instant replay


Joined: 2008-08-13
Posts: 2
Posted: Wed, 2008-08-13 05:45


Page 35.JPG99.83 KB
Page 35.JPG99.83 KB
Page 1.JPG142.69 KB
Page 10.JPG156.22 KB
Page 7.JPG106.72 KB
Page 27.JPG112.41 KB
Page 24.JPG108.37 KB

Joined: 2008-08-13
Posts: 2
Posted: Wed, 2008-08-13 05:47

The most fascinating sports event I ever directed took place on December 31, 1967: The Ice Bowl.

It has been noted by reporters that I probably aired the first famous instant replay during the broadcast of the coldest game in NFL history, the 1967 NFL Championship, the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Instant Replay I’m referring to is Bart Starr's quarterback sneak over his guard Jerry Kramer for the winning touchdown.

These are my frozen memories of directing that New Year’s Eve game.

The official game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero with the wind chill of minus 48 degrees. Despite the frigid temperature, the game was a sellout with 50, 861 fans in attendance. I guess the game and the telecast were the worst and best all rolled into one. It certainly was one of the coldest of days, and it was one of the most dramatic games ever played in the NFL.

I was staying at the Northland, a hotel that the Packers recommended since they held a lot of their business meetings there. That Saturday night the temperature must have been about 30 degrees. Not bad. The weatherman on TV didn’t offer any kind of warning. Out the window, the sky was crystal clear.

The next morning the wake-up operator said something about the temperature being below zero. Well, okay, but when my car rental wouldn’t turn over, I knew there could be trouble ahead. Luckily, I hitched a ride with the crew, who had returned to the hotel for the heating blankets we put over the cameras and some sponges to stuff in the ‘field parabs’ to cut down the wind noise. It looked like it was going to be a tough day, but at least the best New York crew had been assigned to cover the game. Later, I learned that the doors at the Cowboy Hotel were frozen shut and some of the players had to kick them open. By that time, the temperature had dropped to eighteen below zero, and the wind was forty miles per hour.

When I arrived at Lambeau Field, there was a helicopter hovering over the stadium, blowing the snow off the seats. Looking up at the announcers booth, it wasn’t a very encouraging thought that they would be working in an open booth, battling the same weather as the players on the field.

When my crew came in with the electric blankets, Jack Buck and Ray Scott unfroze their smiles. I broke the bad news to them. “Those
six electric blankets are going to be wrapped around my six cameras to keep them warm enough to operate. Sorry.”

Over on the sidelines, it was slippery, and the wind was biting cold. There were blowers shooting warm air in the direction of the benches, but you had to be right next to them to feel the heat. I went over to talk to Jim Tunney, the alternate referee, who would be handling the down markers. He was wearing three pairs of gloves and was happy his job didn’t require the use of a whistle. The referee was Norm Schachter, and he was convinced his whistle would freeze. It eventually did, leaving Norman to holler at the players when a play was dead.

Along the sideline heaters, still photographers were keeping their cameras warm under their parkas, hoping their lenses wouldn’t crack.

I said hello to the father and son team of NFL Films Ed and Steve Sabol. Only half of their cameras were working, but they went on to record the game. And it’s a good thing they did since the videotape of the telecast was erased just like the first Super Bowl and the first Instant Replay. The only thing that survived was the post-game interview with Vince Lombardi and Tom Brookshier. But thanks to the Sabols and NFL Films, the game was reconstructed from the painstaking footage they had taken.

As I headed for the remote truck, I ran into Tex Schramm, my former boss who was now the general manager of the Cowboys. Tex told me that Commissioner Rozelle wasn’t going to postpone the game. There’d be no way to reschedule it for TV.

On the field the grounds keepers were rolling up the tarp, but underneath there was more bad news: the playing field was frozen. The condensation layer underneath had iced. The weather was sure strange. The day before, the turf was in perfect condition.

Chuck Lane, the PR director, was the one who had to tell Lombardi that his field was frozen, but Lombardi came out of the tunnel to check the field himself. He had paid $80,000 for electric coils to be laid six inches below the surface of the Lambeau turf.
But the radiant system wouldn’t work in the sub-zero weather. Lombardi looked pissed. Maybe people would think he was Machiavellian enough to let the field freeze so as to gain the advantage.

