There is no professional sport with greater stories than football. The NFL fosters some of the greatest stories of success, both on individual and team levels. The following seven most valuable moments, or MVM’s, have significantly altered the way we view the game, and are all incredibly important for the game of football.
1. The Ice Bowl
MVM: Packers earn Super Bowl II spot in -16˚ weather
The championship game played between the Packers and the Cowboys on December 31st, 1967 was historic for many reasons. For starters, it would determine which NFL team would challenge the AFL in Super Bowl II. It would determine which team would have the bragging rights for the decade to come. It also determined which body parts of certain players would need to be amputated, as the game time temperature was 16 degrees BELOW zero.
The Ice Bowl still holds the record after 43 years as the coldest game ever played, with the Packers going on to beat the Cowboys on the “Frozen Tundra” of Green Bay. This game would mark the Packers as one of the most fabled franchises in NFL history, and ensure that nobody, ever, could complain about it being too cold to play football.
2. Joe Namath and the Guarantee
MVM: MVP Joe Namath delivers on a promise to win Super Bowl III
Broadway Joe was known for many things, including his prowess as a quarterback, his ability to sell pantyhose, and his confident attitude. In fact, he was so confident, that in 1969, he guaranteed a Super Bowl win.
Not only did Joe deliver, but he delivered in grand fashion. Beating the Baltimore Colts by two possessions, Joe made good on his promise and was awarded Super Bowl MVP. Need more proof that Joe is never more confident than when he is on a football field wearing a Jets jersey? Check out this clip from some 40 years later:
Oh Joe. I want to kiss you.
3. The Immaculate Reception
MVM: Harris begins a decade of triumph for the Steelers
In what can only be described as the Will of the Gods, Franco Harris enjoyed football history’s best-known case of being in the right place at the right time.
Ending 40 years of futility, this catch and subsequent touchdown resulted in the first playoff win for the Steelers in decades. Not only that, but it marked the beginning of the Steelers 1970’s dominance, as the Steelers would win four of the next eight Super Bowls played. Not a bad aftermath for a play that was designed completely around luck.
4. The Catch
MVM: Montana’s catch places 49ers in history as a dominator
A play so important it is referred to simply as “The Catch,” this play from the 1982 NFC championship game echoed through the league for the better part of a decade:
Hailed as one of Joe Montana’s defining plays, this touchdown lead to the victory that dethroned the Steelers, Cowboys and Packers as the dominant NFL teams, and introduced America to the San Francisco 49ers. Montana would go on to win the Super Bowl four times over the next ten years, making the 49ers the team of the 80’s.
5. The NFL’s new Rushing Leaders
MVM: Payton crushes Brown’s rushing record
No record was as untouchable or hallowed as Jim Brown’s career rushing record, until Walter Payton, a scrappy kid from Mississippi known as “Sweetness,” made his mark on the league in 1984:
This record would be improved upon by some 4,000 yards before Walter Payton was finished with football, and was widely deemed to be the new untouchable record. It stood for 18 years before Emmitt Smith had his say:
These records are not only important moments in the history of these men, but they are important moments in the history of the game. Chasing, breaking and setting records redefines the limits of human achievement as we know them. Smith is no fool, acknowledging that his record will also be fleeting. Nevertheless, his time at the top is in no immediate danger, and his record should stand for several years to come.
6. Manning over Leaf
MVM: Colts selected Manning over NFL favorite, Leaf
In what can be viewed as the greatest number one draft pick of all-time, the Indianapolis Colts went against the consensus and picked the 2nd best quarterback available at the time. The online sports betting world went nuts after this.
For many, there was no greater college prospect than Ryan Leaf. Leaf and Manning were bound to be selected to the NFL, and were thought to go first and second respectively. However, the Indianapolis Colts saw something in Peyton that Ryan Leaf didn’t offer. By going with their gut and choosing the number two quarterback with the number one pick, the Colts rewrote team history and ensured their place among the most dominant teams of the modern era.
7. Bledsoe Hit by Mo Lewis
MVM: Tom Brady takes the stage as QB
In a less famous, but equally important Wally Pip/Lou Gehrig scenario, Mo Lewis single-handedly changed the landscape of the NFL. Bledsoe was hurt on this play, leaving the Patriots no other choice but to put in their back-up, 200th overall pick—a quarterback by the name of Tom Brady:
Not only did this play usher in the Tom Brady era, but it also ushered in a new era of football. The Patriots became the dominant team of the 2000’s, the Colts vs. Patriots games became more about Manning vs. Brady than the teams or cities they played for, and the world got to meet Giselle. Although this play seemed like a standard, run-of-the-mill injury, it ended up being one of the most influential plays of the last 10 years.
Although the NFL is filled with stories and moments that could fill volumes, these were just a few of the best and brightest. While the stories change every year, the one thing that stays the same is America’s love of hearing them. Through this country’s love affair with sports, we can forget about our problems for a few hours each week and believe in heroes once more.