Before he was a hero in Washington for beating the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, before he was a starter for the Cleveland Browns and even before he led the Texas Longhorns to the national championship game, Colt McCoy was a pitchman for his uncle's pharmacy.

Now that McCoy has led the Redskins to a pair of improbable victories, an old video has turned up on Larry Brown Sports of McCoy acting as spokesman for his uncle's pharmacy in Texas.

McCoy is 17 in this 2003 video and a star at Jim Ned High School in Tuscola, Texas.

Awkward, yes, but remember that McCoy is still a higher schooler here. Pros like Dustin Pedroia and Joe Flacco have starred in spots that are much worse than this one.

While Washington coaches insist Robert Griffin III will be the starting quarterback once he's healthy, McCoy's solid performance in his home state on Monday night (he was 25-for-30 for 299 yards and he ran for a score) should buy him some time. Washington takes on the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

If McCoy keeps up the strong play, he should earn himself enough publicity to star in another commercial. And it's safe to say the next one will be better than his first.

The fate of facilities built to host the Olympics are often anticlimactic: Many endure through existences where they are underused or, worse, ignored. All around the world, once-impressive constructions now stand as derelict monuments to what happens when the Olympic flame moves on.

But few of those venues have had the tumultuous existence experienced in Sarajevo. Just a few years after serving as host of the 1984 Winter Games, Sarajevo and the rest of Bosnia were plunged into a war that shelled the landscape, including these Olympic structures.

Thirty years later, recent gold-medal skier Joss Christensen visited Sarajevo and explored the abandoned sites that once put the world's greatest athletes on display. And, of course, Christensen does this as only he can -- on skis.

It's a mesmerizing video by Teton Gravity Research, originally published by The New York Times. Check out the video below.

At 5:04 p.m., on Oct. 17, 1989, Al Michaels and Tim McCarver were sizing up Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and A's at Candlestick Park. The game was supposed to start in about 30 minutes. It wouldn't be played for another 10 days as the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake rumbled through the Bay Area. After the broadcast went dead for about 20 seconds, Michaels returned, with only audio initially, and said, "Well, folks. That's the greatest open in the history of television -- bar none!" He earned an Emmy nomination in news for his subsequent coverage. Twenty-five years later, the moment is still vidid for Michaels:

As Michigan's Brady Hoke Experiment continues its jaw-dropping self-combustion, high-profile names keep getting tossed around as coaches with at least a theoretical interest in the head coaching job.

But Jon Gruden is the first one to state that interest for himself -- at least according to Jon Gruden, circa 1984.

According to a 1984 media guide for the University of Dayton football team, then-junior quarterback Jon Gruden's ultimate dream job -- nay, his expectation -- was to become the head football coach at the University of Michigan:

(Fun fact: Gruden spent the 1984 season backing up Phil Nussman, who -- unless there is another man of the same name still living in the Dayton area -- works in management for Workflow One, a document management company.)

Gruden, who hasn't been a head coach since 2008, has been attached to head coach openings almost every offseason since he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's presumed Gruden is simply waiting for the best opportunity, so the speculation of him having interest in the Michigan job isn't completely without merit.

Gruden, who coached Tampa Bay to a blowout win in Super Bowl XXXVII, is hardly the only prominent figure who would listen to a Michigan sales pitch. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, himself a Michigan grad, has been rumored as a target for the Wolverines. With some sources reporting that Harbaugh has already committed to leaving the 49ers after this season, Michigan could be a great opportunity.

And while Michigan's athletic director hasn't formally dropped the axe on Hoke, only a blistering finish to the season could give him a shot at sticking around. The Wolverines are 2-4 so far this season, including 0-2 in the Big Ten. In four years, Hoke's teams have seen their winning percentage drop every season.

Gruden can deny and give non-answers all he wants, but we now know the truth: Somewhere inside that man is a young boy with big dreams of coaching in Ann Arbor.

Many fans know Ray Lucas for his seven seasons in the NFL with the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots. But in his new book, Under Pressure: How Playing Football Almost Cost Me Everything And Why I'd Do It All Again, Lucas and David Seigerman give an uncensored look into the true culture of the NFL, and how the unending desire to stay on the field and in the league can lead to painkiller abuse and depression -- and end with fatal results. After he retired from the NFL in 2003, Lucas struggled with depression and painkiller addiction. He considered suicide, especially after the league and the union NFL and the Players Association said they couldn't help him. He considered painkillers since he was addicted to them: "I had enough of them around. When you take 1,400 pills a month, there was always a potentially lethal dose handy." In this excerpt, Lucas recounts how he plotted a suicide attempt.

One hundred million vehicles drive across the George Washington Bridge every year. I took it every time I drove home after practicing at the Jets facility on Long Island. I'd take the Cross Island Parkway to the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Cross Bronx Expressway to the GW, the busiest bridge in the world.

