December 23, 1972: Do It Again

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(Pictured: Steeler fans mob Franco Harris on December 23, 1972.)

December 23, 1972, was a Saturday. The East Coast gets some rain today; temperatures are seasonal across most of the country. Headlines include yesterday’s rescue of 16 survivors from a Uruguayan plane that crashed in the Andes Mountains in mid-October. Twenty-nine others are dead. Initial reports say the survivors rationed available food and drank water from melted snow. It will later be revealed that they also resorted to cannibalism. Today, American bombers continue to pound targets in North Vietnam. Operation Linebacker II is intended to pressure the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. The “Christmas bombing” is being heavily criticized around the world. Early this morning, Managua, Nicaragua, is leveled by an earthquake. The quake kills 10,000 and leaves 400,000 homeless. In Kansas City, former president Harry Truman, age 88, is hospitalized in critical condition as his heart trouble worsens. Christmas shoppers in Daytona Beach, Florida, can visit their local K-Mart for men’s no-iron long-sleeved sports shirts for $2.44 each. For the ladies, quilted polyester skirts in holiday patterns are $3.96. For the kids, all battery-operated toys priced from $3.49 to $3.99 are now $2.00, and all Christmas candy is half-price.

It’s the first weekend of the NFL playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders 13-7 on a deflected 60-yard pass from Terry Bradshaw to Franco Harris on the last play of the game. Narrating the highlights on the late local news tonight, Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope refers to the play as “the Immaculate Reception.” In the late game, the Dallas Cowboys beat the San Francisco 49ers 30-28 in another fantastic finish. Two more games will be played on Christmas Eve: Green Bay at Washington and Cleveland at Miami.

On TV tonight, CBS airs new episodes of All in the Family, Bridget Loves Bernie, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show, which moved to Saturday night the week before. ABC airs Alias Smith and Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, and The Sixth Sense. NBC presents Tennessee Ernie Ford’s White Christmas and the TV movie Climb an Angry Mountain, which stars Fess Parker as a California sheriff and Barry Nelson as a New York detective pursuing a Native American fugitive, played by former NFL quarterback Joe Kapp.

Led Zeppelin, T. Rex, and David Bowie play separate venues in London. Fleetwood Mac plays the New York Academy of Music; Grand Funk Railroad plays Madison Square Garden with opening act Freddie King. The Grand Funk show will be broadcast on ABC’s In Concert series in January. After the show tonight, the band’s former manager, Terry Knight, presents them with a court order allowing him to confiscate their equipment, which he does.

At WCFL in Chicago, “Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan is #1 on the new survey out today. The rest of the Top Five are “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” by Johnny Rivers, “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts, “It Never Rains in Southern California” by Albert Hammond, and last week’s #1, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations. Three songs are new on the WCFL survey this week: Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock,” “Do It Again” by Steely Dan, and “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio” by Joni Mitchell. WCFL also publishes a list of popular Christmas songs, which is led by “Can You Fix the Way I Talk for Christmas” by Vincent and Pesci. Frank Vincent and Joe Pesci will later become prominent movie and television actors. Larry Lujack is on WCFL this afternoon, back after some vacation time. He goofs off with engineer Spacey Dave and gives his Christmas address to the nation, which has a surprising conclusion that is not what Lujack’s fans might expect.

Perspective From the Present: I don’t remember seeing the Immaculate Reception as it happened. It’s possible I was at a junior-high basketball game on that afternoon. (I do remember watching the Packers on Christmas Eve.) The rest of that Christmas weekend has disappeared in the fog of time, although it surely was as Christmases always were in those years: Christmas Eve with my paternal grandparents, the fabulous bounty of Christmas morning, and Christmas Day with Mother’s larger family.

May this Christmas be as exciting as you want it to be, or as peaceful as you need.

One More Thing: The Stylistics’ “I’m Stone in Love With You” was #16 at WCFL 50 years ago today. I have no time or space today to write about the great Thom Bell, who died yesterday at age 79, although I said a bit in a short Twitter thread this morning. What an absolute titan he was.

5 thoughts on “December 23, 1972: Do It Again

  1. Mitch Winder

    I was an avid 10 year-old football fan in 1972. I remember watching Harris scoop the ball up and run for the endzone. But it came late. My eyes were on Jack Tatum’s initial hit. It took me a minute to realize what had happened as I’d given up on the play.

    I hated the AFL, and later the AFC, so I didn’t really care who won. I was, and still am, a staunch Minnesota Vikings fan. (The why is a story in its own right.) My football season was a waste. Only thing I cared about that weekend was that Washington would beat Green Bay in the playoffs. Which they did the next day. Green Bay beat Minnesota (in Bloomington) on the next to last Sunday of the regular season. The loss itself didn’t cost the Vikings a playoff bid, but hey, I was ten. (BTW, 1972 and 1979 were the only two seasons in the decade that the Vikings failed to qualify for post-season play.)

    RIP, Franco. You were the ultimate fullback-turned-running back. You were Larry Czonka power, with French Fuqua speed, and Lynn Swann hands.

  2. Wesley

    The Sixth Sense aired 50 years ago today was the last episode of the series. However, its episodes would be incorporated into reruns of Night Gallery to make the latter more sellable (salable?) in syndication on local TV stations.

    And jb, the 98 Hours of Christmas on Magic 98 is a splendid mix to hear today. Incredible variety of artists included, great mix of secular and spiritual numbers recorded throughout the decades. Some retailers I patronized recently would be envious of this lineup to hear. (And as a native North Carolinian, I’m glad that you included James Taylor’s version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, even if I prefer Judy Garland’s original.)

  3. spinetingler

    RIP Thom Bell. My Mom bought that45 for me back in the day. Sometimes when she was out shopping (at Sears, of course) she’d grab a (probably) random 45 from their rack of what were likely cut-out or jukebox discs and bring it home to me. This is likely how I developed such a weird catholic taste in music.

    I’m pretty sure that I watched the IR live, as I was just coming into my NFL fandom and the Stillers were my birthplace team. I still have a bunch of their gear from the 70s. This play may have saved the dynasty to come.

  4. I vividly remember watching the Immaculate Reception live as it happened on a black and white TV in my parents basement. I was 13 at the time. Curt Gowdy’s call was simply fantastic!
    Oh, and one more thing: Come on dudes, let’s get it on, and we proceeded to tear that hotel down!

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