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American Football League Hall of Fame  
~ Contributors ~

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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE AFL

    One of the banes of the early existence of the American Football League was misleading media coverage.

    Entrenched writers and sports reporters from cities with NFL teams proliferated the myth that the AFL was only a "Mickey Mouse League", made up of "NFL rejects" not good enough to play in the older more established league.

    CBS-TV refused to give AFL scores on its professional football broadcasts, and Sports Illustrated saved its color photo articles, (and covers) for the NFL. William N.Wallace of the New York Times demeaned the American Football League right up until the last game played by an AFL team, the Chiefs against the Vikings.

    The AFL Hall of Fame Contributors who are honored here worked to bring the true story of the American Football League to sports fans.

    Whether in local or nationally distributed venues including media guides, magazines,books, game-day programs, and  newspapers, they told us about the AFL's great players, new coaching strategies, and exciting games.

    They documented the  winning ways (and the foibles) of the owners, players and coaches who helped to establish an exciting, new and different league that would go on to become the genesis of modern pro football.

    Without them, there would be no accurate AFL history.

THESE AFL CONTRIBUTORS
RECORDED HISTORY

      Brown University alumnus Chris Berman is the first inductee to the American Football League Hall of Fame who was not actively involved with the league or its reporting: he was 15 years old when the AFL ceased to be.  The ESPN star rewrote the book on sports analysis and broadcasting.  His irreverence, unpredictability, and readiness to "take on the big boys" reflect easily recognized AFL traits.  He is one of the few sportscasters who actually references the AFL and its players as though he remembers and respects them, unabashedly pulling for former AFL teams and reveling in AFL history such as the "Chargers' powder-blue unies".
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    Consider the following August 12, 2003 Q&A with Trent Modglin of Pro Football Weekly:

Q: Do you have a favorite football memory that sticks out?

A: Namath and the Jets. I was just at Canton, and I visited with Joe for a couple of minutes. All of the Hall of Famers came back, and I’m an AFL guy, so I had dinner with Don Maynard, and we talked about the ’68 championship game. I was at that game. I was 13, so it was just perfect. We were rebels, you know, children of the ’60s, so the AFL was our generation in a microcosm. I decided I would wear white shoes, hopefully date the pretty girls and maybe have a knee injury because Joe Namath was my guy, like for many of us. Those were my years with my dad.

      Berman's willingness to be different, like the AFL, has has qualified him to be an inductee to the AFL Hall of Fame.  As such, he represents every American Football League fan; like Joe Laplante, who slogged thru the mud to get to Harvard Stadium, braved the snows of Schaeffer Stadium and shivered in Fenway to see the Patriots;  Dick Blank, who lived in the heart of Eagles' country yet loved the AFL; Angie Coniglio, who was nine months pregnant when she saw the Bills wrap up the AFL East title at "the Rockpile" in 1965; and every other AFL fan who had to listen to those smug NFL reporters, who put down OUR league for ten years, and who now act as though the AFL never existed.
     Berman's loyalty to "our" league is so great that Ralph Wilson Jr. chose Chris to present the Bills' owner at Wilson's long-overdue induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2009.  
     Thanks, Chris: if we could, we'd put every loyal AFL fan in the AFL Hall of Fame.


     Paul Christman was a two-time All-American quarterback at the University of Missouri, elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956, whose #44 is retired by the university.  He played Pro Football six years as part of the Cardinals' "million-dollar backfield."
 
    With Curt Gowdy, he broadcast AFL games from the league's inception through 1967, first with ABC, then with NBC's "full color network."  He was color commentator for the first eight AFL title games before leaving NBC for CBS in 1968.   He was the first modern football analyst on television, providing detailed commentary of the game as it unfolded, not simply announcing what the viewers could see. 
     Christman's pioneering work was not emulated by the other league until the mid-1960s.


    Larry Felser was a sports columnist and writer for the Buffalo Courier-Express and later, the Buffalo Evening News, where he was a football beat writer, a columnist, and rose to the position of Sports Editor.  Felser covered every year of the AFL, each of the first 37 Super Bowls, until his retirement, and was an impassioned advocate for American Football League players nominated to the pro football hall of fame, for which he served on the board of selectors, and later on the Seniors Selection Comittee  In 1984, he was the youngest writer ever to receive the Dick McCann Memorial Award for long and distinguished reporting of Professional Football.  In 2000, he was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.  He has written a book about "the Merger", How the 1966 AFL/NFL Merger Transformed Pro Football, and also writes on-line for various venues, including www.hofmag.com.  Some of his numerous newspaper items include a 1979 column on the Foolish Club, and 2007 articles about the 1963 Chargers and on Cookie Gilchrist's fight against throat cancer.

                            Click HERE for more about Larry.


