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Sports Then and Now



NFL Preseason Has Different Focus Than In Past Eras 0

Posted on August 26, 2016 by Dean Hybl
The NFL Preseason used to include an exhibition game between the NFL Champion and a team of NFL rookies.

The NFL Preseason used to include an exhibition game between the NFL Champion and a team of NFL rookies.

While we could fill pages with what is different about the NFL today compared to 40 years ago, during this time of the year one noticeable difference is how preseason games are handled by the teams and viewed by fans and the media.

Exhibition games have been part of football history since the very beginning of the NFL. For many years, some of the NFL teams would play exhibition games against non-league teams. From the 1930s through the mid-1970s, the NL Champion played an annual exhibition game against a team of college all-stars who were beginning their rookie season.

Preseason exhibition games amongst league teams became more standard in the 1950s and have continued in similar fashion for the last 60+ years.

Because low player salaries meant that many players had offseason jobs, for many years the preseason schedule was seen as crucial to helping players get in shape and prepare for the upcoming season.

It was not uncommon for starters to play a majority of the time during preseason and often how a team performed during the preseason was seen as a precursor towards whether they would be successful in the regular season.

In some cases, the preseason also served as an opportunity for teams to exact revenge for previous results.

After the Kansas City Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers and Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi commented that the Chiefs would be an average team in the NFL, Chiefs coach Hank Stram used the next preseason as an opportunity to exact some frustration and send a message to the NFL.

Because the NFL-AFL merger called for exhibition games between the two leagues, the Chiefs treated their 1967 exhibition game against the Chicago Bears like an act of war. The Chiefs pummeled the Bears 66-24 to let the NFL know that the AFL was filled with more than just second tier teams. Read the rest of this entry →

77 Years Ago Today: Chicago College All-Star Game Begins 40 Year Run 4

Posted on August 31, 2011 by Dean Hybl

The first Chicago College All-Star Game was played on August 31, 1934.

It was 77 years ago today that nearly 80,000 people packed Soldier Field for the first game of what would become a popular forty year series of football games pitting the best of the recent college graduates against the defending NFL Champions.

The brainchild of Chicago Tribune Sports Editor Arch Ward, the first game was played on August 31, 1934 and though the game ended in a 0-0 tie, it set the stage for an annual exhibition that eventually drew more than 100,000 fans.

Many of the greatest players in college and NFL history were part of the series over the years and the game wasn’t always a walk-in-the-park for the NFL Champions against the young NFL rookies. In fact, two of the first three games in the series ended in a tie and in 1937 Sammy Baugh led the College All-Stars to their first victory in the series.

The game was played annually through 1976 when declining crowds and the reluctance of coaches to lose their star rookies for the beginning of training camp led to the end of the series.

However, what still remains is a legacy of classic games and memories of a time when NFL exhibition games did have value and meaning and newcomers could make an immediate impression against the best stars in the league.

For more memories from the Chicago College All-Star Games, check out this in depth article that was originally written for Sports Then and Now in 2009.

Chicago College All-Star Game: An NFL Exhibition That Meant Something 9

Posted on August 08, 2010 by Dean Hybl
From the initial game in 1934 through 1976, the annual Chicago College All-Star Game was a fan favorite and provided a glimpse into the new talent of NFL stars.

From the initial game in 1934 through 1976, the annual Chicago College All-Star Game was a fan favorite and provided a glimpse into the new talent of NFL stars.

Imagine a crowd of 105,840 people turning out to watch an NFL preseason game. Probably wouldn’t happen today unless it included a dance-off between Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.  However, for more than 40 years the Annual Chicago College All-Star Game was a fan favorite while helping establish the NFL as a premier sports league.

In the 1930s, the NFL was still a fledgling league looking for a foothold in a sports world where baseball and boxing were the kings. In fact, professional football players were often seen as mercenaries while the college players were better known and more popular across the country.

A year after organizing the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Comiskey Park, Arch Ward, the sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, cultivated the idea of hosting an annual game between the defending NFL Champions and the best of the recently graduated college football stars.

Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering the Legacy of the Chicago College All-Star Game 12

Posted on August 11, 2009 by Dean Hybl
From the initial game in 1934 through 1976, the annual Chicago College All-Star Game was a fan favorite and provided a glimpse into the new talent of NFL stars.

From the initial game in 1934 through 1976, the annual Chicago College All-Star Game was a fan favorite and provided a glimpse into the new talent of NFL stars.

Imagine a crowd of 105,840 people turning out to watch an NFL preseason game. Probably wouldn’t happen today unless it included a cage match between Michael Vick and Adam “Pacman” Jones. However, for more than 40 years the Annual Chicago College All-Star Game was a fan favorite while helping establish the NFL as a premier sports league.

In the 1930s, the NFL was still a fledgling league looking for a foothold in a sports world where baseball and boxing were the kings.  In fact, professional football players were often seen as mercenaries while the college players were better known and more popular across the country.

A year after organizing the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Comiskey Park, Arch Ward, the sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, cultivated the idea of hosting an annual game between the defending NFL Champions and the best of the recently graduated college football stars.

Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

      Read more »

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