On December 28, 1958, the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts met under the lights of Yankee Stadium for that seasons NFL Championship game. Football, growing in popularity amid Americas post-war economic boom, was still greatly overshadowed by the countrys favored pastime - baseball - but the 1958 championship proved to be the turning point for pro football. In The Best Game Ever, Mark Bowden delivers a brilliant narrative on the 1958 NFL Championship game, the story behind the key players, and the effect the contest had on the modern game of football and todays NFL.
Played on a freezing Sunday evening in front of 64,000 fans and millions of television viewers around the country, the championship would go down as the greatest in football history. On the field and roaming the sidelines were seventeen future Hall of Famers, including Colts stars Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti, and Giants greats Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and assistant coaches Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry. The championship was a battle of the leagues best offense - the Colts - versus its best defense - the Giants.
It squared the blue-collar Baltimore team, many of whom worked off-season jobs selling liquor or taking shifts at Bethlehem Steel, against the glamour boys of the Giants squad who often appeared in TV commercials and were seen around town at trendy spots like Toots Shors mingling with the likes of politicians and Broadway stars. An estimated forty-five million viewers - at that time the largest crowd to have ever watched a football game - tuned in to see what would become the first sudden-death contest in NFL history. The Colts led at halftime, 14-3, but a courageous goal-linestand by the Giants in the beginning of the third quarter fueled a second-half comeback.
The Giants took a three-point lead in the fourth quarter on a Frank Gifford touchdown. With two minutes left in regulation, Baltimore had possession deep in its own territory, and the ball in the hands of the still unproven quarterback Johnny Unitas. The Best Game Ever is a brilliant portrait of how a single game changed the history of American sports.
Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the championship, it is destined to be a sports classic.