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Today's Tidbit... The NFL Has Come A Long Way, Baby
With the Super Bowl LVII and all its spectacle upon us, it's time to look back at the days before the Super Bowl, when football fan loyalties shifted from the college game to the pros. To do so, we'll review sections of promotional schedules used as giveaways by insurance agencies, auto and liquor brands, and others.
The target of these promotional items was men since women were considered incapable of making decisions on issues as complex as life insurance. Clearly, the text on the back cover that follows the winding road of life targets the man of the house.
The NFL of 1953 had only twelve teams after adding several from the All-America Football Conference. The Eagles placed second in the Eastern Division, and the Chiefs did not yet exist. It's also worth noting that the 1954 schedule lists the home fields for each team, and more than half the NFL played in stadiums built for baseball.
Today's palatial football stadiums were still well in the future. In addition, televising football games remained new enough that the schedule had to indicate which away games would be televised. Everyone knew the home games could only be seen in person, so they did not have to spell that out.
Jumping ahead eight years to 1962, the UPI produced a promotional item on which companies could overprint their information and distribute it as their own. That was the case with the Davidson Transfer and Storage Company.
Opening the pages of the 50-page booklet revealed a host of information about college and pro football, but we'll focus on the information on page 3 provided by a UPI editor. In addition to a series of misogynistic messages about dames and stylish dolls sitting in the stands, he discusses how pro football made television coverage a core part of their strategy and the reluctance on the part of the colleges to do the same, a stance that did not change until forced to do so in the 1980s.
Also included are a few pages showing the results of the 1961 season. Jim Brown led the league in rushing, and Sonny Jurgensen led in passing, while New York and Green Bay won their NFL divisions, with the Packers dominating the championship with a 37-0 win.
The upstart AFL had ten teams but did not yet have one in Kansas City since the Texans had not relocated. Houston beat San Diego to take the junior league crown, while familiar names Billy Ran Cannon and George Blanda were league leaders in rushing and passing. The opposite page shows both players as among their leagues' stars.
Both leagues played fourteen-game seasons then, and there were no playoffs, only championship games, which meant the four-month calendar on page 48 covered the entire season. Neither the NFL nor AFL played in January, let alone the middle of February.
Yep, the NFL has come a long way, baby!
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