From the World Cup to the Immaculate Reception; Howard Cosell’s enormous pioneering work
This Week in Sports History 12/19 – 12/23
Oftentimes, the spectacle of sport creates moments so historic that they shape not only the legacy of it, but the athletes who take to the field.
This Sunday, the world’s premier footballer Lionel Messi cemented himself as the greatest of all time, finally winning the one trophy that has preceded him, bringing a World Cup title to his home country of Argentina.
Ballon d’Or Trophies and League Titles have long filled Messi’s trophy case yet winning the most prestigious title in football officially marks him as the greatest, making a stellar impact on the world’s most beautiful game. Once-in-a-lifetime moments such as these make for a historic day Argentina will never forget, and neither will the rest of the sporting world. With history being made today, let’s retrospect on some other iconic moments that happened this week in history.
Monday December 19
2010: Miracle at the Meadowlands #2
In Week #15, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, two fierce rivals, began a second half in a lopsided affair. The Giants were ahead 24-3. The Eagles were able to come from behind and tie the contest with 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In the next sequence, known simply as “The Play,” the Giants’ Matt Dodge punted the ball directly in the center of the field where Eagles’ returner DeSean Jackson ran it back for a game winning touchdown. The longtime pair of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were behind the Fox mics in disbelief, “Are you kidding?” Buck sealed it as a comeback for the ages. The Eagles’ radio announcer is Merrill Reese. He has the most local radio tenure in the NFL, starting in 1977. This is his 46th year and beloved. The Giants still have Bob Papa. He took over for the late Jim Gordon in 1995.
Tuesday December 20
1985: Howard Cosell Retires From Broadcasting
Legendary ABC broadcaster Howard Cosell called it a career in 1985, retiring a true pioneer in the booth. Cosell was known for many things, being the original voice of Monday Night Football alongside Keith Jackson and Don Meredith in its original season, 1970. Howard was a key player in boxing, engaging closely with Muhammad Ali. Jackson was replaced the second season of MNF in 1971 with Frank Gifford. Howard hosted “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973 between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. He was responsible for one of the most well-known calls in boxing history, “Down goes Frazier” a timepiece in boxing. Cosell was also not afraid to step outside the sports landscape, supporting Black athletes in their fight for civil rights. He was in Munich in 1972 for the Olympic games when 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Cosell was a one-of-a-kind broadcaster, who deeply impacted so many voices today, like or dislike.
Wednesday December 21
1959: Tom Landry Hired as Cowboys Head Coach
The man who helped pioneer the Dallas Cowboys’ machine before Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson, Tom Landry was hired to coach the Cowboys in 1959, and stayed until he was brutally fired in 1988 by the new ownership. Prior to it, Landry was the Defensive Coach of the Giants. He wore a fedora on the sideline and like Don Shula, no headset. He led America’s Team to two Super Bowl titles and 20 consecutive winning seasons. Landry was a pillar in Cowboys’ culture, preaching concentration as a true key to effectiveness on the field. Regarded as one of the best head coaches in NFL history, Landry was shockingly let go in 1988, yet it did pay its dividends on the field. The two best broadcast names around Landry were Verne Lundquist and Brad Sham. By now, Brad has 25 straight play-by-play years.
Thursday December 22
2020: Lionel Messi Breaks Record for Goals for a Single Club
Despite his most recent success being his newly acquired World Cup trophy, Lionel Messi has been a dynamic footballer since first stepping on the pitch for FC Barcelona. Playing 20 years in one of La Liga’s most prestigious clubs, Messi broke the record for most goals for a single club in 2020, passing Pele’s 643 goals for Santos from 1956-1974. Mesi’s 644 Barcelona goal came at the hands of a 3-0 victory over Real Valladolid, adding to an already impressive resume for the left winger.
Friday December 23
1972: The Immaculate Reception
In what is known to be one of the most well-known and once-in-a-century plays, the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame a low scoring 7-6 deficit at the hands of the Raiders to steal a victory, 13-7. In a miraculous play, Steelers’ quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to John Fuqua, but the ball bounced off his helmet and into the hands of the team’s heart and soul Franco Harris, who scored the winning touchdown. Pittsburgh commentator Myron Cope coined the term “Immaculate Reception” based on the Catholic Church’s “Immaculate Conception” and it stuck, landing itself as the greatest and most controversial play of all time. Despite the Steelers losing the AFC Championship to the Dolphins, the impact of this play is astronomical. It stands the test of time as a great play, and an even greater name.
And how ironic and sad that Franco Harris died just as the 50th anniversary approached.
I also think of Cosell with sadness. He should have been able to go out on top and he couldn’t let himself enjoy what he did and who he was.