Archaeologists dig in the ground and uncover lost civilizations. I watch old football games on YouTube, and count the beer commercials.
A recent Saturday afternoon in front of Super Bowl III—God help me, this is the second time I've seen it in its entirety!—revealed a male-dominated 1969 world of tires, shaving cream, deodorant and cigarettes. And Schlitz: "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer."
The world was impossibly square in the year of my birth, and utterly deserving of the youth revolt that was taking place. "The name of the game is defense," announcer Curt Gowdy declared sternly during the pregame show, and the pregame festivities matched his doctrinaire conservatism.
In 1969, the pregame show was a marching band number called "Mr. Football." Three astronauts stood at midfield and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, before a Washington National Symphony musician played the national anthem on his trumpet. The halftime show was a marching-band medley paean to patriotism, including such numbers as "Johnny Comes Marching Home," "This Land Is Your Land" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." These folks did not see Lady Gaga or Beyonce coming.
The announcers were ebullient in support of the commercial aspects of the game, announcing the sponsors almost gleefully. "Miami just had the best three days in rental car history that it's ever had!" Gowdy said before the game.
Perhaps the only aspect of the presentation that was actually better than today, was the understated play-by-play, the lack of hyping—before, during and after one of the most remembered games in the history of pro football. It was well into the fourth quarter and the Jets were leading the overwhelmingly favored Colts 16-0 when Gowdy finally acknowledged, "We may be seeing one of sports' greatest upsets in history."
You couldn't tell by the body language of the players on either team that a miracle was taking place for one team and a tragedy was unfolding for the other.
The players played. The fans cheered. The announcers announced. And honestly, that trumpet sounded great.
Boy the way Glenn Miller played …