Playoff season is here, and one local football buff is sharing his wealth of local pigskin lore with Bronxites.
Victor Mastro gives a talk about links between the borough and professional football each year as playoffs pick up steam and the SuperBowl approaches.
He’s been speaking about, ‘The Bronx, The Superbowl,’ for about 20 years, and the event will take place at the Huntington Free Library on Saturday, January 10 at 11 a.m.
Mastro’s fascination with professional football and its connections to the Bronx began as a child, when his Uncle Freddie took him to a championship game played in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 1958 between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. That game was later dubbed ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played.’
Then in 1979, a curious friend asked Mastro if there were any good Italian football players, and he started looking into it.
He wrote up what he found and sent it to the NFL, receiving a positive response.
He continued to look into players from different ethnic groups for articles, and during the research, he noticed many different Bronx connections to professional football, like that 1958 game.
“Before you know it, I had a whole bunch of information,” he said.
In 1983, he published his knowledge as ‘The Bronx, the Birthplace of the NFL Lore and Legend’ in the Bronx County Historical Society Journal. He continued to research and write articles over the years, published by the Professional Football Researchers Association and local news outlets, that explore famous players, games and trophies with Bronx connections.
“All football roads lead to and through the Bronx,” he claims.
In addition to compiling lists of great Bronx games and players, Mastro has found Bronx connections to football trophies.
The trophy given to the Super Bowl winner is the Vince Lombardi. Lombardi graduated from Fordham in 1937 and lived on campus.
Years later, Lombardi was assistant coach for the NY Giants while they played at Yankee Stadium, including the ‘Greatest Game Ever Played’.
The ‘game football’ is often given as a trophy to an important player after the game, and the official NFL football is called ‘The Duke’, the nickname of late New York Giants owner, Wellington Mara. Mara also attended Fordham and was a classmate of Lombardi’s.
The Heisman Trophy, given to the top college player each year, was originally modeled in 1935 after a running back named Ed Smith, who played for NYU while it was based in the Bronx. The trophy was updated with details from a second model, Warren Mulrey, who played for Fordham.
Mastro was also able to find a connection between each 2015 playoff team and the Bronx. For example, the Baltimore Ravens are named after the Raven, a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe lived in the Bronx off the Concourse for a time.
Another example is The Dallas Cowboys, whose first coach was Tom Landry, of the NFL Hall of Fame. Landry was the defensive coach of the NY Giants from 1956-1959, when Yankee Stadium was its home.
Famous SuperBowl commercials even have Bronx connections, said Mastro.
What’s considered the greatest SuperBowl commercial ever, the 1984 Apple commercial, was conceived under the direction of Bronxite Jay Chiat at his ad agency, Chiat/Day.