I was well acquainted with the George Washington Bridge, but I still felt I probably needed to drive it one more time. I needed to see it with a new set of eyes, not as a commuter looking to get home to his family, but as a man on a very different mission. I needed to find the best place along its mile-long span to drive my truck off the road and into the Hudson River 200 feet below.

That was the basic plan. I just needed to iron out the specifics.

I got in my truck and drove to the bridge, as clear and coherent as I had been in months. I was living in the moment, my endorphins flowing. This was going to work out all right after all.

I crossed over into Manhattan, scanning the possibilities provided by the upper level. All of a sudden, I was at the line of scrimmage, looking over the defense for a weakness one last time. I took note of the little guardrail that separated the pedestrian walkway from the four lanes of eastbound traffic.

This could make things a little tough.

So, I looped around and drove back the other way, heading west to Fort Lee. There's no westbound toll on the George Washington Bridge. Things were looking up already.

The westbound side didn't appear to have any more favorable options. It looked challenging, but not impossible.

Go lower. Go lower.

Good idea. I needed to check the lower level. Once I got back into Jersey, I turned around and did another loop of the bridge. I was really getting into this fact-finding expedition. I was laughing to myself and smiling. I even started to break into a little sweat.

But the lower level was no good -- steel support beams in an unbroken pattern of upright triangles all the way across. I couldn't have blasted my truck through those. I checked the lower level on the way back, too, just to be sure. Same deal.

Guess it's going to have to be the upper level.

Guess so. But I needed to do one more lap, just to make sure. I wound up making three consecutive round trips across the George Washington Bridge in a red truck that day, and no one noticed. You would've thought someone would have found this slightly suspicious and pulled my ass over. No one gets so lost that they do three laps around the GW.

But no one stopped me. Must have been my lucky day.

After exiting the upper level for the third and final time, I headed home to Harrison.

I'd planned my work. Soon, it'd be time to work my plan.

I would go on Sunday morning, after Cecy and our three girls left for church. I would drive to the GW, take the upper level approach, get through the tolls and the merge from 12 lanes down to four, pick a lane, and floor it. I knew I would need to pick up a high rate of speed, so that when I made my hard right, probably just beyond the halfway point, I'd have enough momentum to clear the guardrail, the pedestrian lane, and, finally, the outer guardrail. I figured my truck had the weight to carry me up and over, if I was going fast enough. As long as I didn't get caught up by one of the 592 steel suspender ropes that hold the bridge in place, I'd break through.

I figured somebody would see me go over. They'd see a red truck with Jersey tags, maybe even catch a few numbers off my license plate. Someone would be able to figure out who it was and get the news to my family.

I like it. Let's go.


(Postscript: Lucas eventually got help from Dr. William Focazio of Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments in New Jersey. He went to rehab. He had neck surgery to alleviate the pain. Now Lucas is a broadcaster, covering the Jets for SNY, a regional cable channel, and providing radio commentary at Rutgers, his alma mater.)

-- Excerpted by permission from Under Pressure: How Playing Football Almost Cost Me Everything And Why I'd Do It All Again by Ray Lucas with David Seigerman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Ray Lucas with David Seigerman. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Follow Ray Lucas on Twitter @RayLucas06. Follow David Seigerman on @dseigs18.

Byron Scott grew up in Inglewood, California, which is where the Lakers used to play when their home court was the old Forum. He took advantage of that location as well as a lax security guard to sneak into games on occasion as a youth.

Scott, who was hired as Lakers coach this summer, says his most memorable experience of sneaking into a game was seeing his favorite player at the time, Bob McAdoo of the Buffalo Braves.

In 1985, the Lakers won the NBA championship with Scott, who was in his second season, as their shooting guard, and one of the team's key players off the bench was ... Bob McAdoo.

Giants and Athletics fans remember the 1989 World Series as the only cross-Bay championship in history. But for many across the country, the lopsided championship series is best known for the Loma Prieta earthquake that interrupted play for 10 days. In Battle of the Bay, Gary Peterson chronicles how the World Series and an earthquake became entwined with one another. Here is ThePostGame's exclusive interview with the author.


ThePostGame: My guess is that, in the aftermath of the 1989 World Series, your first thought wasn’t to write a book about it. How did the putting the experience in book form coalesce over time?
GARY PETERSON: Well, it certainly left an impression on me, from a personal standpoint and from something to cover. That stuck with me. I didn't even think about it until an editor called about 18 months ago and said, 'You know, the 25th anniversary of that World Series is next year, and I heard you were there. Want to write a book about it?' It kind of fell out of the sky.

TPG: Can you describe dynamic that took shape between Giants and A’s fans leading into the World Series?
PETERSON: It was kind of a friendly spirited-type rivalry. It was what sports does best sometimes: it brings us together even as we're celebrating our differences. 'Are you a [Will] Clark guy? Well, I’m a [Jose] Canseco guy.' 'I can't believe you guys use the [designated hitter] position.' At this point, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so there was a lot of interest.

