Guest blogger Bob Swick has been collecting football cards since 1965. He has written about football cards and memorabilia since 1990 for many sports collecting publications. He is the Publisher and Editor of Gridiron Greats Magazine which can be found at http://www.gridirongreatsmagazine.com/
I was seven years old in 1965, and a big football fan. I loved opening up wax packs of football cards, the NFL players found in the 1965 Philadelphia brand and my favorite 1965 Topps AFL players which were a larger card than the Philly’s and are known today as the “Tall Boys”.
There was not much to do on fall-turning-into-winter weekends back in North Branford, Connecticut, where I grew up. I would go outside in the morning and throw my football up in the air and catch it, pretending I was a pro player like Babe Parilli or Broadway Joe Namath or Gino Cappalletti. On some Saturday mornings we would go to the shopping plaza in town next to us and my mom would go grocery shopping while I went to the McCrory’s Five and Dime store. While my mother shopped, I would march into the store and see what football packs they had, hoping the larger AFL packs were available, and spend my dime that my mother gave me on two of them. I would then go back into the car and open the packs to see who I got, and chew that great bubble gum inside of them. I also would study those cards each day. On snowy weekend days I would study the local paper and read all the football articles in it. I also had a scrapbook where I cut those same photos and articles out and keep a collection of them during the season. And I did paste some of those same cards in that scrapbook.
Then one o’clock came on Saturdays there were usually two college games on television and Sunday’s the same thing. I was in my glory watching 12 hours of football during the season!
The AFL games were shown locally on Channel 4, the NBC affiliate out of New York. One must remember we only had six stations to watch back then as compared to the literal thousands in 2012. Channel 3 out of Hartford showed the NFL games, usually the New York Giants. And on some Sundays, two games were shown back to back on both stations. I was always fascinated by the four o’clock game shown usually on the west coast where it looked sunny and warm to me as compared to the growing darkness and gloom of New England.
The 1965 Boston Patriots caught my fancy; the local papers did an excellent job in covering the three local football teams, the Giants, Jets, and Patriots. The Jets and Broadway Joe Namath were the talk of the town, while the Patriots had a rough season going 4-8-2. The Patriots got some good press in the New Haven papers. I favored the underdog Patriots. Babe Parilli led the team this rough season along with some smooth running from Ron Burton. Looking back at the ’65 Pats, they were a good team on paper but fought for their four wins that season. Jim Nance was a natural running back for the team; I always wondered why his rookie card was in found in the 1968 Topps set.
One game still stands out for me that season. With Patriots going nowhere fast and holding only one victory, they faced the Jets who also were going nowhere but had the star in Namath as quarterback. On a warm November 28th day in New York over Thanksgiving weekend, the Patriots came from behind to beat the Jets 27-23 on a Parilli two-yard pass to Tony Romeo, who had a pretty good career with the Pats after playing his first season with Texans. I remember that afternoon my father watched the game with me and he mentioned over the years the game as it was the first time he saw Namath play on TV. It was a great game from what I remember of it and reading about it over the years. Two relatively evenly-matched teams with a budding star starting his career. The game was a seesaw between the two teams, Namath passing for 284 yards in comparison to Parilli’s 183 yards. The key stat looking back at that game was the Jets losing the ball twice on fumbles.
The Patriots ended up winning the rest of their games that season beating the Broncos and Oilers to finish 4-8-2. The Jets game sparked a turnaround. If they had won those two ties they would have been 6-8 for the season.
The memories of the time only sharpen for me the beauty and grace of football from the 1960’s when the American Football League and the Patriots were champions on Sundays to this seven-year-old student of the game.