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Otto Graham and the Championship Football Comic Book

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Good Sunday morning, Uni Watchers. I hope everyone had a good Saturday.

I’m joined once again today by the great Timothy Brown, of “Football Archaeology,” who has been previously featured on Uni Watch before, with articles Honoring Letter Sweaters and Jackets, How Football’s Zebras Got Their Stripes, The Art of Football Officials Signals, and Football and Vacuum Tubes. Tim has also contributed a few additional pieces for Uni Watch.

I mentioned before I’m a subscriber to Tim’s Substack, and many of the articles he’s penned are right up Uni Watch’s alley. If you don’t subscribe to his daily posts, I recommend his work highly. He’s definitely one of the best follows if your interests lie in the (mostly) early years of football — often focusing on equipment and uniforms.

Here’s Tim with today’s article — which is definitely in the UW wheelhouse. Enjoy!

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Otto Graham and the Championship Football Comic Book
by Timothy Brown

I am continually fascinated by football-related advertising premiums that were once given away at retail locations. Besides the standard single-sheet pocket schedules, retailers gave away booklets with composite schedules of hundreds of college and pro teams, summaries of the previous season, outlooks for the coming year, and other tidbits.

A similar line of premiums was “How To” booklets that taught the “basic fundamentals” of the game. The How To giveaways often had price tags on the covers to let customers know the actual value of the pamphlet handed out by car dealers, gas station owners, or other shopkeepers.

How To football booklets likely reached their zenith in 1954 when Pennsylvania Athletic Products published Championship Football, starring Otto Graham. Pennsylvania Athletic Products is remembered today for Penn brand tennis balls, but the company once made a range of sports balls, including footballs. Most How To booklets read like schoolbooks, but Championship Football is a comic book. Its 1954 publication came at the close of the Golden Age of Comic Books, which ended when Congressional hearings investigating the causes of juvenile delinquency blamed comic book publishers for contributing to the problem. It was also an important year for Otto Graham since he retired after the 1954 season, though he returned a year later to play a final season in 1956.

Championship Football has 36 pages, including 8 cover and ad pages, leaving 22 for storytelling. The comic tells the story of Jimmy Farrell, a grade-schooler who cheers for Fairview High in Ohio and eagerly awaits his chance to play for the varsity. Unfortunately, Jimmy is not a good football player early on and fails to make the school team on his first attempt. You can guess how the story ends, but let’s look at parts of this beautiful little publication.

The cover shows a team that looks like the Cleveland Browns. The man directly behind the center wears #60, which Graham wore as a quarterback until the NFL required players to wear position-specific numbers in 1952, after which he switched to 14. Graham was a T-formation quarterback for the Browns, which put him under center when taking the snap, though the image shows him in the Single Wing.

The story opens with Jimmy in the stands with his parents, cheering for Fairview as they score a touchdown to win a game as the gun sounds. As he drives home with his mom and dad, Jimmy tells them he will try out for the team once he gets to junior high. Unfortunately, Jimmy fails to make the team in junior high, but he asks his dad to buy a football so he can practice. His dad buys the best ball, a Pennbilt, which retains its shape and lasts longer.

Jimmy practices with the Penn ball alone at the local park but continues struggling. His last kick bounces near a car whose driver, a stranger, gets out of the vehicle to give Jimmy a few pointers, but Jimmy still struggles.

Jimmy wants to give up, but the stranger tells Jimmy that he visits his parents each weekend, so he will be at the same spot the following Saturday at 10:00 AM to give Jimmy some pointers.

Jimmy tells his parents about the stranger, who Jimmy’s Dad thinks is Otto Graham. The following Saturday, Graham teaches Jimmy the basics for backfield men, such as a three-point stance. Then, he demonstrates three different running starts.

The story continues with Graham telling Jimmy that practicing by himself is helpful, but playing the game is the best way to improve. That leads Jimmy and his friends to build a set of goal posts and practice regularly at the park.

In successive pages, Graham demonstrates the proper techniques for stiff arming, forward passing, running pass routes, and catching a pass. The boys begin improving, and Graham provides additional punting, snapping, and place-kicking pointers.