TPG: Outside of the earthquake, what did that World Series offer that made it a worthy subject?
PETERSON: The season was interesting. Competitively, it was probably the least competitive World Series there's ever been. The A’s, you can say in hindsight that they were a great time at the height of their success. The Giants were a good team, but they were dinged up. They had trouble getting good performances out of their key players. Will Clark had messed up his knee in the regular season, and in the playoffs he had tonsillitis. He looked like death warmed over.

If there wasn't an earthquake, it probably wouldn't have been very memorable.

TPG: What are the challenges of writing about something that happened 25 years ago -- particularly something that involves personal elements that aren’t documented the way the World Series was?
PETERSON: This was my first book, so I'm sure I can say it was easier than it would have been at the five-year anniversary. Now we have electronic archives at work, and you can find anything about baseball on the Internet. Part of the challenge is if your readers don't remember or vaguely remember it, they maybe don't remember it in detail, [you want to] try to bring events into context: The emotion, some of the key moments during the season, what was the key relationship between the teams in the Bay Area?

Up until that time, the big dynamic was one team wasn’t doing very well and the other team was thinking about leaving. To try to recreate the time and place was kind of the challenge.

TPG: How did the earthquake itself -- and its aftermath -- put the actual game into perspective for you?
PETERSON: Well, it scared the life out of me. I've been a baseball fan for years. My first memories are collecting cards and watching games, and I wrote a column a few days after [the earthquake] and said they should call it off.

Think about that: A lifelong fans says, 'They shouldn't proceed with this.' Over time, where it started as a regional friendly rivalry, suddenly we were celebrating what brings us all together, and that's our concern for each other, helping our the region and honoring people who had lost loved ones.

For me, the challenge was caring enough about the game to write about it.

TPG: What is the historical relevance of an event like that -- not just the earthquake or the World Series on its own, but the relevance in terms of how the two came together?
PETERSON: It put baseball in a position of being a healing force in the Bay Area. We’ve seen that happen before, the Yankees playing in the playoffs a month after 9/11, it was part of the city's healing process. Same with the Saints winning the Super Bowl a year after Hurricane Katrina. Anytime you go through a life-changing or potentially life-ending experience, our human spirit and our nature is to get back to doing the things we like to do.

Even though there were buildings and the freeway in shambles, there was still unfinished business in cleaning up after the earthquake, baseball brought us together and showed us things were going to get better. We were going to pull back together and move past this. You get back to [work] and you do what you do. Baseball helped the Bay Area unite and get back to a sense of normalcy.

TPG: In your book, you discuss the logistical nightmare of trying to file stories using stone-age equipment and land-line phones compromised by the earthquake. What was it like revisiting that experience and contrasting it to the technology you now use to report on a daily basis?
PETERSON: It’s night and day. Talk about trying to evoke a sense of place and time. Two or three times [in the book] I had to stop and remind readers that this was before wireless, before the Internet.

I had this portable TV I had brought with me to the stadium. This was how I watched games I was attending, and it's how I looked for news after the earthquake. It would have been a breeze today. I think back specifically about having to take my portable word processor back into the stadium so I could transmit that story -- that was not pleasant. And it was extremely difficult. It served as a bench mark: 25 years is not that long but using a calendar to determine how far we've come in such a short time, it does seem like [1989] was in another century.

TPG: When play finally resumed after a 10-day break, did the earthquake feel like a past event? Or was it still a living thing that everyone was trying to move past?
PETERSON: It was still a little bit difficult. [Then-Oakland manager] Tony LaRussa has always been a really thoughtful person, and he said, 'We always tie that earthquake to the baseball game because they happened on TV together, but they were two separate things that just happened to occur at the same time. LaRussa points to Cal and Stanford and says 'They're playing this weekend,' the opera house is open this weekend, etc. But for me, it was still hard to divorce the two, especially being in a stadium that had rocked and rolled less than two weeks earlier.

I did have trouble getting on. I don’t know if that was universal. But then you get back into it, and eventually you find you can trust the ground you walk on again. But I didn't have any enthusiasm for going to that game.

On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals played postseason baseball for the first time in 29 years, and it was an instant classic. If you aren't in your mid-30s, there's probably no chance you remember their previous playoff appearance, which culminated in the 1985 World Series championship.

A lot has happened in the meantime, and a quick look back offers some jaw-dropping reminders that 1985 was a lifetime ago.

To put Kansas City's long postseason absence in perspective, here's a quick time capsule from back when the Royals were a playoff team:

An autopsy of a former Brazilian soccer star has found that the man suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain condition found in more than 40 deceased NFL veterans.

Bellini captained Brazil to a World Cup victory in 1958, and his legend in the country lives on today -- a statue in Rio de Janeiro honors him as one of the country's finest athletes. Bellini died this past March at 83, and it was assumed at the time that complications from Alzheimer's had been the primary cause of his death.

