Thanking different personalities at Christmas time
It’s the Christmas season, and the true time of thanking, giving and reflecting.
First, thanks to all you readers of this column and the remainder of the Times News on a daily basis who support local journalism for one of the finest - if not the - newspapers for coverage of local events. In the world of big tech, the local angle is often overlooked.
In this week’s version of my Yesterday column - reminiscing about a reminiscing about the 1960s, 70s, 80s and sometimes beyond - I have special permission from Santa to go back in time and live in the moment to reflect and thank personalities for their contributions in our sports-related lives. As always, I have included some pop culture items.
Here is my list of sports personalities who made my life special and likely yours:
• Channel 10 sports anchor Al Meltzer: Thanks “Big Al” for your part in helping broadcast the recent “Fog Bowl” involving the Eagles and the Bears on this date in 1988.
The Eagles came out on the short end of a 20-12 score in the NFC Divisional playoff game, but it was fun to watch NFL history in the making.
• NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle: Thanks, Pete, for seeking to make the Pro Bowl still a competitive and enjoyable game to watch unlike its present-day counterpart, which will switch its format to a skills competition.
In 1988, Rozelle’s penultimate season in the chair, the AFC won a tight 15-6 battle. Marty Schottenheimer guided the AFC to a win over NFC head coach Jerry Burns - remember him? - who took over in Minnesota for the legendary Bud Grant.
• NFL Films narrator John Facenda: He was “the voice” behind the legendary Super Bowl highlight films, as well as other football-related productions such as “The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.”
Facenda’s voice could easily lock you into any video and was the perfect complement to a football game.
• Tom Brookshier and Pat Summerall: They were the duo who narrated “This Week in Pro Football,” which was a must watch on a Saturday.
They meshed well together and helped the show have a mesmerizing effect, as we got to see the result of games we wouldn’t normally be able to watch.
They both also did their share of broadcasting games together over the years.
• Howard Cossell and his Monday Night Football halftime highlights: Like Brookshier and Summerall, Cossell’s fast-paced, frenzied pace of the highlights kept us focused for a few minutes as we all kept peeled to see the teams around the league.
• Lindsey Nelson and Ray Scott: If you’re a Mets fan, you know Lindsey well for his TV broadcasts, but more importantly for his colorful suit jackets. Nelson also made his mark for “Notre Dame football highlights,” which I remember being broadcast on WNEP-Channel 16 Sunday mornings.
Like Nelson, Scott also made your football Sunday special with his recap of “Penn State football highlights,” which also was broadcast on Channel 16. Scott also was a fixture on NFL broadcasts for years.
• Larry O’Brien, David Stern, and the NBA All-Star Game: They both served their stint as NBA commissioner in the 1970s, 80s and into the 2000s. Stern was responsible for the resurrection of the league in the 80s with the emergence of the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era.
Like the NFL, O’Brien and Stern oversaw a period when the All-Star Game was worth watching and it wasn’t just a glorified pick-up game.
• Curt Gowdy and the NFL playoff games: Gowdy had a unique presence on broadcasting the “big” games on the NFL and MLB.
With the recent passing of Steelers’ great Franco Harris, I can recall and recently watched Gowdy’s call of Harris’ ‘Immaculate Reception.” It was a stunning end to a great game that Gowdy managed to put into its proper perspective. It’s a must watch on YouTube.
As far as MLB, Gowdy’s call on Carlton Fisk’s famous “foul pole” homer in the 1975 Red Sox-Reds series is an all-time classic.
• 1972 Sunoco NFL Trading Stamps: I still have the book and am still collecting the stamps online.
In 1972, Sunoco had a promotion in which they produced postage-size stamps of notable players from each team. Depending how much gasoline your parents purchased, you would receive a certain number of stamps. They were usually Eagles and Giants players, but there were also a variety of others.
There was a huge book to paste the stamps. If you still have the book and the stamps, you can continue to find them on EBay.
• That Dolphins-Chiefs game: On Christmas night in 1971, I remember watching this legendary game on my small black and white portable TV with its rabbit ears.
I previously mentioned this, but this was a joy as a kid to watch football for 82 minutes and 40 seconds or roughly seven hours that ended in a 27-24 Miami win to send them to the AFC Championship game. Miami kicker Garo Yepremian booted a 37-yard field goal to win it.
• Gene London and the cast of local childhood celebrities: If you watched Channel 10 back in the 1960 and 70s, you will remember London’s “Cartoon Corners” and the backdrop of Mr. Dibney’s general store. Dibney was seen as a Scrooge-type character to him, and London always wanted to date his daughter, Debbie, but he was too shy to ask.
London had adventures of his own on the show that usually involved the mysterious “Quigley Mansion” and also had cartoons and children-friendly segments.
On Channel 6, Chief Halftown, Captain Noah, and Sally Starr all had similar formats, and they all helped make an afternoon fun.
• Concerts via the phone: If you want to go to a concert today, it is just a matter of going to TicketMaster or another online venue.
But remember when you had to dial a number to get your tickets? A time would be announced when the tickets would be released, and it was just a matter of being a quick and persistent dialer. Some luck was involved, but I never got shut out.
I still like that method better because it was more personable and more reassured.
• Feliz Navidad, Charlie Brown, Bruce Springsteen, and Karen Carpenter: When I was young, I knew it was a special time when I heard Jose Feliciano’s melodic song “Feliz Navidad.” It seemed to be playing endlessly, but it never lost its meaning.
For me, Christmas would be incomplete without watching a “Charlie Brown Christmas.” It isn’t broadcast on network TV any more, but I still need to watch it once or twice before the big day. I always made it a point to find what day it was broadcast.
In my late teens and early 20s, Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” became a staple and I would always blast it on the radio - yes, a radio - and sing along.
Finally, Christmas also would be incomplete with the Carpenters, “Merry Christmas, Darling,” that would bring out the sentimentality in you. I believe Karen Carpenter had the clearest voice in modern times.
These were some memories about the Christmas and holiday season, but there are more.
On that note, I hope everyone has a blessed and enjoyable Christmas and holiday season.