Graham covers various football techniques for another dozen pages before providing his nine rules for How To Be A Champion. As Graham leaves town, he tells Jimmy that he has developed himself into a fine player, and sure enough, when Jimmy next tries out for the team, he so impresses the coach that Jimmy is named the team’s quarterback.

Graham comes to the Farrell house for dinner the night before the opening game to check in on Jimmy. The next day, Jimmy plays well, and with the score tied as time is running out, Jimmy tosses a long touchdown for the win. Of course, Jimmy thanks and credits his dad for buying a high-quality Penn football that allowed him to practice and improve.

Jimmy’s experience is the classic Horatio Alger or rags-to-riches story. Jimmy is not impoverished financially, but he has little natural athletic talent. However, his father, who seems to lack the knowledge or inclination to teach Jimmy the secrets of football, gifts him a fine Pennsylvania-brand ball. Jimmy uses the ball as he practices hard and with little success until a kind mentor arrives on the scene. The mentor reveals the secrets of success to Jimmy and his friends, and the combination allows Jimmy to transform himself into a team player, star, and leader of young men. After Jimmy’s metamorphosis, the kind mentor drives off into the retirement sunset, knowing a new generation of star performers is ready to fill the gap he leaves behind.

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Thanks Tim! Another fun piece. I was never really into comic books, but I did always have a soft spot for sports (and uni) related ones — great stuff!



Uniform Concepts & Tweaks

Time for more Uni Tweaks from the UW readership.

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

• • • • •
Today’s concepts come from Trey Gorman.

Hi Phil!
As a lifelong Broncos fan, I am both excited and anxious for the Broncos to unveil their first new uniform set in almost 30 years. The design and details that have been circulating are not ideal, so I decided to try and “fix” the main image circulating. The numbers are the same font used in the Broncos’ 3 Super Bowl championships, the helmet remains navy blue, and the wordmark/NOB become navy blue.

While I’d prefer the Broncos to go in a different direction in their design rather than the mountain theme (or even keep their current look), I didn’t want to change the design too much, because then it would just be a different uniform rather than a “fix”. Hope people agree that this would make a better Broncos uniform!

Trey Gorman


“Fixed” Version

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OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.



Guess the Game from the Scoreboard

Guess The Game…

…From The Scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from “KGB”.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date and location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Jackson Streeter.

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



And finally...

…that’s going to do it for the early post. Big double-plus thanks, as always, to Tim Brown for sharing some fun content with us!

I’ll have at least one more post this morning, plus a pretty large Ticker, so be sure to check back often!

Everyone have a great week and I’ll catch you back here next weekend.



Comments (8)

    Kudos Timothy, great find!

    23 Nov 2014 at New Mile High Stadium
    Score as pictured: MIA 28 DEN 17 with 14:55 to go in the 4th
    Peyton Manning just threw an incomplete pass to Emmanuel Sanders
    Final Score: MIA 36 DEN 39

    13 Oct 2016 at Jack Murphy Stadium
    Chargers beat Broncos 21-13 in a Color Rushed Thursday night game.
    CJ Anderson navigating traffic in the picture for one of his 10 carries on the night.

    I really enjoyed that, Tim. Nice work.

    (Minor historical correction: Graham did retire after the 1954 championship, but Paul Brown was desperate and talked him into coming back for the 1955 season. Otto did, and he led the Browns to a second-straight championship. Then he retired for good. He did not play in 1956.)

    Good work fixing what may be shaping up to be (based on what’s been disclosed) a broken Broncos set.
    I’d tweak what you’ve done thusly…white facemask & white lettering trimmed in navy for the NOB.

    I love that comic book! Not just the kicking pointers, but the whole thing,

    I think we had a Pennsylvania football when I was really little, Hard as a rock. I tried kicking it with regular sneakers on and man, did that hurt. I didn’t kick straight-on again for years until I got a Nerf football.

    Great article, Timothy, that comic art reminds me of Curt Swan, who was considered the “classic” Superman artist, a bit before his time I think, I’ve looked it up and cannot find out who the artist or writer was, but the company that published it, Custom Comics, was affiliated with DC back then, maybe a bullpen artist.

Comments are closed.