Monday, February 16, 2009
If you want to give someone their 'props' be sure to run by Wayne's Window to the World to join Tribute Tuesday.
Public Service Notice-As a Cowboys fan, I do not like any team from either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia...but this story transcends simple fan hatred and jealousy. It is something that is as touching as it is poignant. It is the story of the Steagles.
The year was 1943. Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific were waging arguably the most important war of our civilization. All eyes and hearts lived and died with every report, wondering if the next names that were written or read would be their sons, fathers, husbands. In an act that was truly American, we decided the games must continue. As you noticed perhaps during 9/11, we truly have to have our sports. Roosevelt decided that the NFL must function to give Americans a much needed outlet for their emotions.
There was an obvious problem with this request, however. Most men that were eligible to play in the NFL were already fighting. Teams were gutted as players traded football uniforms for soldier's gear. However, because of the 'flatfoot' syndrome, several players throughout the league were not allowed in the military. So some teams were intact. Two teams that weren't however were the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Art Rooney, owner of the Steelers, and Alexis Thompson, owner of the Eagles, decided to join the teams together for survival. The teams would be called the 'Steagles'.
At first it was a disaster.
Old bitterness and past 'treachery' on the gridiron had these 'teammates' not trusting, much less liking each other. These were bitter interstate rivals who hated the other team worst than any other. They survived training camp....and by survive I mean that in every sense of the word. They worked sixty hours a week at their jobs at plants and factories for the war effort and then they practiced...with people they didn't like. Tensions stretch nerves to the breaking point as fights broke out frequently. Of course, there was one other slight thing that was also threatening to make this 1943 season a failure.
Even before the two teams joined....they sucked.
These two teams when they were the Eagles and the Steelers fought each other for last place in the NFL. There were several hills to climb as the lines between the teammates began to be erased.
However, this season would be memorable. The combined team would post a winning record at 5-4-1. In this story book season, they would play the NFL champion Washington Redskins twice. The Redskins boasted a deadly air attack with QB Sammy 'Slingin' Sammy' Baugh taking the snaps. The first time would be a tie 14-14. The second time, the castoffs...the worst of the worst...would defeat the NFL champion 'Skins 27-14 in a game that was never as close as the score seemed.
The aftermath was the team split again in 1944. Even though the Steelers couldn't field at team, they left the Eagles to their own devices and joined the Chicago Cardinals and proceeded to go winless as the 'Carpet' team was truly a team that was walked on that year.
The Steagles showed that all things could be put aside for a greater cause. In wartime Pennsylvania they rose spirits and gave insipiration to countless souls. (Including mine some sixty years later.)
It was the stuff of legends.
Posted by Lane at 8:43 PM