The players took the field for their warm-ups with most of them keeping their hands tucked inside their pants. This was a good time for a couple of security cops to escort me from the truck to the men’s room. The passageways were totally jammed with people trying to get warm, and I didn’t want to get stuck in the human flow.

Before we hit the air, the control door was locked so that the icy blasts would stop cutting through me. I checked in with my two sets of announcers for the game. The telecast was to start with the announcers linked to the Cowboys, Jack Buck and Tom Brookshier. The Packer announcers, Ray Scott and Frank Gifford, would handle the second half.

We went on the air at one p.m., and I opened with the fans in their seats almost obscured by their own breath condensation. Rows of clouded breath came from bundled-up people in hunting jackets and hooded wool coats, some in ski masks, others wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags. During the game their loud and boisterous cheering would strangely pierce the surreal cutaway shots of the crowd.

When the Cowboys won the toss, the joke in the press box was, “Dallas won the toss and elected to go home.” Up in the announce booth, Jack Buck set the tone by asking the audience to "Excuse me while I have a bite of my coffee."

In the first half, Green Bay scored twice with passes to Boyd Dowler, who I isolated from the end zone. The Green Bay quarterback, Bart Starr, wasn’t using gloves.

Lombardi allowed the linemen to wear them but not anyone handling the ball since the ball had expanded to a rounder form due to the cold. The quarterback needed to grip it as tightly as possible.
Starr had a fur muff piece in his uniform to keep his hands warm, but his fingers still suffered frostbite.

Buck and Brookshier had a way of making you feel as if you were eaves-dropping on two of your closest friends. When either one got excited, you knew you should, too.

And they did get excited as the game drew closer, with Dallas scoring on a fumble and then adding a field goal to cut the Packer lead to 14 to 10 at halftime. But there was no halftime show. The marching band couldn’t perform. Their instruments had frozen. So I had to stall, and it was hard to resist panning the tens of thousands of puffs coming out in the incredible haze of breath. I ended up in the area around Section 20, to look at the players' wives who seemed to be frozen stiff in their heavy fur coats.

I dissolved up to the booth to check in with our second-half announcers. In all major sports cities a broadcaster is regarded as the voice of that team. Ray Scott was known as the Voice of the Green Bay Packers. And he worked well with Frank Gifford’s low-key manner of analysis. There was no ‘Biff! Bam! Pow!’ approach to the game.

Before the second half got underway, I took some sideline shots of the shuddering players who had just returned from the locker room and were hopping up and down to keep warm. During the second half, the field conditions worsened, and the third quarter went scoreless. In the fourth quarter I figured that Dallas had to come out throwing. I had been isolating the receivers with my end-zone cameras. Long passing plays were common with AFL teams. Don Meredith, the Dallas quarterback, shrewdly called a halfback option from midfield, and Dan Reeves threw a 50-yard bomb to Lance Rentzel. The Cowboys took the lead 17 to 14.

I cut to Lombardi pacing along the sideline in his long winter coat and black fuzzy hat with muffs. I think it was too cold for him to look too angry. On the other side, the Dallas coach, Tom Landry, seemed almost motionless as if frozen in his long coat and fur cap. Strangely enough, back in 1956 I had shown both of these coaches on the same sideline when Landry was a defensive coach and Lombardi was an offensive coach for the New York Giants under head coach Allie Sherman.
The Pack marched down field, and the ball was now at the two-foot line. The next two running plays went nowhere. The running backs had no traction. Now the clock was down to 16 seconds left to play, and the Pack was still down by three.

Bart Starr called his last time out. I figured Starr wouldn’t be running the ball since they could run out the clock and lose the chance for Don Chandler to tie the game with a field goal.