Researchers examining his brain, however, now say Bellini's brain suggests an advanced case of CTE.

CTE has been linked to repeated and traumatic strikes to the head, which are most common in football. Soccer, however, has the second-highest concussion rate among the major sports. Until this point, only one other former soccer player had been diagnosed with CTE.

Bellini's confirmed case could be a wake-up call to the soccer world. As we reported this past summer, former U.S. star Brandi Chastain has been trying to raise awareness of the concussion risks that come with heading a soccer ball.

Chastain has encouraged youth leagues to ban headers among players younger than 14 years old, and has said she already enforces that rule for her own children.

Soccer has been slow to develop a response to those concussion risks, even as awareness of the dangers of brain trauma increase among the public. FIFA, the world's governing soccer body, is only now seeking to implement a defined in-game protocol for head injuries.

In this particular case, Bellini isn't likely to be the sole example. But since CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously, it could be years before we get a better understanding of just how widespread the damage from concussions in soccer might be.

Furthermore, Bellini's story is unique is that it puts CTE in an international sports context. Until now, no international sports figures had been diagnosed with CTE, and since almost all sports-related CTE cases stemmed from American-style football, the condition wasn't seen as a threat in other countries.

Bellini's diagnosis changes that. And, while he lived to the age of 83, The New York Times reports that the condition had been affecting him for decades. His wife told the paper that he had suffered from memory loss for the past 20 years, and his condition worsened eight years ago.

And one time, according to the paper, the soccer star "hired a taxi and asked the driver to take him to the home base of a São Paulo soccer team he had played for decades earlier, because he believed he needed to go to training."

When he left the Philadelphia Daily News to try Hollywood on for size in 1986, John Schulian (b. 1945) assumed he was finished with sportswriting. But sportswriting had a funny way of sneaking back into his life even when he was churning out scripts for such memorable TV series as L.A. Law, Miami Vice, and Wiseguy. He wrote regularly for GQ and Sports Illustrated, just as he had since he came to prominence as a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News in the 1970s. In 1993, before he struck gold as one of the creators of Xena: Warrior Princess, SI asked if he was interested in profiling Chuck Bednarik, the NFL's last full-time two-way player and a symbol of the hearty breed that endured the Depression and World War II. Schulian didn't have to be asked twice. But his enthusiasm didn't convince Bednarik that a mere writer could find his way to his subject’s home in those pre-GPS days. Better they should meet at a large shopping center and proceed from there. The first person Schulian saw when he pulled into the parking lot was a senior citizen with a face like a clenched fist wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey and standing in front of a white van, arms the size of Smithfield hams folded across his chest. Bednarik, of course. And he turned out to be a writer's dream: a man without an unexpressed thought.

He went down hard, left in a heap by a crackback block as naked as it was vicious. Pro football was like that in 1960, a gang fight in shoulder pads, its violence devoid of the high-tech veneer it has today. The crackback was legal, and all the Philadelphia Eagles could do about it that Sunday in Cleveland was carry a linebacker named Bob Pellegrini off on his shield.

Buck Shaw, a gentleman coach in this ruffian's pastime, watched for as long as he could, then he started searching the Eagle sideline for someone to throw into the breach. His first choice was already banged up, and after that the standard 38-man NFL roster felt as tight as a hangman's noose. Looking back, you realize that Shaw had only one choice all along.

"Chuck," he said, "get in there."

And Charles Philip Bednarik, who already had a full-time job as Philadelphia's offensive center and a part-time job selling concrete after practice, headed onto the field without a word. Just the way his father had marched off to the open-hearth furnaces at Bethlehem Steel on so many heartless mornings. Just the way Bednarik himself had climbed behind the machine gun in a B-24 for 30 missions as a teenager fighting in World War II. It was a family tradition: Duty called, you answered.

Chuck Bednarik was 35 years old, still imposing at 6'3" and 235 pounds, but also the father of one daughter too many to be what he really had in mind -- retired. Jackie's birth the previous February gave him five children, all girls, and more bills than he thought he could handle without football. So here he was in his 12th NFL season, telling himself he was taking it easy on his creaky legs by playing center after all those years as an All-Pro linebacker. The only time he intended to move back to defense was in practice, when he wanted to work up a little extra sweat.

And now, five games into the season, this: Jim Brown over there in the Cleveland huddle, waiting to trample some fresh meat, and Bednarik trying to decipher the defensive terminology the Eagles had installed in the two years since he was their middle linebacker. Chuck Weber had his old job now, and Bednarik found himself asking what the left outside linebacker was supposed to do on passing plays. "Take the second man out of the backfield," Weber said. That was as fancy as it would get. Everything else would be about putting the wood to Jim Brown.

Bednarik nodded and turned to face a destiny that went far beyond emergency duty at linebacker. He was taking his first step toward a place in NFL history as the kind of player they don't make anymore.


