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Saccomano: Big anniversary for football


ENGLEWOOD, Colo.- **The National Football League and DirecTV have announced an eight-year renewal of the contract by which DirecTV provides NFL Sunday Ticket, allowing subscribers to watch all NFL out-of-market games.

Media reports have said that the latest pact is valued at 1.5 billion dollars annually for the NFL, or 20 billion over the eight years of the new contract.

This is good news for America's football fans, who have indicated in every Harris and Gallup poll conducted since the mid-1960's that pro football is the most popular sport in the country.

It is, of course, common knowledge that nothing has married the NFL to the public like television.

Thus, it seems very fitting to me that the announcement of this new television contract came in the same week, and just one day after, the anniversary of the very first football game ever shown on television.

Come with me back to yesteryear for a few moments, because it is always great to learn something new.

It was 1939, and the biggest rage at the World's Fair that year was "television," or "TV' as some were calling it.

One of the college football powerhouses that year was Fordham, where Vince Lombardi eventually went and starred as one of the famous Seven Blocks of Granite on the Rams' football team.

Fordham was one of the favorites for the national title and was coached by one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, Jim Crowley.

The point is, Fordham was big and a New York school so it seemed like the natural choice when someone suggested live TV for a college football game.

Thus it came to be that on Sept. 30, 1939, there was a live telecast of the Fordham versus Waynesburg game.

It was on TV, but it was not exactly like today.

The entire viewing audience was in New York City and its immediate environs, and there were just 200 television sets in the entire city at that time.

The total viewing audience was about 500 people for the nation's first live televised game.

It was televised on W2XBS, which later became the infinitely better known WNBC-TV in New York.

Who called the action? None other than Bill Stern, the legendary announcer perpetually filled with bluster about Bill himself, squeezing some game action in here and there.

But he was a legend from back in the day, a broadcasting pioneer.

Even though the audience was minuscule, they still had a pregame show. The very first television pregame show, and I mean the VERY first pregame show, was hosted by a young broadcaster named Mel Allen, who went on to become a legend as the voice of the New York Yankees for many years.

It was considered a novelty, or even less than that.

Many players were asking, literally, "What is TV?"

Players and coaches had to be reminded time after time not to trip over the huge cables that lined areas near the playing field.

And now, we are here, and none of us has ever heard any single person utter the phrase, "What is TV?'

But there was a first for everything, and we can all tip a hat to those pioneers who paved the foundation for how we watch football today.

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