Great Moments In Television History #12: NBC Airs The First Football Game


Today, everyone takes at least three things for granted: television, football, and football on television.

However, that wasn’t always the case.  There was a time when television was a novelty and the idea of watching a game on television while it was being played was nearly unheard of.  The first televised football game didn’t involve any of the teams in what would eventually become the NFL.  Instead, it was a college game between Fordham and Waynesburg.  It was played on September 30th, 1939.

The game was aired on NBC, as part of an experiment to see whether or not a game could actually be carried live over the air.  The game was called by Bill Stern, a radio announcer who was famous for embellishing the action on the field while he was calling it.  Unfortunately, since no footage of the game appears to still exist, no one knows if he attempted to embellish the action that was being televised.

All in all, NBC spent $100,000 to show the game.  What was the size of the audience for the very first televised football game?  It was speculated that 500 to 1.000 people watched the game on television!  In 1939, with television still a luxury for most people, that was enough to convince NBC that sports and television could go together.  82 years later, it appears that NBC was right.

Incidentally, Fordham beat Waynesburg, 34-7.

Previous Great Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra

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