PERHAPS YOU'VE heard that the 1958 NFL championship game between the Colts and the Giants was a pivotal moment. This 50th-anniversary year of the Greatest Game Ever Played was celebrated by Mark Bowden (The Best Game Ever, SI, April 28) and ex-Giants star Frank Gifford (The Glory Game), and both offer keen, detailed accounts. Can anything more be said about the game or its era?
With Giants Among Men, Jack Cavanaugh answers that question in the affirmative. Cavanaugh smartly gives the '58 game slightly more than a bit part in a larger story: how the Giants changed the NFL and won over a major media market. As the '50s dawned, pro football was an afterthought in New York City, but Cavanaugh chronicles how the town fell for a team that was talented (between 1956 and '63 the Giants fielded eight future Hall of Famers), innovative (the coaching staff included young assistants named Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi) and successful (New York made six NFL title game appearances in eight years). New Yorkers felt close to those Giants, most of whom were city dwellers and working men. (Cavanaugh tells how, with the forecast before the '56 title game calling for frozen turf, the team bought a rush order of rubber-soled shoes from a store run by defensive end Andy Robustelli.) They may have lost the Greatest Game, but Cavanaugh's Giants made America love NFL football.