The Glory Game, which I co-wrote with the immortal Frank Gifford, is the story of the 1958 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts in Yankee Stadium, which the Colts won in overtime. This game is widely viewed to have been the tipping point in the NFL’s evolution from lunchpail league to multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry. As of this writing, the book has been on the New York Times’ bestseller list for four weeks. It’s as much about the time, and the place, and the men, as it is about a football game.
And it was a great game; the athletes were smaller, slower and far less athletic than today’s football players, but they hit just as hard as today’s phenomenal weight-room and substance-enhanced physical specimens — and they played even harder. If you get a chance to watch the game (DVDs are easy to find on the internet, and ESPN’s recent documentary shows most of the highlights) it’s hard not to just caught up in the ebb and flow of the game, in the heroics of Unitas and Lipscomb, Berry and Gifford.
But the highlight for me was the Giants’ goal-line stand in the third quarter: not because the Giants held the Colts, but because after the Giant defense had stopped the Colts for
the fourth time in a row, the entire Giant team simply got up off the frozen dirt and trotted off the field. No chest-pumps, no fist pumps, no showmanship at all. Make no mistake: I don’t think the game was better back then; the game is much better now. I’m not a guy who thinks the past was somehow more glorious than the present. It wasn’t. But there was a purity to that football game – to the sport as it was played in the Fifties — that’s hard to miss, and I think that purity is what makes the book worth reading.
The final score of the game, by the way, is not in the book. Just a minor omission. Somehow, in our year of interviewing every surviving player, researching every aspect of the game and poring over scrapbooks, letters and videos, we managed to forget to include the final score. For the record, it was 23-17. Also, for the record: the men who played that game that day really were, in Frank’s words, “a band of brothers.” And getting to talk to them all, getting to know each one in some small way, was the privilege of a lifetime.