Before the invention of TV remotes and cable there was no such thing as a couch potato sports fan. Watching a New York Giants football game, a guy could get more exercise than some of the special teams players and there was an actual risk of injury if the watcher’s field of play was not properly cleared of obstructions.
Back then the only way to mute an annoying commercial was to trot across the living room and turn the knob. Another round trip trot was necessary when play action resumed. If you were simultaneously watching a New York Jets game and a post season baseball playoff contest you might do a mile and a half of broken field running while changing channels.
Without a roof antenna things were even more complicated and aerobic as you made frequent trips to adjust the rabbit ears atop the set to get the clearest picture. Some days there was no combination of ears extension and location and cuss words that worked and you had to become part of the apparatus by grasping each ear and facing the general direction of the transmitter on top of the Empire State Building 25 miles to the east.
There was also the possibility of electronic failure. TV sets weren’t as durable as they are today. While watching an important Giants-Redskins game one Sunday afternoon, I was appalled to see Y.A. Tittle overthrow a pass into the Redskins’ end zone and I shouted a few abusive remarks. It was probably a coincidence, but Tittle turned and gave me such a withering look that it blew out my vertical oscillator tube.
Fortunately I had a spare, but I had to lift and rotate my heavy RCA console, unscrew the back and replace the dead tube in time to see Tittle throw a TD pass. I’d used my last spare tube so I kept my mouth shut until the game ended.
Even before the cable companies decided what we could watch, there were sometimes unmerciful TV blackouts. Once when a Giants game at Yankee Stadium with the Philadelphia Eagles was not a sell-out, the TV broadcast of the game was blacked out in the Metro area. However, I knew if there was a favorable combination of sun spots, wind chill and humidity, I could pick up a low grade picture from Philadelphia. I phoned my brother-in-law Don, a die-hard Giants fan, and invited him over to watch the game. He immediately drove from Fort Lee and rushed into my living room.
“Where’s the picture?” he demanded, looking at my screen which seemed to be showing a scene from a blinding snowstorm. “You have to concentrate,” I said. “Those moving dark gray shadows are the Giants. The lighter ones are the Eagles. Here, take the rabbit ears for a while. My arms are getting tired. You’ll do better standing on that footstool and holding the ears above your head. I’ll take over in the second half.”
Listening to Marty Glickman’s colorful radio account of the game we followed the action quite well and after a few beers the picture seemed to improve.