38 years ago the Miami Dolphins bested the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in what remains the longest NFL game ever played. 82 minutes and 40 seconds. I know a lot about this game. I know the Dolphins scored a TD to tie the game with just over a minute left in regulation. I know that all suddenly looked lost for Miami when Ed Podolak, having the best game of his career, returned the ensuing kickoff back 78 yards. I know KC kicker (and future Hall-of-Famer) Jan Stenerud, in the midst of the worst game of his career, then honked the 31-yard field goal try to send the game into overtime. The kicking follies continued--each team missed a FG try in the first OT period; Nick Buoniconti blocked Stenerud's try while Garo Yepremian couldn't convert a 52-yarder for the Fins. So on to double overtime where Miami made the big play that led to the end of the endless game. From their own 35 the Dolphins called a trap play that sprung Larry Csonka for 29 yards. A few more runs, a few more yards, and then Yepremian came in to boot the game-winner that silenced the stunned Chiefs home crowd.
Like I said, I know a lot about this game. But I have no memory of it. I was a little kid at the time and maybe I watched it but if I did I certainly don�t remember. No, my interest in this game came from a book somebody once bought me for my birthday. Each chapter related the saga of how some NFL record was made. And you know what? It was riveting. Man, I wish I still had that book. I remember one chapter related how Bert Jones set the NFL record (since broken) for consecutive completions in a game. That chapter ended something like this: "Bert's father Dub Jones once scored 6 touchdowns in a game. But he only tied an NFL record. His son broke one". Oooh. Chills (haha). Another chapter had a very evocative title that's stayed with me, "The Day The Footballs Flew". That one was on the NFL's all-time highest scoring game, a 72-41 Redskins blowout of the Giants. Jurgensen vs. Tittle. Hard to believe that 113 point total has stood for over 40 years.
Anyway, the last chapter of the book was entitled "The Longest Day". I know now but didn't know then that the title came from Cornelius Ryan's famous book about D-Day (or from the movie based on the book). But it was a perfect title for the NFL's longest game and I must have read and reread that chapter dozens of times. Somehow it connected me to a now-legendary game that maybe I'll actually get to see one day. (When will the NFL open up its library already? I'll pay). The Miami Dolphins first postseason victory in franchise history.
It's a different world now. With cable and the internet there's just so much out there to see and hear and read about football. And you can get sick of it all pretty quickly. But back in the time of Miami's Christmas day double-overtime victory and for years thereafter if you wanted NFL entertainment outside of the games themselves, you actually had to take the time to sit down and read a book. I wish I still knew the name of the one that chronicled the NFL's Longest Day. And I really wish I knew who wrote the thing. But whoever you are nameless author of that NFL book that once meant so much to me, if you're out there somewhere, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.
And Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to any readers I have out there in the blogosphere. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read what I write, especially you sptrfn (I'll attempt to address your "What If" scenarios in a future post).