Continental Football League (1965-1969)

Sports Graveyard: Indianapolis Capitols

Indianapolis Capitols pinI ran across this interesting pin while looking for old sports memorabilia, and was immediately intrigued. The only football team I ever thought called Indianapolis home is the Colts.

So who were the Indianapolis Caps?

Turns out the Caps — actually the Indianapolis Capitols — were a member of the short-lived Continental Football League. The CFL began play in 1965, five seasons after the American Football League, and folded after the 1969 season. The Caps joined the league in 1966 as the Montreal Beavers before moving to Indiana two years later.

In their first year in Indianapolis, the Caps won the Central Division with an 8-4 record. They repeated that record in the league’s final season, but managed to also win the last-ever CFL championship by beating the San Antonio Toros.

Perhaps the biggest splash the franchise ever made took place off the field, when it offered star USC running back O.J. Simpson a $400,000 contract in 1969 to play for them. Simpson, of course, opted to sign with the Buffalo Bills of the AFL instead.

The Caps, along with the CFL’s Jersey Jays, Norfolk (VA) Neptunes, and Orlando Panthers, defected to join the minor league Atlantic Coast Football League (ACFL) for the 1970 season. The CFL folded without playing another game, while the Caps ceased football operations after the 1970 ACFL season.

Albert Richard All American Football Map, by F.E. Cheesman, 1941.

Book Report — Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America’s Game

The last few years have been conflicting ones for football fans. While NFL devotees wrestle with their collective conscience regarding the impact of football on it’s participants’ long-term health, the sport has arguably never been more popular (or certainly more financially successful).

While not ignoring the troubling revelations coming out almost daily on the medical front, the rich history of football in the United States is still worthy of celebration.

Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America's Game

It is in the spirit of this celebration that we now have the fantastic visually striking Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America’s Game (Abrams Books 2013). The book was written by Library of Congress author Susan Reyburn, and it is this association that is Football Nation‘s greatest strength. So let’s talk about that.

As much as I love hunting and viewing great photographs on the internet — particularly at the Library of Congress — there is simply no substitute for looking at a beautiful image in the context of the printed page. And it is in this area that Football Nation is a true winner. Nearly every page of this book is decorated with classic photographs, illustrations, and news articles documenting the history of football in this country. Reyburn’s direct access to the LoC’s staggering collection is at the heart of the book, and it is what makes almost every page pop.

In fact, if all you wanted was an excellent book to own or give as a gift to someone who loves looking at football photos, this would already be an excellent choice. But this is sold as a history of the sport, so let’s talk about how it does on that front.

There is one aspect to the history presented here that I find a little troubling, and that’s Reyburn’s framing of the history of the sport as extending back to the Colonial era. While she does present multiple references to “football” in documentation from the 17th century, I doubt very much that it resembled what we know as football in any but the most rudimentary fashion.

I appreciate the attempt to provide a differing view on the accepted wisdom that American football really developed from rugby in the mid-19th century, but I think she reaches too far. Still, that portion of the narrative takes up a tiny portion of Football Nation and it does provide for some interesting stories, so it’s not a huge mark against the book.

By and large, Reyburn does as thorough and engaging a job as can reasonably be expected of documenting the sport’s rich history over the course of 256 pages. She gives good coverage to modern football’s roots, the pro and college games, as well as some of the most influential figures in the sport’s history — Walter Camp, Red Grange, Vince Lombardi, Pete Rozelle, and Joe Namath among them. It also covers the game’s major innovations and important milestones — such as the first-ever college football game in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton, the Flying Wedge, the all-time great college rivalries, tailgating, and even the super-hot issue of Native American nicknames.

In short, Football Nation  is a worthy entry in the field of football tomes, and is an excellent addition the library of both any devoted football fan or historian, as well as a great primer for fans looking to fill gaps in their knowledge. It’s on sale now and retails for $30. If you purchase from Amazon using this link, it will help support this site.

