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Brian’s Song made every guy shed a tear in ’71

November 30, 1971.

Late November in the 1960s and 70s meant the start of the high school basketball season. It was a simpler time when schools didn’t have any summer, fall or spring leagues and weight training wasn’t a priority.

Earlier in March, the Marian Catholic’s boys basketball team concluded a magical 25-4 run that resulted in a PCIAA Class B championship under head coach Bob Fulton.

On the date mentioned, “Brian’s Song,” one of the sports world’s most renowned movies, was broadcast on “ABC’s Tuesday Movie of the Week.”

This latest installment of my look back at YESTERDAY - a trip back in time to the late 1960s and the 1970s - is a recollection of some momentous events and pop-culture items that dotted 1971.

“Brian’s Song” chronicled the story of Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo’s battle with terminal cancer during the 1969 season and his heartfelt relationship with backfield mate and NFL superstar Gale Sayers.

The cast of James Caan (Piccolo), Billy Dee Williams (Sayers) and Jack Warden (owner George Halas) was the perfect combination, as the film flowed from start to finish. It touched racial lines as Piccolo and Sayers were the Bears’ first white and black players to room together and among the first in the league.

The film, which won 11 Emmys and had eight other nominations, was well produced and had a natural flow that kept our attention from beginning to end.

Its most prominent moments were when Sayers was awarded the “George S. Halas Most Courageous Player Award” and Williams captured the moment with the lines, “I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like all of you to love him, too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

Williams closed out the film with a hospital bed scene with Caan, saying goodbye to Piccolo before he passed. The film closed with Williams and Caan running together with Warden’s brilliant closing narration. The background music throughout tied it all together in a perfect bow.

Those scenes made the Emmy-winning production one, or possibly the best, “man-cry” films ever made. It still brings tears to my eyes whenever I watch it.

High-Flying Eagles ... At the end of November in 1971, the Eagles dropped a 20-13 decision to the then Washington Redskins, before they surprisingly closed out the season with three consecutive victories to finish 6-7-1 in their spanking, new Veterans Stadium home.

Safety Bill Bradley led the league with 11 interceptions, while defensive end Richard Harris, from Grambling, was their top draft choice in a draft of amazingly 17 rounds.

Legendary Tom Dempsey came over from New Orleans after he had a record-setting 63-yard field goal the year before, and a rookie University of Texas kicker named Happy Feller (remember him) also was on the squad. Feller ironically spent the next two years with the Saints in his brief career that saw him make only 37 percent of his kicks.

Rick Arrington and Pete Liske were the quarterbacks and a tall, lanky, six-foot-eight, seventh-round pick named Harold Carmichael meshed well with veterans Harold Jackson and Ben Hawkins.

Low Flying Flyers ... The Flyers began to put the pieces in place for the eventful run a few years later when they hired relatively unknown Freddie “The Fog” Shero - named for his peculiar ways - as their head coach. They were spurred on the ice by 22-year-old Bobby Clarke, who led the team in goals, assists, and scoring.

Ed Van Impe (who always looked way older than his age) captained a budding club that featured the likes of youngsters Bob Kelly, Don Saleski, Rick MacLeish, Ross Lonsberry, Bill Clement, Dave Schultz amd Bobby Taylor, along with veterans Barry Ashbee, Gary Dornhofer, and Bill Flett.

The Flyers finished fifth in the NHL Western Division that season, and Kate Smith was beginning to get warmed up.

A Taco, A Coffee, A Christmas Gift and A Break ... California’s Glen Bell opened a Mexican fast-food and named it Taco Bell. A few miles to the north, the first Starbucks opened in Seattle.

Do you have any Hess Trucks as Christmas gifts? Back in 1971, the stoic toy truck sold for $1.69. One of the more popular Christmas toys in 1971? You had to have an Etch A Sketch.

“You Deserve A Break Today” was a popular advertising jingle released by McDonald’s. (... so get up and get away to McDonald’s.) Either the most or equally popular jingle/slogan was “Is It Live Or Is It Memorex?”

Sweet Tastes and Sounds

... Post cereal released Fruity, Cocoa, and yes, Ice Cream Pebbles in 1971. Three Dog Night also released the timeless hit, “Joy to the World.” The No. 1 song for the week of Nov. 30 was “The Theme From Shaft” by Curtis Mayfield (How many of you have the “Superfly” soundtrack that was released the following year? I do).

Closing Thought ... While watching some old footage of a Texas-Texas A&M game on the Longhorn Network (had an Amazon firestick to get it), a memory of the “Prudential College Football Show” crossed my mind in which we received all of our scores on the giant board with the sliding numbers that were changed manually (like Fenway Park scores) behind the board.

Dave Diles was the host of the precursor to ESPN College Gameday.

It was then time to get out those S&H Green Stamps to start Christmas shopping.

As always, relish those memories!