Starr went over to the bench to consult with Lombardi. A couple of years later, when I was writing and directing a film that dealt with Starr being a sports legend, I asked him about that time-out conversation with his coach. He said Lombardi had asked if the right guard, Gerry Kramer, could get enough footing on the hard surface by the goal line. That’s part of the story. The other part is what Gerry Kramer had told me after the game. He said that back on that Thursday he was watching films, and he noticed that Jethro Pugh, Dallas’s huge defensive tackle, was staying high on short-yardage plays. Pugh was a mountain of a man at 6 foot 6, 260 pounds. He was so big he couldn’t get all the way down when he lined up, Kramer had passed his observation to Lombardi, and the coach put a ‘Brown 31 Wedge’ to be used against Pugh in the playbook the next day on that Friday.

On the sidelines, Starr suggested they run the ‘wedge,’ but rather handing the ball off to the fullback he thought they could run it in on a sneak. Lombardi nodded and said, “Then run it and let’s get the hell out of here.”

I panned the Cowboys' defensive linemen, digging at the ice with their cleats on the goal line. On the Packers’ side of scrimmage, Kramer had found a convenient divot for his right foot and dug in.

In television, the best shots sometimes happen by mistake. I had directed my cameraman in the south end zone, Herman Lang, to shoot Bart Starr walking up to the line of scrimmage then to ‘pan right’ and pick up the flanker, Boyd Dowler, before the ball was snapped. When Lang tried to pan right to cover the wide receiver, his camera locked because of the cold. He kept his composure and kept his camera focused tightly on Starr, who was facing him.

Starr took the snap. Kramer came off the snap so quick that he was probably offsides. He slammed into Jethro Pugh hard and, with the help of Ken Bowman, the center, Kramer opened up enough room for Starr to go over his back and fall into the end zone. Umpire Joe Connell signaled the touchdown.

With Herman’s angle from the end zone, I had a dream replay. And I reran it again and again. Gerry’s name kept getting repeated every time I reran the touchdown, and he became the best known lineman in America with the ‘Instant Replay’ to become the title of his best-selling book.

The stadium went crazy. I broke Tom Brookshire to make a beeline sprint to the winning locker room. The fans stormed the field. The goal posts came down, the pennants were ripped off, and helmets affixed to the fence were unbolted and even the Packers bench was stolen. I understand it was returned later and is now in the Canton Hall of Fame.

I had a camera preset in each locker room. During the game they worked the easels and flip-stands, feeding me title cards, commercial IDs, and players’ names. In those days the locker rooms were full of smoke. There were cigarettes burning all over the place, and the cameramen had to keep shooing away the smoke.

No sooner had Brookshire arrived at the Packer locker room than Lombardi booted him out, along with my cameraman and soundman.

They had to stay in the hallway until Lombardi was done talking to his players, who were eager to defrost. Lombardi had a powerful way. I was familiar with that type of tight-knit bureaucracy, having experienced it first-hand at West Point. In fact, I first laid eyes on Lombardi when Army played Villanova at Michie Stadium and he was an assistant under head football coach Earl Blaik. Shortly afterwards, 37 of those Army players were expelled for cheating, including Coach Blaik’s son, the quarterback. Fortunately, they had Lombardi to help turn the Army team back to the glory days.

In 1959 he took over the winless Packers and turned them into a dynasty.

In those early days, there were major restrictions placed on the media by the coaches. Today’s sport reporting is the way it should be, with athletes and coaches being interviewed before, during and after the game. It certainly helps make the presentation more engaging for the fans.

But back then, in ’67, things were different. A few weeks earlier, Lombardi had booted another one of our announcers, Jack Whitaker, out of his locker room.

Eventually, Brookshier and the crew were allowed back in. I readied the Kramer block on tape as Brookshier shouldered up to Lombardi for a two shot. Brookshier mentioned that we’d be showing the block, and Lombardi frowned, saying he wasn’t sure he could see the monitor.
But when he saw the play executed perfectly, he clapped, smiled, and cried out, “Atta Boy, Jerry!”

The telecast provided Kramer with a tidal wave of endorsements and business opportunities. The following week Jerry called me and asked if I’d mind if he used Instant Replay for his book title. I told him I had no rights to the title and wished him the best. His book sale quadrupled expectations, and Jerry ended it with: “Thank God for the Instant Replay.”