Joe Namath Wearing a 1964 New York Jets Helmet

Here’s Joe Namath Wearing a 1964 New York Jets Helmet

As originally seen on UniWatch, here’s a very cool photo of Joe Namath in a New York Jets uniform. It’s notable for a few reasons, which I’ll get into shortly.

Joe Namath Wearing a 1964 New York Jets Helmet

What makes this interesting is that Broadway Joe is wearing a helmet with an altered version the mostly white Jets logo that was used for the 1964 season only, but didn’t play his first game for New York until 1965. By that time the team had adopted a helmet logo that was essentially the same but with the colors reversed. Here’s a replica of that version:

New York Jets helmet, 1965

And here’s the ’64 version as well:

New York Jets helmet, 1964

So based on the Namath pic, it looks like the helmet he wore for that shoot is a prototype of some sort. Perhaps the team had already decided to move in a new direction for ’65? Makes sense, considering what a landmark signing Namath was. Or perhaps all they had was a blank white helmet and had to improvise a logo?

The world may never know. Either way, it’s a unique piece of history for fans of Namath, the Jets, or the AFL.

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Jacksonville Jaguars primary logo (2013 - ?)

Here’s the New Jacksonville Jaguars Logo

Well, I guess I’ll have to do some updating of my AFC South NFL logo ranking before the 2013 season gets underway. That’s because the Jacksonville Jaguars today unveiled their first new primary logo since the team joined the league in 1995. Here it is:

Jacksonville Jaguars primary logo (2013 - ?)


For comparison, here’s the previous version:

Jacksonville Jaguars logo (1995 - 2013)

Jacksonville Jaguars logo (1995 – 2013)

On the whole, this is a step in the right direction. Obviously this new jaguar is more realistic, and looks like an actual cat rather than a conglomeration of geometric shapes assembled to resemble one. The color scheme of the fur is improved, but then again, there’s that green tongue. It’s like the big cat had a watermelon lollipop before the modeling session.

As overall logos go, this is pretty good. As Jaguars logos go, it’s a step up for certain. Even better is the team’s new alternate shield logo:

Jacksonville Jaguars alternate logo (2013 - present)

Now that’s pretty cool. Well played, Jaguars, well played. You too, Shad Khan.

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Life Magazine's NFL 1960

Football Friday: Life Magazine’s Look at the NFL of 1960

Life Magazine's NFL 1960

This is one of the cooler sports photo galleries I’ve put together for you. This is a combination of published and unpublished images for a Life magazine article on the NFL and the ascent of pro football as a spectator sport. It ran in their December 5, 1960 issue and was called “Fans Go Ga-Ga Over Pro Football.”

The pictures in this gallery were taken by George Silk during the 1960 NFL season and seem to come from X main sources — four New York Giants home games (against the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Redskins), a Giants film session, and a game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Colts (which I believe to be a home game for the Colts).

Included here is a photo of Eagles linebacker creaming the Giants’ Frank Gifford. I don’t think it’s the same hit as the one that produced that iconic photo, but it’s almost certainly the same game.

But before we get into the gallery, let’s look at the original Life cover — featuring Steve Myhra of the Baltimore Colts kicking off against the Chicago Bears — as well as an unpublished black & white version of the same photo.

Life Magazine (NFL 1960) cover - December 5, 1960

Steve Myhra (#65) kicks off for the Baltimore Colts in 1960

OK, here we go with the gallery. Just for reference, any photo with the Life watermark is an unpublished version of the photo, while the non-watermarked ones are from the original article.

Read More

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"Football Kick" by Harold E. Edgerton, 1938

Vintage Photo Wednesday: A Pair of Football Kicks

Via the Smithsonian American Art Museum, here’s a pair of outstanding vintage stop-motion photographs by Harold E. Edgerton. They both capture the moment when a player kicks a football on a tee, and I love the effect of the feet pushing in the football.