    Curt Gowdy's is the voice that is recalled when American Football League fans “remember the AFL”.  Gowdy formed part of ABC-TV’s top team (with Paul Christman) when the league was formed in 1960, and was still on the number one team (with Al DeRogatis) for NBC-TV when the league played its last game.
     In between, he was part of AFL lore, lending his dulcet tones and Midwestern twang to his unique descriptions of “Bambi” Alworth and “Broadway Joe” Namath. A consummate professional, he never fell into the self-serving habit of CBS’ NFL announcers, of touting their league as the only league, to the extent of refusing to give AFL scores on CBS broadcasts. Often to the chagrin of AFL fans, he refused to “rub it in” on the air, even after AFL teams won the final two World Championships of professional football.
     However, on the network-feed videotape of the third World Championship game, in which Namath and the Jets dismantled “the greatest pro football team in history”, after the game, Gowdy can be heard to say “I wonder if that son-of-a-bitch Tex Maule is watching?” For that comment alone, Gowdy deserves to be in the AFL Hall of Fame.
 
        
For all his support of the AFL, Gowdy did help to perpetuate one myth about the league.  In the NBC-TV broadcast of Supper Bowl III, near the end, when the Jets victory over the over-rated Colts was all but in the books, Gowdy stated that "The Common Draft has helped the AFL catch up" to the other league.   The fact is that the Jets had only eight players on their squad who were drafted in or after the Common Draft began in 1967.  They were all rookies or second-year men in 1968, and none were starters.  Most of them eventually played less than three years with the Jets, and the most recognizable, corner John Dockery, played only four.      Super bowl III was won with AFL veterans.  Babe Parilli, Paul Rochester, Don Maynard, Bill Mathis and Larry Grantham were original AFLers.  The latter three started with the league's poorest team, the Titans, and held on to become World Champions.  The AFL as a whole got its greatest share of stars long before the Common Draft.
       We forgive you, though, Curt.  That comment about Maule covers any flaws you may have had.


     Jack Horrigan was a Buffalo Evening News sportswriter and American Football League Public Relations Director who went on to serve in public relations for the Buffalo Bills.  With Mike Rathet, he wrote the knockout book, "The Other League - the Fabulous Story of the American Football League", which contains great graphics and action colorphotos, which were not often used to present the AFL. The book also lists the name of every player who ever made an AFL roster. 
     It was at Horrigan's insistence that the merged leagues retained American Football League team, coaching, and player records/statistics as official pro football records.  Horrigan also helped develop the passer rating in current use, which, unlike the NFL method previously used, allows players of different eras to be compared. The Pro Football Writers of America annually give the Jack Horrigan Memorial Award to a professional football official or player "for his or her professionalism in helping football writers do their job".


    Charlie Jones spent 38 years as a Professional Football announcer and play-by-play man, and was one of ABC's original AFL voices in 1960.  He covered the Dallas Texans on radio.
     In his first TV assignment, Jones called the play-by-play the first AFL game ever broadcast, on ABC-TV.  Jones followed the AFL to NBC-TV in 1965, and covered all ten years of the league's existence.


      Jerry Magee was called "an AFL apologist" by his contemporaries who covered NFL football.  Funny thing is, he adopted that sobriquet as a badge of honor.    Magee took on NFL apologists like William Wallace of New York and Jerry Green of Detroit at every opportunity, puncturing NFL myths.   Writing for the San Diego Union and Pro Football Weekly, Magee also brought national attention and enlightenment to the AFL's style of football.   Like Felser and McDonough, in his service on the pro football hall of fame board of selectors, he lent strong support to the candidacy of AFL players, enhanced by his first-hand knowledge of their accomplishments.


           George Ratterman learned Professional Football with the Buffalo Bills of the All America Football Conference, and then under Paul Brown as Otto Graham's able backup.  Starting in 1960 with the inception of the American Football League, Ratterman was a 10-year AFL television broadcaster on ABC-TV and NBC-TV.  He was teamed regularly with Jack Buck, Jim Simpson or Charlie Jones.  He worked Super Bowls I and III and several AFL championship games on TV and radio. 


     Will McDonough gave the AFL needed exposure in his articles and columns in a nationally prominent newspaper, the Boston Globe.  His knowledge of the game of Professional Football, his ability to get "the inside story", and his honesty and integrity lent credence to his articles on the Boston Patriots and the teams they competed against in the American Football League.

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Chris Berman

Paul Christman

Larry Felser

Curt Gowdy

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Chris Berman
Analyst
Sports TV Host
AFL Proponent


Pioneering
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ABC-TV
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Buffalo
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Jack Horrigan

Charlie Jones

Jerry Magee

Will McDonough

George Ratterman

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ABC-TV
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Last revision: 27 April 2013 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio, nospam.RemembertheAFL@aol.com
 

 

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