Michael MacCambridge's 2004 America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation:
As the 1958 season built to its climax, with the league bound for its ninth consecutive season of rising attendance, the NFL clearly was as healthy as it had ever been. The game's franchises, save for the Chicago Cardinals (in the shadow of Halas's Bears), had stabilized. Television revenues were good and getting better. The challenge from the AAFC was long past, and an early '50s salary war with the Canadian Football League had been effectively pushed off, with an infusion of cash and the league's higher profile. Antitrust questions from Congress had been muted, if not stilled.
"A combination of things is responsible for the mounting interest in pro football," commissioner Bert Bell said that fall. "First, and foremost, the nation's press, radio and television annually give us $50 million worth of free publicity and promotion that General Motors couldn't buy. Secondly, we're giving the paying public what it wants -- entertainment. I say that a pro game is the best show on Earth. Moreover, the keen competition lends an element of suspense. There isn't any such animal as a weak sister in our league anymore. You knock my brains out this Sunday and I knock your brains out the next time we meet. Do you realize that of the first 54 games played [this season], 32 of them were won by the so called underdog?"
The commissioner's oft-repeated adage -- "On any given Sunday, any team in our league can beat any other team" -- was proving true. But the league was offering more than mere competition. With the championship race building in intensity throughout the season, the league was taking advantage of the episodic nature of its weekly schedule. Crucial games were being discussed in offices on Mondays, and coming match-ups were being anticipated throughout the week. And what would occur in the final weeks of the 1958 campaign would build to the sort of crescendo that would eloquently announce the sport's arrival at the shoulder of baseball's popularity.
Tags: Michael MacCambridge, America's Game