The kids start at about 7 a.m. and don't stop until fatigue slips them a Mickey after dark. For 20 months it has been this way, three grandchildren roaring around like gnats with turbochargers, and Bednarik feeling every one of his years. And hating the feeling. And letting the kids know about it.

Get to be 68 and you deserve to turn the volume on your life as low as you want it. That's what Bednarik thinks, not without justification. But life has been even more unfair to the kids than it has been to him. The girl is eight, the boys are six and five, and they live with Bednarik and his wife in Coopersburg, Pa., because of a marriage gone bad. The kids' mother, Donna, is there too, trying to put her life back together, flinching every time her father’s anger erupts. "I can't help it,” Bednarik says plaintively. “It's the way I am."

The explanation means nothing to the kids warily eyeing this big man with the flattened nose and the gnarled fingers and the faded tattoos on his right arm. He is one more question in a world that seemingly exists to deny them answers. Only with the passage of time will they realize they were yelled at by Concrete Charlie, the toughest Philadelphia Eagle there ever was.

But for the moment, football makes no more sense to the kids than does anything else about their grandfather. "I'm not one of the last 60-minute players," they hear him say. "I am the last.” Then he barks at them to stop making so much noise and to clean up the mess they made in the family room, where trophies, photographs and game balls form a mosaic of the best days of his life. The kids scamper out of sight, years from comprehending the significance of what Bednarik is saying.

He really was the last of a breed. For 58 1⁄2 minutes in the NFL's 1960 championship game, he held his ground in the middle of Philly's Franklin Field, a force of nature determined to postpone the christening of the Green Bay Packers' dynasty. "I didn't run down on kickoffs, that's all," Bednarik says. The rest of that frosty December 26, on both offense and defense, he played with the passion that crested when he wrestled Packers fullback Jim Taylor to the ground one last time and held him there until the final gun punctuated the Eagles’ 17–13 victory.

Philadelphia hasn't ruled pro football since then, and pro football hasn't produced a player with the combination of talent, hunger and opportunity to duplicate what Bednarik did. It is a far different game now, of course, its complexities seeming to increase exponentially every year, but the athletes playing it are so much bigger and faster than Bednarik and his contemporaries that surely someone with the ability to go both ways must dwell among them. It is just as easy to imagine Walter Payton having shifted from running back to safety, or Lawrence Taylor moving from linebacker to tight end. But that day is long past, for the NFL of the '90s is a monument to specialization.

There are running backs who block but don’t run, others who run but only from inside the five-yard line and still others who exist for no other reason than to catch passes. Some linebackers can’t play the run, and some can't play the pass, and there are monsters on the defensive line who dream of decapitating quarterbacks but resemble the Maiden Surprised when they come face mask to face mask with a pulling guard.

“No way in hell any of them can go both ways,” Bednarik insists. "They don’t want to. They’re afraid they'll get hurt. And the money's too big, that's another thing. They'd just say, 'Forget it, I'm already making enough.'"

The sentiment is what you might expect from someone who signed with the Eagles for $10,000 when he left the University of Pennsylvania for the 1949 season and who was pulling down only 17 grand when he made sure they were champions 11 years later. Seventeen grand, and Reggie White fled Philadelphia for Green Bay over the winter for what, $4 million a year? “If he gets that much,” Bednarik says, “I should be in the same class.” But at least White has already proved that some day he will be taking his place alongside Concrete Charlie in the Hall of Fame. At least he isn't a runny-nosed quarterback like Drew Bledsoe, signing a long-term deal for $14.5 million before he has ever taken a snap for the New England Patriots. "When I read about that," Bednarik says, "I wanted to regurgitate."

He nurtures the resentment he is sure every star of his era shares, feeding it with the dollar figures he sees in the sports pages every day, priming it with the memory that his fattest contract with the Eagles paid him $25,000, in 1962, his farewell season.

“People laugh when they hear what I made,” he says. “I tell them, 'Hey, don't laugh at me. I could do everything but eat a football.'" Even when he was in his 50s, brought back by then coach Dick Vermeil to show the struggling Eagles what a champion looked like, Bednarik was something to behold. He walked into training camp, bent over the first ball he saw and whistled a strike back through his legs to a punter unused to such service from the team’s long snappers. "And you know the amazing thing?” Vermeil says. "Chuck didn't look."

He was born for the game, a physical giant among his generation's linebackers, and so versatile that he occasionally got the call to punt and kick off. “This guy was a football athlete,” says Nick Skorich, an Eagle assistant and head coach for six years. “He was a very strong blocker at center and quick as a cat off the ball.” He had to be, because week in, week out he was tangling with Sam Huff or Joe Schmidt, Bill George or Les Richter, the best middle linebackers of the day. Bednarik more than held his own against them, or so we are told, which is the problem with judging the performance of any center. Who the hell knows what's happening in that pile of humanity?

