History of Football Series - 1980's

DECADE OF DECADENCE

For American Football, the 1980’s was a time of change, on and off the field. For many around the world, it was the real arrival on a global stage, capturing curious first-time viewers and sucking them in with its mix of colour, athleticism and action. For Europeans at least, this explosion in popularity has lasted to the present day, as it continues to grow with a whole new generation of fans. The 80’s gave us some of the greatest names in NFL history, some of the finest teams and unforgettable moments – all amplified by this new reach and a new, slick approach to marketing the sport.

We think of the 80’s as a decade of some extravagance, loud and brash; neon to the beige and brown tones of the 70’s. And to an extent the NFL followed this formula with a young generation of superstar players, teams looking more colourful than ever and presentation reaching new heights in professionalism and style. It’s no wonder the 80’s is considered a golden era in the NFL, setting the scene for further growth in the 90’s and beyond.

Who could forget Theismann handing off to Riggins on a weekly basis in that first season American Football on UK television? The Raiders continuing their 70’s reputation as, well, the Raiders? Montana’s comebacks, Marino dropping bombs, the Bears dropping everyone, and everyone else dropping records. Montana lithely rolling out, Marino’s lightning release, Elway’s cannon, McMahon’s headbands, Theismann’s leg (wince).

Eric Dickerson cutting through a defensive line like it was butter, Tony Dorsett jitterbugging his way to another first down, Walter Payton hitting his multi-talented prime, Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, Roger Craig redefining the all-purpose back and we still squeezed Barry Sanders into the decade.

The rise of Rice, Duper and Clayton catching everything, the quiet efficiency of Art Monk, and the wily experience of Steve Largent.

The (original) L.T. glaring across the line, Mike Singletary staring with eyes like saucers, Reggie White, Kenny Easley and Ronnie Lott ready to decapitate an unwary receiver over the middle. The decade boldly displayed some of the greatest players of our lifetime.

Dome Patrol, The New York Sack Exchange, Killer B’s, the Fun Bunch, Hogs, Smurfs and Three Amigos.

Big pads, bigger jerseys, Honolulu Blue, creamsicles, the Oilers, baseball infields, the Ickey Shuffle and Super Bowls at dusk in the Rose Bowl. If you know, you know.

Big pads, bigger jerseys, Honolulu Blue, creamsicles, the Oilers, baseball infields, the Ickey Shuffle and Super Bowls at dusk in the Rose Bowl. If you know, you know.

With so many endearing memories of the 80’s, it’s no wonder it's one of, if not the, most popular decades in pro football. All this in spite of player strikes (in 1982 and 1987), lop sided Super Bowl wins for the NFC clubs, confusing replay rules and a serious rival in the USFL. The 80’s will always have a special place in the hearts of the early British fans (now of a certain age!), buying First Down on a Thursday or waiting for American Bowl tickets – the exposure here then was probably on a par with the UK revival of the early 2000’s, and a huge amount of those pioneering fans are still as enthusiastic today.

Written by Dan Tearl - https://twitter.com/RetroDan16

 History of Football Series - 1980's