ESPN interview: ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’ Sat. Dec. 13

Football fans listen up: For two hours this Saturday starting at 9 p.m. watch some gridiron history on ESPN in a riveting documentary focusing on the historic 1958 NFL Championship game.

Saturday, Dec. 13 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, Chris Berman will host a game worth catching again.  ESPN Films’ special The Greatest Game Ever Played covers the groundbreaking December 28, 1958 game played between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants at Yankee Stadium for the NFL championship to commemorate the league’s 50th anniversary. 

From ESPN  Trailer Game shot 16 is of a tackle made at the goal line.

From ESPN Trailer Game shot 16 is of a tackle made at the goal line.

Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas led the Colts to a dramatic 23-17 overtime victory that had a unique situation occur during playtime: Cameras and power were accidentally knocked out during the game, and a quick thinking NBC executive posed as a drunk fan who ran out on the field to buy time until the snafu was remedied.  

That cold winter day in New York was also marked the first and last time an NFL title game ever went into sudden death overtime – a concept many of the players on the field had never even heard.

This landmark game, according to Pat Summerall, was the beginning of modern football as we know it today.  Summerall was joined by Raymond Berry and Chris Berman who all spoke to Monsters and Critics in a conference call last week about this epochal bit of gridiron history.

Pat Summerall

Pat Summerall

“To call it the greatest game ever played…I don’t think any of us who participated realized then it would be labeled that,” Pat Summerall, the veteran sportscaster who played tight end and was the Giants kicker that afternoon, said in a conference call last week. “The first time I heard it was a week later. But we had lost the game, and I was still dejected about it.I didn’t ralize the impact Raymond Berry had, and I had never seen the game since 1958.”

“If you take a step back and put in this film of this game, it looks like the NFL of today, “added Berman. “I am setting the action up to let history be viewed.”

ESPN executive producer John Dahl paired up all of them in groups to watch the film of the entire contest one day last spring in Indianapolis and New York. Dahl also taped their unrehearsed observations from first quarter to final Ameche run.

I asked Mr. Dahl about the story behind the TV reception going out during the famous game.

“That’s what’s presented in the film.  Was the opinion of those there that day that a cable got momentarily yanked out and someone who worked there ran out and grabbed the ball and gave them just enough time to plug it back in and resume the game late in overtime.  It’s one of the things.  We don’t have the documentation or smoking gun but those are the recollections of those there that day,” shared Dahl.

Dahl also revealed t me what the well paid payers of today owe to the players of that era.

“For starters the respect that they do owe those who followed before them.  It was so different then.  The NFL wasn’t the most popular sport as Chris touched on earlier and to see what the NFL has become today. At the very end of the film we point out that in 1958 the NFL was comprised of 12 teams with an average worth of less then a million dollars.”

Dahl continued. “Now, you have 32 teams, several TV networks with an average worth and franchise of a billion, with a B.  I think right there it makes a pretty strong statement about what the players can’t forget – their sacrifice and hard work these guys had.  Some had jobs in the off season. All that they did physically, what they put their bodies through to play a game out the way they have today for these terrific players.”

I asked Mr. Dahl if there were other players on these two teams who deserved to be inducted that have not been.

“Well, Dave Anderson pointed out in the film last night – Charlie Connerly, QB of the Giants is the greatest GB not to be in the HOF.  Yeah, you had 12 players, three coaches (Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Weeb Ewbanks) and two owners.  A total of 17 people in this game went on to the Hall of Fame,” said Dahl.

ESPN’s producers unearthed previously unseen (30 missing plays) and aired original film of the game, colorization/restoration technology and intercutting unique interview pairings of the surviving members of that legendary game and their modern day NFL counterparts from the past two Super Bowl champion teams – the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants.

The Greatest Game Ever Played will also give viewers perspective about the impact of the 1958 NFL Championship Game on players then and now, ESPN Films brought together 11 surviving members of the legendary game and their modern day NFL counterparts from the past two Super Bowl champion teams – the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants. 

From ESPN:  interview portion of the film. From Left to Right - Frank Gifford, Gino Marchetti, Tom Coughlin.

From ESPN: interview portion of the film. From Left to Right – Frank Gifford, Gino Marchetti, Tom Coughlin.

Pairings include Baltimore Colts star receiver “Mr. Perfection” straight-arrow non smoker no drinker Raymond Berry with current Colts head coach Tony Dungy; former Giants kicker Pat Summerall with current Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri; Giants running back Frank Gifford and Colts defensive end Gino Marchetti with current Giants head coach Tom Coughlin; Colts great Lenny Moore with current Giants running back Brandon Jacobs; former Giants linemen Al Barry and Rosie Grier with current Giants lineman Chris Snee; and former Colts star Art Donovan with newly retired Giants star Michael Strahan, among others.  

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

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