Friday, November 27, 2009

When Thanksgiving Games Mattered

Tam Dayluk from PFW gets inside the head of Pat Summerall's old partner Tom Brookshier. These old guys have a perspective on the game that has disappeared.

"I'd say the greatest call I ever heard Pat Summerall make came on our first Thanksgiving game, the Redskin-Cowboys thing in '74" says Brookshier, "and it was nothing more than complete silence. The Redskins jumped out to an early lead, then [Redskins LB] Dave Robinson rung Staubach's bell and knocked him out of the game. Dallas clawed its way back behind some no-name quarterback named Clint Longley, but was still trailing with about 30 seconds to play. Then Longley throws this deep pass to Drew Pearson, and while it was taking place we didn't say a single thing — all natural sound. It was the damndest throw I'd ever seen, and Dallas won the game."


Those were the Chuck Knox Rams, grinder ball, with Fred Dryer and Jack Youngblood and Tom Mack and Larry McCutcheon, who'd sledge you to pieces their old line style but could never cap it all off once they felt the high level playoff tension.

"To me the reason was simple," says Brookshier, who retired from CBS in 1987. "We used to always look at teams' parking lots on Sundays to see which guys were driving pickups and station wagons and four-wheel drives, and who was driving the Porsches and Ferraris. We always felt the Rams were Brentwood, while Pittsburgh was the Bessemer furnace. It wasn't necessarily indicative of the truth, but maybe there was something to it.

The pair then worked a string of Thursdays in Detroit and Dallas over the following seasons, and by then Brookshier had chewed on so much Cowboy action that he was able to draw a few distinctions between the crowds in the two cities.

"Dallas fans never feel the Cowboys have lost a game," Brookshier said years later. "It's always that the referees screwed them or the Good Lord looked the other way or something. It's the toughest place to broadcast a game. Sagebrush, USA. The fans don't know football. They just know if something's wrong if the Cowboys don't win by two TDs.

"A few years ago the highlight film was called 'Like a Mighty River.' Boy, that's Texas all right. And John Wayne is the quarterback. You do a game in Detroit, say. The people there have seen a little football. You can't BS them. But try to tell the truth in Dallas and you'll find some frozen hemlock in your nachos."
It's kind of funny to be nostalgic for a time that most of us don't really remember. Somehow I think most of us would gouge our eyes out before watching a grainy game shot with a couple of cameras, but there was something terribly romantic to the football fan that has been lost; a room full of grown men yelling at a twelve inch black-and-white scream that was as much snow as it was picture. The broadcasters had to learn to tell the story of the game, rather than the generic, repetitious, androidic reporting of the games that we get today.

1 comment:

  1. Brook is also a 2-time All-Pro who picked off 20 passes before a career-ending injury, and 1 of only 7 Eagles to have their number retired.

    It's a pretty good list, not surprisingly:
    Jerome Brown [taken too soon]
    Al Wistert [a lineman]

    Steve Van Buren
    Pete Retzlaff
    Concrete Chuck

    Just like da Birds to have 2 skill player and 5 defenders/lineman on their list.


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