It is different with linebackers. Linebackers are out there in the open for all to see, and that was where Bednarik was always at his best. He could intercept a pass with a single meat hook and tackle with the cold-blooded efficiency of a sniper. “Dick Butkus was the one who manhandled people,” says Tom Brookshier, the loquacious former Eagle cornerback. “Chuck just snapped them down like rag dolls.”

It was a style that left Frank Gifford for dead, and New York seething, in 1960, and it made people everywhere forget that Concrete Charlie, for all his love of collisions, played the game in a way that went beyond the purely physical. "He was probably the most instinctive football player I've ever seen," says Maxie Baughan, a rookie linebacker with the Eagles in Bednarik's whole-schmear season. Bednarik could see a guard inching one foot backward in preparation for a sweep or a tight end setting up just a little farther from the tackle than normal for a pass play. Most important, he could think along with the best coaches in the business.

And the coaches didn't appreciate that, which may explain the rude goodbye that the Dallas Cowboys' Tom Landry tried to give Bednarik in ’62. First the Cowboys ran a trap, pulling a guard and running a back through the hole. "Chuck was standing right there,” Brookshier says. “Almost killed the guy.” Next the Cowboys ran a sweep behind that same pulling guard, only to have Bednarik catch the ballcarrier from behind. "Almost beheaded the guy," Brookshier says. Finally the Cowboys pulled the guard, faked the sweep and threw a screen pass. Bednarik turned it into a two-yard loss. “He had such a sense for the game,” Brookshier says. "You could do all that shifting and put all those men in motion, and Chuck still went right where the ball was."

Three decades later Bednarik is in his family room watching a tape from NFL Films that validates what all the fuss was about. The grandchildren have been shooed off to another part of the house, and he has found the strange peace that comes from seeing himself saying on the TV screen, “All you can think of is 'Kill, kill, kill.'" He laughs about what a ham he was back then, but the footage that follows his admission proves that it was no joke. Bednarik sinks deep in his easy chair. “This movie,” he says, "turns me on even now."

Suddenly the spell is broken by a chorus of voices and a stampede through the kitchen. The grandchildren again, thundering out to the backyard. "Hey, how many times I have to tell you?" Bednarik shouts. “Close the door!"


The pass was behind Gifford. It was a bad delivery under the best of circumstances, life-threatening where he was now, crossing over the middle. But Gifford was too much the pro not to reach back and grab the ball. He tucked it under his arm and turned back in the right direction, all in the same motion -- and then Bednarik hit him like a lifetime supply of bad news.

Thirty-three years later there are still people reeling from the Tackle, none of them named Gifford or Bednarik. In New York somebody always seems to be coming up to old number 16 of the Giants and telling him they were there the day he got starched in the Polo Grounds (it was Yankee Stadium). Other times they
say that everything could have been avoided if Charlie Conerly had thrown the ball where he was supposed to (George Shaw was the guilty Giant quarterback).

And then there was Howard Cosell, who sat beside Gifford on Monday Night Football for 14 years and seemed to bring up Bednarik whenever he was stuck for something to say. One week Cosell would accuse Bednarik of blindsiding Gifford, the next he would blame Bednarik for knocking Gifford out of football. Both were classic examples of telling it like it wasn't.

But it is too late to undo any of the above, for the Tackle has taken on a life of its own. So Gifford plays along by telling what sounds like an apocryphal story about one of his early dates with the woman who would become his third wife. “Kathie Lee,” he told her, “one word you're going to hear a lot of around me is Bednarik.” And Kathie Lee supposedly said, “What's that, a pasta?”

For all the laughing Gifford does when he spins that yarn, there was nothing funny about November 20, 1960, the day Bednarik handed him his lunch. The Eagles, who complemented Concrete Charlie and Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin with a roster full of tough, resourceful John Does, blew into New York intent on knocking the Giants on their media-fed reputation. Philadelphia was leading 17–10 with under two minutes to play, but the Giants kept slashing and pounding, smelling one of those comeback victories that were supposed to be the Eagles’ specialty. Then Gifford caught that pass. "I ran through him right up here,” Bednarik says, slapping himself on the chest hard enough to break something. "Right here." And this time he pops the passenger in his van on the chest. "It was like when you hit a home run; you say, 'Jeez, I didn't even feel it hit the bat.'"

Huff would later call it "the greatest tackle I’ve ever seen," but at the time it happened his emotion was utter despair. Gifford fell backward, the ball flew forward. When Weber pounced on it, Bednarik started dancing as if St. Vitus had taken possession of him. And as he danced, he yelled at Gifford, “This game is over!” But Gifford couldn't hear him.

"He didn't hurt me,” Gifford insists. “When he hit me, I landed on my ass and then my head snapped back. That was what put me out -- the whiplash, not Bednarik."

