Some would argue that professional football became America's premier sport through a slow, painstaking evolution starting with the 1920 formation of a fourteen-team circuit that became the National Football League. The Year That Changed the Game contends that instead there was a Big Bang-an explosion on December 28, 1958, setting off subsequent aftershocks that in thirteen months transformed pro football from a fringe sport to a rocket ship flying across a nation's sports horizon. While the Baltimore Colts celebrated their dramatic 23-17 win over the New York Giants, courtesy of Alan Ameche's touchdown in overtime, no one could have predicted the upheaval to come. Within the next thirteen months, the Green Bay Packers would hire Vince Lombardi as head coach, starting a dynasty; Lamar Hunt and other businessmen would establish the competing AFL, leading the NFL to respond with expansion, the Super Bowl, and eventually unification; and Commissioner Bert Bell would die, bringing the legendary Pete Rozelle into office. Once pro football rounded the corner, there was no looking back.
The 1958 championship game and the following months marked the NFL's transition from a face in the crowd to leader of the parade. One year of change produced fifty years of success. The Year That Changed the Game gives this aftermath a closer look.
JONATHAN RAND is a longtime sports reporter, columnist, and author with a special interest in professional football and its history. His previous books include "Run It! And Let's Get the Hell Out of Here!" 300 Pounds of Attitude: The Funniest Stories and Craziest Characters the NFL Has Ever Seen, Fields of Honor: The Pat Tillman Story, The Gridiron's Greatest Quarterbacks, and The Gridiron's Greatest Linebackers. He has covered hundreds of NFL games, including twenty-two Super Bowls. Rand currently is a columnist for kcchiefs.com, the official website of the Kansas City Chiefs, and lives in Kansas City, Missouri.