Here’s a black and white from 1934:

"Football Kick" by Harold E. Edgerton, 1934

“Football Kick” by Harold E. Edgerton, 1934

And a nifty color one from 1938. I love the shiny gold pants almost as much as the shot of the football.

"Football Kick" by Harold E. Edgerton, 1938

“Football Kick” by Harold E. Edgerton, 1938

Tom Brady and Eli Manning

Super Bowl XLVI — This Fan Space For Rent

I can’t believe I’m saying this as a football fan of three decades, but I’ve seriously given thought to not watching the Super Bowl this year. Not because I don’t think it will be a good game, and certainly not because it lacks for good story lines. It’s just that I’m not the kind of football fan who will watch a game just because it’s football.

I need some kind of rooting interest — some reason to pull for one team over the other, even if it’s a silly one. But with Super Bowl XLVI, I am struggling to think of one so far. Unlike the last time the Patriots and Giants faced each other, in Super Bowl XLII. It was easy to root for New York then. I, like 99% of decent-minded sports fans, wanted desperately for a season’s worth of Boston-centric hubris and obnoxiousness to come crashing down on the perfect Patriots’ heads. So when Eli Manning found David Tyree on that improbable third-and-five play in the final period, and later hit Plaxico Burress for the winning TD, all felt right with the universe.

Tom Brady and Eli Manning

Is there a way Super Bowl XLVI can end in a tie?

But I will get no such sense of satisfaction if the Giants win this time. Not because the Patriots are suddenly the feel-good story of the year. No, I still loathe them. But taking a longer view of the league, I have to marvel at their consistency. Over the last decade they’ve posted fewer than 10 wins just once, and they’ve made the playoffs for all but two seasons. In a league where back-to-back winning seasons is a dream for some fans (myself included), that’s outstanding.

And let’s face it, will a fourth Super Bowl title really make New England fans even more entitled and annoying? I doubt it.

On the other hand, I don’t really have any specific reason for not rooting for the Giants. I’m a big Tom Coughlin fan, and Eli Manning seems like a good dude and he’s definitely a clutch quarterback. It’s just living in the greater New York area most of my life, enough already. I’m not even going to tune into the local sports talk radio station, WFAN, for the next few weeks (even though they have probably already started to talk about baseball).

The pretentious football purist in me feels like the Giants caught a lot more breaks this year than the Patriots. They stumbled their way through most of the regular season, and benefited from a weak division. And let’s not forget how Dallas once again shit the bed in December, as they seem to always do. I know that it’s the playoffs that count, and New York is certainly the hotter team, but I’m of the belief that consistency throughout an entire year should be rewarded in some way.

GAH, it’s all so confusing! Well I’m sure that the understated media approach to the Super Bowl this year will help me decide who to root for. Or I’ll just go with Plan B and watch some tapes of old Super Bowls from the ’70s I have stored in the basement. I just need to find a VCR.

Miscellaneous Debris — My AFL project is past the halfway mark! My collection of programs and media guides from the 1966 season is up. And a new retro football card is coming this Friday, so mark your calendars!

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Get over yourselves, already

Cork it, 1972 Dolphins

This post originally ran in November 2005, when the Indianapolis Colts looked poised to unseat the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated team in the modern NFL era. They ultimately failed, and so this year the 9-0 Green Bay Packers are next in line for a shot at sports immortality. And wouldn’t you know it, the ’72 Dolphins just can’t shut the hell up. Same crap, different year.

1972 Miami Dolphins

Get over yourselves, already.

I’d like to take a moment to delve into the world of sports. Last night, the Indianapolis Colts beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to go to 11-0 this season. And just like all the other times a team has gone undefeated this deep into the season, we have to watch the graying, braying remnants of the 1972 Dolphins (who finished 17-0) celebrate whenever the last undefeated team loses.

And I, for one, have had enough. I am hereby declaring myself a Colts fan for the rest of the 2005 season. Or at least for as long as they stay undefeated.