Whatever the cause, Gifford looked like he was past tense as he lay there motionless. A funereal silence fell over the crowd, and Bednarik rejoiced no more. He has never been given to regret, but in that moment he almost changed his ways. Maybe he actually would have repented if he had been next to the first Mrs. Gifford after her husband had been carried off on a stretcher. She was standing outside the Giants' dressing room when the team physician stuck his head out the door and said, “I’m afraid he's dead." Only after she stopped wobbling did Mrs. Gifford learn that the doctor was talking about a security guard who had suffered a heart attack during the game. Even so, Gifford didn’t get off lightly. He had a concussion that kept him out for the rest of the season and all of 1961. But in ’62 he returned as a flanker and played with honor for three more seasons. He would also have the good grace to invite Bednarik to play golf with him, and he would never, ever whine about the Tackle. “It was perfectly legal,” Gifford says. “If I'd had the chance, I would have done the same thing to Chuck."

But all that came later. In the week after the Tackle, with a Giant-Eagle rematch looming, Gifford got back at Bednarik the only way he could, by refusing to take his calls or to acknowledge the flowers and fruit he sent to the hospital. Naturally there was talk that Gifford's teammates would try to break Concrete Charlie into little pieces, especially since Conerly kept calling him a cheap-shot artist in the papers. But talk was all it turned out to be. The Eagles, on the other hand, didn't run their mouths until after they had whipped the Giants a second time. Bednarik hasn't stopped talking since then.

"This is a true story,” he says. "They're having a charity roast for Gifford in Parsippany, N. J., a couple of years ago, and I'm one of the roasters. I ask the manager of this place if he'll do me a favor. Then, when it's my turn to talk, the lights go down and it's dark for five or six seconds. Nobody knows what the hell's going on until I tell them, 'Now you know how Frank Gifford felt when I hit him.'"


He grew up poor, and poor boys fight the wars for this country. He never thought anything of it back then. All he knew was that every other guy from the south side of Bethlehem, Pa., was in a uniform, and he figured he should be in a uniform too. So he enlisted without finishing his senior year at Liberty High School. It was a special program they had; your mother picked up your diploma while you went off to kill or be killed. Bednarik didn’t take anything with him but the memories of the place he called Betlam until the speech teachers at Penn classed up his pronunciation. Betlam was where his father emigrated from Czechoslovakia and worked all those years in the steel mill without making foreman because he couldn’t read or write English. It was where his mother gave birth to him and his three brothers and two sisters, then shepherded them through the Depression with potato soup and second-hand clothes. It was where he made 90 cents a round caddying at Saucon Valley Country Club and $2 a day toiling on a farm at the foot of South Mountain, and gave every penny to his mother. It was where he fought in the streets and scaled the wall at the old Lehigh University stadium to play until the guards chased him off. “It was,” he says, “the greatest place in the world to be a kid."

The worst place was in the sky over Europe, just him and a bunch of other kids in an Army Air Corps bomber with the Nazis down below trying to incinerate them. "The antiaircraft fire would be all around us,” Bednarik says. "It was so thick you could walk on it. And you could hear it penetrating. Ping! Ping! Ping! Here you are, this wild, dumb kid, you didn't think you were afraid of anything, and now, every time you take off, you’re convinced this is it, you're gonna be ashes."

Thirty times he went through that behind his .50-caliber machine gun.

He still has the pieces of paper on which he neatly wrote each target, each date.

It started with Berlin on August 27, 1944, and ended with Zwiesel on April 20, 1945. He looks at those names now and remembers the base in England that he flew out of, the wake-ups at four o’clock in the morning, the big breakfasts he ate in case one of them turned out to be his last meal, the rain and fog that made just getting off the ground a dance with death. "We'd have to scratch missions because our planes kept banging together,” he says. “These guys were knocking each other off.”

Bednarik almost bought it himself when his plane, crippled by flak, skidded off the runway on landing and crashed. To escape he kicked out a window and jumped 20 feet to the ground. Then he did what he did after every mission, good or bad. He lit a cigarette and headed for the briefing room, where there was always a bottle on the table. “I was 18, 19 years old,” he says, “and I was drinking that damn whiskey straight.”

The passing of time does nothing to help him forget, because the war comes back to him whenever he looks at the tattoo on his right forearm. It isn't like the CPB monogram that adorns his right biceps, a souvenir from a night on some Army town. The tattoo on his forearm shows a flower blossoming to reveal the word mother. He got it in case his plane was shot down and his arm was all that remained of him to identify.


There were only two things the Eagles didn't get from Bednarik in 1960: the color TV and the $1,000 that had been their gifts to him when he said he was retiring at the end of the previous season. The Eagles didn’t ask for them back, and Bednarik didn’t offer to return them. If he ever felt sheepish about it, that ended when he started going both ways.

For no player could do more for his team than Bednarik did as pro football began evolving into a game of specialists. He risked old bones that could just as easily have been out of harm's way, and even though he never missed a game that season -- and only three in his entire career -- every step hurt like the dickens.

