 230 240 lbs., though some linemen were much bigger.Things were starting to change The game was gettingsophisticated on the field andpopular off the field And the book does a good job of profiling how Raymond Berry, star receiver for the Colts, was leading the way Berry was less physically talented than most receivers, at least as far as size, speed and eyesight goes he wore contact lenses, which were very unusual at the time But by studying how to play the game, how to make moves to get open, and which moves would work best against which opponents, he made himself into a star Berry s example would become the norm in a couple of decades, but at the time he was simply seen as weird and obsessive.Berry caught passes from Johnny Unitas, the greatest quarterback of his era But Unitas, too, was not a guaranteed success in pro football He d been dropped by his first team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and played semi professional football for a year before getting his last chance with the Colts Like Berry, he worked relentlessly to get everything just right And while he had fantastic arm strength, he was one of the least mobile quarterbacks of his era, at a time when QBs still ran the ball often Again, the description of Unitas is good and not overdone there are full books on him for those really curious.So, the ultra serious Unitas and Berry led a team that was mostly made up of goofballs and jokers guys like Artie Donovan They were serious about football, but also about having a good time in the locker room and outside the stadium The author doesn t dwell on it too much, but has a few well chosen anecdotes, especially charming ones about owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who gave players downpayments for homes, set them up in businesses, and basically tried to treat them like family As a team, the Colts were rising, well, like young Colts it was their 2nd consecutive season with a 9 3 record.Their opponents, the NY Giants, had been among the best teams in football for the last 5 6 years They had stars, especially on defense, and pretty boys on offense The Giants were arrogant, but they played hard, too Nobody played harder or dirtier than Robert E Lee Sam Huff, their ferocious middle linebacker As the author explains, Huff revolutionized the linebacker position in a defense created by Tom Landry The gist of it was to have the lineman neutralize their men, and have the linebackers see the play and bust it up If it was a pass, the linebackers had to recognize that and get back on pass defense It took speed and smarts, as well as brute strength And when it worked, those Giants or later Steelers or Bears teams were very tough to beat.So, the teams meet league s best offense vs its best defense The author pulls out the inevitable cliche of irresistible force meets immovable object And yet, the game was sloppy Seven or 8 fumbles Missed field goals Quarterbacks getting sacked And so on But as the game continued, and as it got darker and colder, it became a test of wills that gripped the attention of everyone who saw it And when the Colts won with a late field goal and then a touchdown in overtime, it was something that nobody had ever seen before And the rest is history.So why don t I Iove the book First, it s a bit flat in parts, as noted already He doesn t maximize the drama of the game, though he has some nice phrases to set the scene Second, the author has some weird ticks Like he uses first names for the Colts players Raymond, John and coach Weeb Ewbanks But he uses last names for the Giants Gifford, Huff and Connerly Why Third, he repeats a number of things about the game that don t need to be repeated, and he pulls in other things that seem irrelevant, like a 16 year old kid who got a well known photo of the winning touchdown but so what Fourth, he makes what I consider to be a few elementary mistakes about football The one I can remember best is that he refers to one Giants player as sacking the quarterback three or four times every game Well, there were 12 games per season then, so that s 36 orsacks The pro football record is something like 23, and that s in a 16 game season And quarterbacks throw twice as often now i.e., twice as many sack opportunities So the claim that some guy had 3 or 4 sacks per game is preposterous, and just sloppy Maybe the lineman hit the QB that many times a game, but that s different The author is precise about other things, like Raymond Berry s study notebooks, so he could be precise about this, too.Anyway, it s a decent book, but there are other options


  9. says:

    Really enjoyed this book If you are an NFL fan historian you should do yourself a favor and read about the 1958 Championship game This is really the birth of the modern NFL There are multiple books on this game and although this is the only one I ve read, I would recommend it Lots of interesting facts on the era and it is pretty wild to see how far the league has come since then Would have been a quick read if I d have hadtime.


  10. says:

    I have read most of the books in Mark Bowden s bibliography This book tops them all concerning The Greatest Game Ever Played Yes, there is bias toward the Colts but I have seen accounts lean the other way Dave Klein even suggests that Myhra s tying field goal may have been wide Nevertheless, I believe his book is fair and balanced I particularly appreciate that Bowden called Unitas John instead of Johnny In all the years I heard Chuck Thompson, the longtime voice of the Colts, I never he I have read most of the books in Mark Bowden s bibliography This book tops them all concerning The Greatest Game Ever Played Yes, there is bias toward the Colts but I have seen accounts lean the other way Dave Klein even suggests that Myhra s tying field goal may have been wide Nevertheless, I believe his book is fair and balanced I particularly appreciate that Bowden called Unitas John instead of Johnny In all the years I heard Chuck Thompson, the longtime voice of the Colts, I never heard him refer to Unitas by anything but John Reading this book in July 2019, I can sadly update the roll of players in this game who have died Ironically, two Colts defensive ends have passed away My favorite Colt of all time, the Captain of the team, 89 Gino Marchetti died on April 29 at the age of 93 Gino s line mate, and the man who replaced him on the defensive line after he broke his leg on that critical third down play late in the fourth quarter, Ordell Brasse, died 35 days earlier He was 87 Five stars


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The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL On December The New York Giants And Balti Colts Met Under The Lights Of Yankee Stadium For The NFL Championship Game Played In Front Of Sixty Four Thousand Fans And Millions Of Television Viewers Around The Country, The Game Would Be Remembered As The Greatest In Football History On The Field And Roaming The Sidelines Were Seventeen Future Hall Of Famers, Including Colts Stars Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, And Gino Marchetti, And Giants Greats Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, And Assistant Coaches Vince Lombardi And Tom Landry An Estimated Forty Five Million Viewers At That Time The Largest Crowd To Have Ever Watched A Football Game Tuned In To See What Would Become The First Sudden Death Contest In NFL History It Was A Battle Of The League S Best Offense The Colts Versus Its Best Defense The Giants And It Was A Contest Between The Blue Collar Balti Team Versus The Glamour Boys Of The Giants Squad The Best Game Everis A Brilliant Portrait Of How A Single Game Changed The History Of American Sport Published To Coincide With The Fiftieth Anniversary Of The Championship, It Is Destined To Be A Sports Classic