Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Day I First Saw Football On a Color TV

This is a significant date for Kansas City Chiefs fans. It was 45 years ago today that the Chiefs won their only Super Bowl.

So far.

I have a friend who is a Chiefs fan, and he would remind me that the entire history of pro football has not been written — and, like Chicago Cubs fans who insist that one day their beloved Cubbies will return to and win the World Series, he has faith that the Chiefs will return to the Super Bowl and win it.

I am not a Chiefs fan — I'm a Packers fan — but I remember vividly the day the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Why? Because it was the first time I ever saw a football game on color TV.

We had a black–and–white TV in our home. It was the TV on which I had watched every football game that I had seen to that point in my young life. No one in my neighborhood (and I use the word neighborhood very loosely here because I grew up in the country, and my neighborhood was hardly a conventional one) had a color TV — until a few days before Super Bowl IV.

Our neighbors (and, again, the word neighbors is used very loosely here; they lived close enough to us that we could walk from our house to theirs instead of driving) bought a Zenith color TV and invited us to watch the game with them. My father is an avid football fan so he accepted the invitation, and we walked over there. It may have snowed. Sometimes we got snow in central Arkansas in January; if it did snow, we trudged through it. No obstacle would keep us from watching a football game in color.

I'm pretty sure the game was played in the afternoon, too. The NFL didn't move Super Bowl kickoffs to the very late afternoon/early evening until several years later. Besides, my mother would never have allowed my brother and me to stay up as late as we would have if the game had been played at night — as it is today.

I remember being astonished by the color of a football game. OK, Super Bowl IV may have been more colorful than most. The Chiefs were dressed in their bright red home jerseys.

The Vikings wore their road whites, but the uniform still incorporated splashes of the trademark Viking purple — and gold trim.

And the game was played in New Orleans, one of the most colorful cities I have ever visited.

I sat transfixed by the color. I remember looking at my father at one point. The look in his eyes told me we would have a color TV in our house soon, too.

And we did.

That was a time when ownership of a color TV was a real status symbol. It was also a time when networks would announce whether a program was being presented in color. Many in the audience — like my family — still watched black–and–white TVs, and sometimes in those days when a program was being broadcast in color, it had kind of an odd effect on the appearance of the program on black–and–white sets. Believe it or not, people really did call channels to inquire about oddities in picture reception.

Mind you, this was at a time when picture reception was about as imperfect as it could be. It was years before cable took hold, and most customers probably received transmissions via antenna, either of the outdoor variety or the rabbit ears that were on the back of each set.

Consequently, if a customer called because image reception was bad, there must be something to it.

Of course, my parents told my brother and me that the color TV would enhance our enjoyment of educational and cultural programming. I accepted that — not because I particularly believed it but because I knew what had put the hook in my father — the afternoon we spent watching the Super Bowl at the neighbors' house.

It's funny when I think back on the Chiefs' 23–7 victory over the Vikings, who came into the game as 12–point favorites. The Chiefs had been in two of the four Super Bowls and were expected to be in Super Bowl conversations for years to come — but they haven't been back to one since.

The Vikings were making their first Super Bowl appearance and were expected to be contenders in the future, which they were. They went to three more Super Bowls in the next seven years but lost them all and haven't been back to the Super Bowl in 38 years.

In the meantime, ownership of a color TV is no longer a status symbol. Ownership of more exotic variants — high definition, perhaps — are the status symbols now. But virtually all modern TVs are equipped to provide color pictures.

I'm not sure they even make black–and–white TVs anymore.

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