Bednarik doesn't talk about it, which is surprising because, as Dick Vermeil says, "it usually takes about 20 seconds to find out what’s on Chuck’s mind.” But this is different. This is about the code he lived by as a player, one that treated the mere thought of calling in sick as a betrayal of his manhood. "There's a difference between pain and injury,” Baughan says, “and Chuck showed everybody on our team what it was."

His brave front collapsed in front of only one person, the former Emma Margetich, who married Bednarik in 1948 and went on to reward him with five daughters. It was Emma who pulled him out of bed when he couldn’t make it on his own, who kneaded his aching muscles, who held his hand until he could settle into the hot bath she had drawn for him.

"Why are you doing this?” she kept asking. “They’re not paying you for it.” And every time, his voice little more than a whisper, he would reply, “Because we have to win.” Nobody in Philadelphia felt that need more than Bednarik did, maybe because in the increasingly distant past he had been the town's biggest winner. It started when he took his high school coach’s advice and became the least likely Ivy Leaguer that Penn has ever seen, a hard case who had every opponent he put a dent in screaming for the Quakers to live up to their nickname and de-emphasize football.

Next came the 1949 NFL champion Eagles, with halfback Steve Van Buren and end Pete Pihos lighting the way with their Hall of Fame greatness, and the rookie Bednarik ready to go elsewhere after warming the bench for all of his first two regular-season games. On the train home from a victory in Detroit, he took a deep breath and went to see the head coach, who refused to fly and had one of those names you don't find anymore, Earle (Greasy) Neale. "I told him, ‘Coach Neale, I want to be traded, I want to go somewhere I can play,’ ” Bednarik says. "And after that I started every week -- he had me flip-flopping between center and linebacker -- and I never sat down for the next 14 years."

He got a tie clasp and a $1,100 winner’s share for being part of that championship season, and then it seemed that he would never be treated so royally again. Some years before their return to glory, the Eagles were plug-ugly, others they managed to maintain their dignity, but the team's best always fell short of Bednarik's. From 1950 to ’56 and in '60 he was an All-Pro linebacker.

In the ’54 Pro Bowl he punted in place of the injured Charley Trippi and spent the rest of the game winning the MVP award by recovering three fumbles and running an interception back for a touchdown. But Bednarik did not return to the winner’s circle until Van Brocklin hit town.

As far as everybody else in the league was concerned, when the Los Angeles Rams traded the Dutchman to Philadelphia months before the opening of the '58 season, it just meant one more Eagle with a tainted reputation. Tommy McDonald was being accused of making up his pass patterns as he went along, Brookshier was deemed too slow to play cornerback, and end Pete Retzlaff bore the taint of having been cut twice by Detroit. And now they had Van Brocklin, a long-in-the-tooth quarterback with the disposition of an unfed doberman.

In Philly, however, he was able to do what he hadn't done in L.A. He won.

And winning rendered his personality deficiencies secondary. So McDonald had to take it when Van Brocklin told him that a separated shoulder wasn't reason enough to leave a game, and Brookshier, fearing he had been paralyzed after making a tackle, had to grit his teeth when the Dutchman ordered his carcass dragged off the field. "Actually Van Brocklin was a lot like me,” Bednarik says. “We both had that heavy temperament."

But once you got past Dutch's mouth, he didn't weigh much. The Eagles knew that Van Brocklin wasn't one to stand and fight, having seen him hightail it away from a postgame beef with Pellegrini in Los Angeles. Concrete Charlie, on the other hand, was as two-fisted as they came. He decked a teammate who was clowning around during calisthenics just as readily as he tried to punch the face off a Pittsburgh Steeler guard named Chuck Noll. Somehow, though, Bednarik was even tougher on himself. In '61, for example, he tore his right biceps so terribly that it wound up in a lump by his elbow. "He hardly missed a down," says Skorich, who had ascended to head coach by then, “and I know for a fact he's never let a doctor touch his arm.” That was the kind of man it took to go both ways in an era when the species was all but extinct.

The San Francisco 49ers were reluctant to ask Leo Nomellini to play offensive tackle, preferring that he pour all his energy into defense, and the Giants no longer let Gifford wear himself out at defensive back. In the early days of the American Football League the Kansas City Chiefs had linebacker E. J. Holub double-dipping at center until his ravaged knees put him on offense permanently. But none of them ever carried the load that Bednarik did. When Buck Shaw kept asking him to go both ways, there was a championship riding on it. "Give it up, old man,” Paul Brown said when Bednarik got knocked out of bounds and landed at his feet in that championship season. Bednarik responded by calling the patriarch of the Browns a 10-letter obscenity. Damned if he would give anything up.

-- Excerpted by permission from Football: Great Writing About The National Sport. Edited by John Schulian. Copyright (c) 2014 by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. Published by The Library Of America. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

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