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Sports Then and Now



Remembering the NFL on December 7, 1941 70

Posted on December 06, 2011 by Dean Hybl

The 1941 Chicago Bears defeated the Chicago Cardinals 34-24 on December 7, 1941 and then went on to win the NFL Championship. Many members of the Bears went on to serve in the military during World War II.

In remembrance of the 70th anniversary of “A day that will live in infamy”, we look back at the final day of the 1941 National Football League regular season and how the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor nearly half a world away forever changed the lives of many of the players who were on the field that afternoon.

In 1941 the National Football League was not quite the national phenomenon it is today. On the final Sunday of the NFL season, December 7, 1941, there were only three games on tap and the games were not preceded by hours of pre-game shows and wall-to-wall television coverage.

Instead, they were available only to those fortunate enough to have a ticket for the games in Chicago, New York or Washington or for those listening to one of the broadcasts on radio.

Of the three games, only one, the city rivalry between the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals, had implications on the upcoming post season. The other two games, the New York Giants (who had already clinched a spot in the league championship game) against the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Eagles facing the Washington Redskins, were about pride and finishing the season on a positive note.

Word of the attacks started to spread while all three games were in action and the public address announcers at the Polo Grounds in New York and Comiskey Park in Chicago interrupted the game to tell all servicemen to report to their units. At Griffith Stadium in Washington the announcer paged high-ranking government and military personnel at the game, but did not mention the attack.

Nearly 1,000 past, current or future NFL players and personnel served in the U.S. Military during World War II (check out the full list). Through their unique stories we learn the true meaning of personal sacrifice as many either never returned to the NFL or missed what would have been the prime of their career while serving their country.

While the story of every American veteran is unique and important, a capsule of the shared sacrifice and implications of World War II can be learned by looking at 10 men who were part of the pivotal Bears-Cardinals game on December 7, 1941. Many of them would be part of very different (and much more important) battles just months later. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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