During this 30 year period the NFL experienced its share of ups and downs but was still subordinate to baseball and college football. It was 1958 and a tectonic shift in American culture and how we spent our leisure time was about to take place; the overtime, nationally televised Colts/Giants Championship Game that ended dramatically with a Colts victory. Irrespective of the individual winner, the real winner was football for this game catapulted the NFL into a before never imagined stratosphere of national recognition. To fortify the now lofty status the NFL enjoyed an ideal candidate in the person of Alvin Ray “Pete” Rozelle was to take the reigns as commissioner of football in 1960 and deftly steered the league into the financial juggernaut it is today.
Appreciating the impact television would have on the NFL and it’s revenues, Rozelle sought counsel from Wellington Mara; newly anointed owner of the New York Giants (Tim Mara had died a year earlier). It was incumbent upon the league to negotiate as a single entity but how would revenues than be distributed to the individual owners? Wellington Mara, the owner with the largest and most profitable market spearheaded the idea of equal distribution for all the owners. He reasoned that the interdependency of each team unto the other was of primary importance. Essentially Mara sacrificed perhaps millions of television revenue dollars that he may have pocketed for the long term growth and financial health of the league. Of course many owners did not take such an altruistic view and needed a great deal of prodding. Mara and George Halas convinced the most vocal critics, Caroll Rosenbloom of the Baltimore Colts and George Preston Marshall of the Washington Redskins that revenue sharing, (socialism) was the best paradigm for the future of the league. Obviously, that was prescient as the NFL by 1965 surpassed baseball in terms of revenue and today enjoys the highest profits of any league.
Now that we have visited a bygone era replete with images of men in leather helmets, playing for the love of the game, with an almost childlike purity that warms even the most cynical of the souls let’s fast forward to 2011.