All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin’ Over Tonight

September 21, 1970 – Monday Night Football is Born

The year was 1970 and after much jockeying with the television networks, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle finally inked a deal with ABC to carry a weekly Monday night game during the upcoming NFL football season.

Looking for a lightning rod commentator to garner attention, ABC Sports Producer, Roone Arledge hired controversial (not to mention nasal) New York sports broadcaster Howard Cosell as a commentator, along with veteran football play-by-play man Keith Jackson. Arledge’s original choice for the third member of the trio, Frank Gifford, was unavailable since he was still under contract to CBS Sports. However, Gifford suggested former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith, setting the stage for years of fireworks between the often-pompous Cosell and the laid-back Meredith. Gifford joined the trio the next season after his contract with CBS expired.

In addition to expanding the typical two-man broadcasting booth to three, Arledge also ordered twice the usual number of cameras to cover the game, and used extensive graphic design within the show as well as “instant replay” setting the stage for today’s video game-like quality of football broadcasting.

Though not technically the first NFL game to be played on a Monday night, the first branded Monday Night Football game first aired on ABC on September 21, 1970, with a game between the New York Jets and the Browns in Cleveland.

This game set the stage for 40 years and 627 Monday nights of good ol’ fashioned man time together in living rooms all across America. Living rooms weren’t the only places affected by the Monday Night Football phenomenon either. During that first season it has also been rumored that all across the land Monday night movie attendance dropped, bowling leagues shifted to Tuesday nights, and there are even some reports that a Seattle hospital established an unwritten rule of no births during Monday night games.

The Browns defeated the Jets, 31-21 in a game which featured a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Browns’ Homer Jones and was punctuated when Billy Andrews intercepted Joe Namath late in the fourth quarter and returned it 25 yards for the clinching touchdown.

Advertisers were charged $65,000 per minute by ABC during the clash, a cost that proved to be a bargain when the contest captured 33 percent of the viewing audience.

Here we are almost 40 years later and the glory, phenomenon, and spectacle that is Monday Night Football lives on, albeit on ESPN instead of ABC. In just five weeks from tonight, the Ravens and the Jets will kickoff the 627th Monday Night Football game. The next week the 49ers and the Saints will battle it out for the 40th Anniversary game. No doubt, ESPN will do something big for this one.

Fall must be around the corner because I have football on the brain — this is at least my third post in the last week to mention the pigskin projectile.

Are you ready for some football?

Manly Moments in Sports History

October 18, 1968 – Bob Beamon Shatters the Long Jump World Record

In what is widely considered the greatest individual physical feat in the history of human competition, 24 year-old, New Yorker Bob Beamon completely annihilated the Olympic/World Record long jump record by a mind-boggling TWO FEET. The previous record was held for years by fellow American, Ralph Boston at 27 feet, 4 and 3/4 inches.

In a move that was no doubt Hollywood’s inspiration for the friendship between Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa, Boston even coached Beamon through his record leap after he had failed to even qualify for a gold metal in two previous jumps.

As the Mexico City crowd sat on the edge of their seats and watched in stunned awe, Beamon hurled his 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame 8.90 meters, that’s 29 feet, 2 and a 1/2 inches for the most lopsided destromination of a world record ever — a record that stood for 23 years until Mike Powell surpassed it at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. This time, by two inches, not two feet!

Well done sir. Well done.

Manly Moments in Sports History: The Luckiest Man

July 4, 1939 – Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech

In a moment that will forever be frozen in time and sports history, a dying man stood courageously before more than 60,000 people and anyone in the world with a radio to say goodbye. He game across as genuine, humble, grateful, and courageous. Without a doubt, he meant every single word when he called himself, “the luckiest man on the face of this earth” for having the opportunity to play the game of baseball for a living.

Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, the man who did not miss one single game his entire 13-plus year career (that’s 2,130 consecutive games for those of you not counting) lowered his head and became an instant icon of what sports, and possibly all of life is about: accepting your destiny, giving it your all, and enjoying every moment, good or bad.

The transcript of his speech is below:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

In many ways, this speech epitomizes my definition of what being a real man is all about. In less than 300 words, he expressed a lifetime’s worth of humility, courage, honor, gratitude, humor, and love.

If by some gift of tragic fate, I am fortunate enough to give a farewell speech someday to my family and friends, I only hope I’m half as poignant, real, and inspiring as he was here.

We’re not worthy

Chances are good that you’ve already seen the video below floating around the series of tubes commonly known as the internet lately. However, if by some off chance you haven’t, let me enlighten you.

This video was created and shot by world champion French free-diver Guillaume Nery and his girlfriend (who happens to be a champion free-diver herself, Julie Gautier). Shot in Dean’s Blue Hole, the second deepest blue hole in the world, the whole thing is an artistic take on underwater base jumping. The entire video, though it was shot over the course of a few afternoons, was filmed without the aid of oxygen tanks.

I have a hard time swimming from the diving board to the shallow end of the swimming pool without coming up for air, which might explain why I’m so impressed by this dude’s manly display of athletic prowess. Even the fact that he’s French (usually a pretty big detractor for me) doesn’t take away from the awe I feel watching the scene above unfold.

One of the questions I ask myself before defining a moment in sports history as manly is, “To what extent did achieving this moment require stretching the human body beyond it’s natural physical limits?” That’s not the only question I ask, but generally speaking, the more an athlete has to push his body beyond it’s natural physical limit, the more likely the moment is to make my list. I never even knew free-diving was a sport but you can bet it’s on my radar now.

As my lispy 4-year old nephew might say, “I’m impwessed monsignor Guillaume. I’m impwessed.” Of course, he’d only say that if he could get his 4-year old mind wrapped around what it is that these free-diving jockeys of oxygen efficiency actually do. But that’s neither here nor there, is it?

New Series: Manly Moments in Sports History

September 5, 1996 – Pete Sampras Rallies from Behind to Defeat Àlex Corretja After Yakking Up Lunch During a Tiebreak in the 5th Set of the US Open Quarter Finals

Skip to 4:44 in this video to see what I’m talking about:

This was a 4 hour and 9 minute long match and ESPN Sports Century tells the story way better than I ever could:

With the score 1-1 in a fifth-set tiebreaker, a dehydrated Sampras vomited twice. Refusing to lose, he saved a match point at 6-7 with a desperate, full-extension forehand volley winner. After a fault on a weak first serve, the exhausted Sampras found the strength to deal a second-serve ace. The match ended when Corretja double faulted on the next point.

“I hate to lose, and I do whatever I can to win, and if it is ugly, it is ugly,” said Sampras, who needed a half-gallon of intravenous fluids afterwards.

Say what you will about Pete Sampras, me… I was always more of an Agassi fan, but the dude showed his salt in this one proving to the whole world the magnitude of his intestinal fortitude. Sure, he also put the contents of his lunch right out on the court for the whole world to see that night. But hey, that’s what being a man is all about isn’t it — having the guts to get back out on the court and win even after puking your guts out in front of a world-wide audience at a live televised event.

You know what’s not manly about this moment? The lame-o chair ref who gives Sampras a delay of game warning smack dab in the middle of his second bout of projectile vomiting. Come on dude! Keep it classy. The guy just hurled. Give him a second to regain his composure.