The legend of the 1948 "Blizzard Bowl" -- when the Eagles won their first-ever NFL championship over the Chicago Cardinals, 7-0, in a raging snowstorm at even-then-aging Shibe Park on North Philly -- has only grown in the 63 years since, especially since the Birds have only won two more titles ('49, '60). The drama of actually staging the game in the storm -- players from both teams had to help remove the snow and the tarp from the field, and the Eagles' superstar Steve Van Buren almost missed the kickoff as he raced on trolleys, the Broad Street subway and through the drifts of Lehigh Avenue to make it to Shibe -- is almost as great as the tension of the game itself, won on Van Buren's iconic 4th-quarter touchdown plunge. It was a turning point for pro sports in America and here in Philly -- the last NFL championship game in leather helmets, and the first shown nationally on the newfangled television. In an era of a Roman-numeraled spectacle known as a Super Bowl and the NFL postponing a game (in Philly, no less!) based merely on a forecast of snow, the '48 Eagles bring us back to an era of blue-collar, smashmouth football played by a World War II-hardened "Greatest Generation" who made football America's new pastime.
Incredibly, the saga of this iconic football game -- and moment in Philadelphia history -- never had a book of its own.
Until now. This week comes the publication of my new Amazon Kindle Single (that's a short e-book...more about that in a second) entitled "Give It To Steve!" -- which is what the Inquirer reported fans were screaming as the Eagles marched for the game's only score. It tells the story of the game, the unlikely odyssey from an obscure Caribbean island of the Eagles' greatest player ever in Van Buren (read the excerpt in Daily News Sports Week here), with a poignant aftermath about the price that this 1940s' superstar and some of his teammates as a payback for the glory of a brutal game.
Here's what Amazon's reviewer (fair and balanced, of course) said about "Give It To Steve!":
Based on exclusive access to the man who scored the game-winning touchdown, Will Bunch tells the remarkable story of the 1948 NFL Championship game, a battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Cardinals waged during a blizzard. A rematch of the previous year's championship game, which the Eagles lost on a snow-covered Chicago field, the game was nearly canceled when inch upon inch of snow blanketed Philly's Shibe Park. But the teams insisted on playing, even though Eagles star running back, Steve Van Buren, had to ride trolleys and buses and trudge through snow drifts to reach the stadium. Though the game was a thriller--won on a fourth-quarter Van Buren run, breaking a 0-0 tie--this is as much a story about football in the aftermath of World War II and an ode to the scrappy veterans who helped bring the game into the modern era. It was the first televised championship game, and Bunch flushes out his story with fun asides and arcana, like the history of the plastic helmet and the backstories of the ethnic and working-class players, many of whom held jobs and played ball on the weekends. It's a worthy trip back in time, to the earlier, simpler days of NFL football.
Two other things: "Give It to Steve!" is published in the Kindle format (and if you own a Kindle, fantastic) but it's important to know that you don't have to own a Kindle to read it. In fact, it only takes a few seconds to download Kindle and read the book on any kind of computer (PC or Mac) , an iPad or most other types of tablets, or most smartphones (including iPhone and Android). Also, you should know that a Kindle Single is an exciting new experiment in publishing pieces that are shorter than a conventional book but longer than a magazine article, and priced accordingly (in this case, $1.99). So it's just the right length for a fast-moving yarn about an optimistic time in America and in Philadelphia -- when rugged men went ahead and played NFL football games in the teeth of a snowstorm.
Here's some video highlights -- the long Eagles' touchdown pass in the film was called back for offsides.