There are probably a number of reasons Colts fans can come up with why this year’s team deserves to finish with an unblemished record, but I only care about one — I want to see the likes of Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and Bob Griese cry in their empty champagne glasses.

Seriously, how pathetic is it that a group of professional athletes can take so much glee when another team loses the chance to achieve something as difficult as going undefeated for an entire NFL season? And let’s be honest, if there were ever a more overrated team than the ’72 Dolphins, I’m having a hard time thinking of one.

Go Peyton! Tony Little sez "You can doooo it!"Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. What the stats tell us is, well, telling.

  • Over 14 regular season games, the ‘Fins beat two — count ’em, two teams with winning records.
  • The combined record of their regular-season foes was 51-86-3.
  • The second-place team in the AFC East (the New York Jets) finished 7-7 in 1972. Some real stiff competition there.

If they had lost just once during the regular season, the ’72 Miami Dolphins would still rightly be remembered as a very good team that won the game’s ultimate prize. Nothing more, nothing less. But because they somehow managed to win them all (no small feat, admittedly), they are lionized as one of the league’s legendary teams. And the fact is they simply aren’t.

Now, the 2005 Colts probably aren’t the best team ever, but they’re the best team this year. And if they can win eight more times, I will be a very happy sports fan. Even if it means I have to watch a silver-haired Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison sipping champagne in 2035.

Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer — The next Jim Plunkett or Jeff George?

Carson PalmerIt’s been a day since the Raiders landed Carson Palmer in a trade with the Bengals, and I’m still not sure what to think (hot dog jokes aside). While I can’t get on board yet with the idea that Oakland will ride Palmer to the AFC title, I also can’t agree with the pundits and fans who instantly declared this a swindle on Cincy’s part.

In terms of the trade terms — it will be a lot easier to tell if a first-round draft pick next year and a first or second rounder in 2013 is too steep a price to pay for a QB many think is past his prime. After all, if Palmer can lead the Raiders into the AFC championship, won’t that be worth the loss of two picks that may or may not work out anyway?

I have to say that what makes me most uneasy is that I remember watching post-knee injury Palmer struggle mightily in Cincinnati. He looked like a shell of his former self, and that is the quarterback I fear might be donning the #3 silver and black jersey now. Then again, I’ve read some accounts by supposedly knowledgeable Bengals fans who blame their team’s woes on a coaching staff hell-bent on catering to divas like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. They claim that Palmer was essentially forced to deal with his receivers missing meetings and running their own routes. Watching Chad completely fail with a much more disciplined New England team this season makes me wonder if there isn’t some truth in those claims.

Jim PlunkettAny Raider fan who is extremely pumped about this trade needs to ask themselves — if the Broncos or Chiefs had been the ones to make this move, would you be the first in line to mock them for bringing in a washed-up QB? Because if the answer is “yes,” how can you claim that we’re watching the beginning of Jim Plunkett, Part 2?

Now about this “retirement” business. You and I both know that this was nothing more than a contract ploy by Palmer. This isn’t Brett Favre coming back in for one more shot at glory; I believe that Palmer really wanted to keep playing football and that he really didn’t want to do it in Cincinnati anymore.

What made this situation somewhat different is that Mike Brown was just as unwilling to blink as Palmer was. Usually in a scenario like that you’d see an owner or GM grudgingly give in and acceded to an unhappy player’s demands, or the player would think better of it and report to camp. That simply didn’t happen here. Either way, the idea that Palmer had to be convinced to “unretire” is silly.

Regardless of how the Palmer Era turns out, this was a bold move by a team that is desperate to make a statement in the post-Al Davis era. Hue Jackson obviously believes his team is on a roll and stands to lose their momentum with Kyle Boller under center. That much I agree with. While Jason Campbell was no world-beater, he was an efficient leader who made very few bonehead mistakes. If Palmer can even do that much, a winning season is well within Oakland’s reach — not to mention a chance to win their first AFC West crown since 2002. I’d be down with that, draft picks be damned.