Once Upon A Time, There Was An NFL Post-Season Game Even Lamer Than The Pro Bowl

Posted in Gridiron at 12:07 am by

Earlier this week, frequent CSTB contributor David Roth co-authored a Wall Street Journal report concerning the discovery of a videotape of Super Bowl I ; the 1967 clash between Green Bay and Kansas City that was considered of such minor import at the time, neither of the two broadcast networks that carried the game bothered to keep a copy.  Given the rare nature of said tape, good fucking luck finding a recording of “The Playoff Bowl”, the unofficial name for a contest between the NFL’s two conference runner-ups that was played the week after the league championship. “It is strange to contemplate that from 1961 to 1970,” writes the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir, ” Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s rising pigskin-industrial complex celebrated something that screamed out, ‘We’re No. 3!'”

The runner-up games benefited the players’ pension fund, but they also got a few hundred to just over a thousand dollars for the junket to Florida.

“We barely had enough for expenses,” said Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel (above), who won the 1968 and ’70 Playoff Bowls in routs. In the days before those games, he said, the disciplinarian Rams Coach George Allen “let us run wild in Miami, but we played loose and won.”

This was the N.F.L. before it started the Super Bowl and initiated multiple rounds of playoffs. Wild cards were for poker, not the postseason.

“It was sort of a fluff game,” said Frank Ryan, the Cleveland Browns quarterback who led his team to the 1964 N.F.L. championship but lost two Runner-Up Bowls.

“That ridiculous game shows how ridiculous the league was in those days,” he said.

At gatherings with teammates, do they reminisce about it?

“It never comes up,” Ryan said.

The Green Bay Packers sandwiched two Playoff Bowls between N.F.L. titles in 1961 and ’62 and three more championships from ’65 to ’67. Coach Vince Lombardi hated being crowned the league’s best loser when the Packers beat the Browns in 1964 and hated it even more when his boys lost to the St. Louis Cardinals the next year, 24-17. In “Lombardi,” the Broadway play, he called the game “the Toilet Bowl,” a cleaned-up version of what he really said.

After losing to St. Louis, he raged about a “hinky-dink football game, held in a hinky-dink town, played by hinky-dink players.”

2 responses to “Once Upon A Time, There Was An NFL Post-Season Game Even Lamer Than The Pro Bowl”

  1. Rob Warmowski says:

    Nice work on the WSJ piece, DR. One thing though: like virtually all journalism, it repeats the implication that the modern digital era is immune somehow to permanently lost recordings – very untrue. In fact, the problem of losing recorded material forever is actually much worse overall now than it once was.

    To get a sense of this: the recovery of Super Bowl I’s tape was dependent on a 2″ video deck existing and being in running order 44 years later.

    Now imagine you’ve got some files on a drive from a non-working microcomputer new just 15 years ago. Five operating systems and three drive architectures stand between you pulling these files up. Then the drive electronics, dormant for a decade+ can easily decide to not cooperate when reintroduced to current. Then the drive platters themselves, never designed for archival storage are busy degaussing themselves over time. Then there’s the software needed to extract the media. Good luck with recovery – and that’s just from a 15 year period.

    DVRs are microcomputers and the vendors never put a dime into long term storage viability, causing their designs to be the opposite of future-proof. Recovering the Super Bowl was made possible due to the relative simplicity and future-fitness of design of 2″ analog videotape. The entire media industry has steadily thrown away that future-fitness by embracing digital technologies that were never designed for permanence. We’re headed into a world filled with very nasty surprises concerning lost digital recordings and we’re going to wish everything had gone to tape instead.

  2. David Roth says:

    This is really interesting stuff, Rob, and something I knew very little about. To what degree would this affect macro-recorders (the networks) relative to those of us trying to do the TiVo thing at home?

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