Saturday, August 22, 2015

To Absent Friends - Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford (#16)

The news of the passing of Frank Gifford one week shy of his 85th birthday arrived while I was on vacation last week, so I was unable to write about it at the time, but the impact the guy had on football and broadcasting is such that I cannot let it pass without commenting on it.  

In its story on Gifford's death Sports Illustrated said it best.  When Gifford came to the NFL and the New York Giants in 1952, baseball was the national pastime, and as far as football was concerned, the college game was far and away the most popular, with the Sunday afternoon pro games almost an afterthought.  Then Frank Gifford of USC, with his football talent and movie star good looks arrived in New York, and the Giants took off.  They won the NFL title in 1956  - Gifford was the NFL MVP that year - and played in the title game, including the 1958 overtime game with the Colts ("The Greatest Game Ever Played"), four more times during Gifford's career.  By the time he retired from football, the Giants owned New York City, pro football had surpassed the college game, and the NFL took over as the sports king pin in American culture and has never looked back.  Frank Gifford played no small part in that metamorphosis.  He was elected to the Pro football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Gifford then went on to a career in broadcasting, most notably a twenty-plus year stint as lead broadcaster on Monday Night Football.

I am sure that in my much younger days, I saw Frank Gifford play football for the Giants on television, and perhaps even in person against the Steelers at Pitt Stadium, but I have to be honest and say that I have no solid memories of him as a player.  Most people alive today and under the age of 60 or so know him only as a broadcaster, and, sadly, most people under the age of forty probably know him only as the the subject of the funny stories his wife Kathy Lee Gifford would tell about him on her morning television shows, and I am guessing that Gifford himself had no problem with that.

RIP Frank Gifford.

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