It was 50 years ago today that what has since been dubbed as the NFL’s Greatest Play of all time occurred with Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception. (Of course my Greatest-Play-selection would not have been Franco but instead Flacco as in the Mile High Miracle but I do admit some bias here. Then again, Franco and his play certainly deserve the honor of being called the NFL’s overall greatest play if for nothing else than its title Immaculate Reception. Who can argue that?!)
Now for all you non-football folks who haven’t a clue if I’m talking football, sex or just plain gibberish here, check out the most famous play in NFL history:
Ironically (another miraculous coincidence perhaps?) Franco died this past Wednesday and will miss all the upcoming hoopla and celebration of his historic moment. The Steelers will play the Raiders tomorrow night in Pittsburgh and a special celebration/recognition of the 1972 historic event is planned. Franco’s passing has changed the tone of the event a little but still it’s must see T-V.
As for the Immacualte Reception/Deception controversy, it is still well, controversial (click here.) The primary issue involves who the ball hit first or second. The ruling on the field stood that it hit the Raider defender Jack Tatum first and then bounced 24 feet back to where Franco plucked it just off the ground and then ran it in for the winning touchdown. Had it touched the Steeler receiver first, it would have been ruled incomplete and the Raiders would have taken over on downs and hence game over.
An additional controversy involves whether or not the ball touched or grazed the ground as Franco caught it. Had it been ruled as touching the ground that too would have made it incomplete.
The third controversial factor involved all the time it took the officials to verify and uphold the call as an official touchdown. Remember – replay was not part of the game back then so the officials had to scurry around trying to figure it all out. Accordingly, there are all sorts of discussions as to who the officials consulted as they made their final decision. (One factor supposedly involved the officials checking to see if enough police and security were on hand to control the Pittsburgh crowd if they did in fact overturn the play (4:30 mark of this video.) ) Ultimately however, the call was made that it was a reception, Franco snagged it before it hit the turf and went on to score the winning touchdown.
As stated, the 2022 Steelers/Raiders’ game will be played this Saturday night Christmas Eve. It lends new meaning to Immacualte-something-or-other doesn’t it? Game doesn’t start til 8:15 so get your Christmas Eve duties done early and tune in for another miracle or two. O holy night.
Song for all angry Raiders’ fans who in addition to having to suffer through the Immaculate Reception game, then had to deal with the 2001 Tuck Rule Game: