Not a Super Bowl, but remembering that 1960 Eagles championship

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Norm Van Brocklin, left, who quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles to a 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers in 1960, alternately laughs and cries in dressing room at Franklin Field. With him is Chuck Bednarik. (AP photo)

Norm Van Brocklin, left, who quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles to a 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers in 1960, alternately laughs and cries in dressing room at Franklin Field. With him is Chuck Bednarik. (AP photo)

To say the Philadelphia Eagles have never been football world champions is not accurate.  In fact, they’ve won three National Football League championship titles, two in the 1940s and one in 1960.

In 1960, they hosted the Green Bay Packers at Franklin Field in West Philadelphia, seven years before the first NFL and AFL World Championship Game, later dubbed the Super Bowl.

The battle of the Eagles’ “air power” versus the Packers’ “ground strike” occurred the day after Christmas. The Eagles were home team underdogs before a sold-out crowd of 67,000 fans, having installed temporary seats to expand Franklin Field’s capacity. The Packers were coached by future Hall of Fame inductee Vince Lombardi.

The Eagles entered the game having won the hearts of Philadelphians after an unexpected magic-carpet ride of a season. Fans paid $8 to $10 per ticket.

These days, University of Pennsylvania football coach Ray Priore sends his players, the Quakers, out on that same field.

He says football is football: “There’s a running game, the passing game.” Still, things have changed over time.

“I see how tactically sound the game has gotten from video and watching film back in those games. Travel, I’m sure, was different back in those days.”

The Eagles have been in Minnesota, the team flew to Minnesota, giving themselves a week to parade in front of media and to refine their plays before the big game Sunday.

“I would doubt (the 1960 Packers) left a week before to come from Green Bay to Philadelphia to practice and everything,” said Priore in an interview with WHYY’s Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn. Here are some excerpts from their interview at Franklin Field.

Did they provide analysis during the games back then, or did announcers like Jim Whitaker just call it as he saw it?

I would imagine they called it as they saw it. Basically the game analysis really started when “Monday Night Football” started in the ’70s. I don’t think they discussed as much as the hows and the whys.  They gave more of the energy of the game, also maybe the technical aspect of it.

In the game, was it rougher? Was it more physical?

The game was a little bit more violent. Protecting of the players, roughing the passer — I don’t think it was called as frequently then than it is today. And you’ve seen the game just in the last five to 10 years change for the physical.

I love the halftime show. In 1960 there was a basic marching band making the shape of the letters U-S-A. Nothing like Lady Gaga leaping off the top of the NRG Stadium in Houston.

Absolutely. Obviously the way the game and sport have changed, it’s for entertainment value. I’m sure there was no PA system and music going on between series and plays. There weren’t as many TV timeouts, which really prolong the game. The game has changed and evolved to be one of the best spectator sports around.

Would you ever show these old reels or bits from YouTube to your players today?

Well, absolutely. I think we want to show them, obviously, the history of football. We did have Chuck Bednarik,  Hall of Famer, Eagles great, and Penn great  — World War II veteran — actually address our team several times through the course of those years. Any time you get someone who can really talk to the essence of what you are playing, what you’re doing, it becomes really, really inspirational to players.

And Bednarik played in 1960.

He played on the 1960 team.  He played offensive center and middle linebacker. “60 Minute Men” they would call them.  So he played on offense and played on defense and never came off the field. His nickname was Concrete Charlie. I believe he had more than 40-plus bombing missions in World War II.

Fascinating guy. The Eagles season in 1960 is described by historians and fans as magical. Going into this season they were just OK, and they became a very spirited team. They had a fearless leader. Norm Van Brocklin — he’s known as the Dutchman — is the Eagles veteran quarterback and he’s tenacious, maybe to a fault. And one analyst said the team would bite, scratch and kick their way to victory. Some described the team as having a guardian angel watching over it.

This team that we’re watching in the Super Bowl in a couple of days also had that kind of grit and passion and took it one game at a time.

That’s, again, the mark of a quality team, quality coaching staff, and quality leadership among a team that can keep going when you are losing players and how the next-man-up mentality comes in. Staying on track for one more game and rising to the occasion, which we’ve all witnessed through the playoffs now.

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