Archive for November 2009
This morning’s Morning Edition featured Frank Deford’s weekly sports commentary, where today he reminded us a of a time, 100 years ago, when to step onto a football field would be to put one’s very life at risk (never mind one’s leg bones, ribs, and brain cells). Sort of like how mixed martial arts was received when it was first released not so long ago, I guess?
Football was so gruesome at the turn of the century that in 1905, no less than President Roosevelt himself demanded that the sport clean itself up, and the notorious flying wedge was banned.
However, by ought-nine, as they said back then, it was still a brutal battle royal. In the season’s championship match — what may be called the first “game of the century” — The New York Times summed it up as “an indescribable tangle of bodies, arms and legs.”
That game, on Nov. 20, between two undefeateds — Yale and Harvard — was typical of the era. There were no touchdowns. In fact, when Yale won 8-0, it finished its whole season completely unscored upon.
The forward pass had been legalized, in a limited fashion — but football was mostly just pounding scrimmage. Few players wore helmets, and a close observer declared that as Harvard and Yale pummeled each other, “It was the most magnificent sight … every lineman’s face was dripping with blood.”
Fortunately, rule changes instituted the following year made the game safer for all involved. But Deford asserts that some things never change:
… Canny old [Col. John Mosby] also made this point: “It is notorious that football teams are largely composed of professional mercenaries who are hired to advertise colleges. Gate money is the valuable consideration.“
The Gray Ghost wrote that exactly a century ago, and though the NCAA could clean up the game on the field, it never has figured out how to manage the other abuses.
“We now join our regularly scheduled program in progress…”
This phrase is a familiar sound on American TV, especially after a sports event that has run overtime. But have you ever asked yourself why that phrase has become so well-known?
Because of a famous football game forty-one years ago today – on November 17, 1968. It was the New York Jets at the Oakland Raiders, with two high-scoring offenses, both at the top of their respective divisions. By the time 7 p.m. rolled around on the East Coast, the game was still close, and with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter, the Jets scored a field goal to make the game 32-29 Jets. When NBC cut to a commercial break, it was Raider ball on their 23 yard line.
So, put yourself in the NBC control room for a minute. With monitors all around you, you’ve seen how close the game is. But now it’s 6:58, and you have to put a made-for-TV children’s movie on at 7:00 p.m., but you don’t want to miss the end of the game and, probably, neither do your viewers. What do you do?
Answer back in 1968: You put the movie on, never mind the score. If you valued your job, of course. And if no one told you otherwise.
Ironically, that’s what the executives at NBC were trying to do at that very minute, but the NBC switchboard was overloaded with both sports fans and concerned parents. The executives couldn’t get through, and the NBC control room cut to the movie as scheduled.
Cut back to Oakland. One minute can make all the difference in a football game, and that’s exactly what happened. In two plays, the Raiders scored one touchdown. Then on the following kickoff, the Jets’ kick returner fumbled the ball, and the Raiders recovered and ran it in for another TD. Final score: Raiders 43, Jets 32.
NBC announced the score via a final crawl during the movie, and that’s when all hell broke loose in New York with irate football fans nearly bringing down telephone service in all of the New York City area.
Ultimately, the NFL (and other major league sports) amended their TV contracts to require games to be broadcast in their entirety, at least in the markets of the teams involved.
Oh, and the movie? Heidi. And the game became known as the Heidi Game.
When was the last time you actually set pen to paper and mailed off a personal letter to someone? It’s probably been awhile — and the man to blame is Ray Tomlinson.
Back in 1971, Tomlinson was a young engineer at the Boston firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman — known today as BBN Technologies. He’d been given a task: Figure out something interesting to do with ARPANET, the newborn computer network that was the predecessor of the modern-day Internet.
“We were working on ways in which humans and computers could interact,” he tells NPR’s Guy Raz. But instead, Tomlinson started tinkering with the interaction — or lack of it — between distant colleagues who didn’t answer their phones. He eventually found a way to send messages from one computer to another — inventing the system we now know as e-mail.