Before reading this review, ask yourself the following questions. Do I know what the Cotton Bowl is? Does the idea of watching a nearly 3 hour long football game played over 25 years ago appeal to me? Is this really what das selected as his first official review for DVD Talk? For me, the answer to all three is an enthusiastic "yes!" This DVD has a specific audience, but if you're a football fan or are prone to flipping on ESPN Classic late at night to watch a piece of sports history, then this review is for you.
On January 1, 1979, the Southwest Conference Champion Houston Cougars (9-2) met the defending national champion Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (8-3) in Dallas, Texas for the Cotton Bowl, a game that would become the stuff of legends. This DVD from Vintage Sports Video is not a summary of that game nor a highlight reel with retrospective commentary. It is simply the game, start to finish, exactly as it aired 25 years ago on CBS with broadcast legend Lindsey Nelson and former Notre Dame superstar and Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung providing insight and play-by-play.
Those of you unfamiliar with this specific game might be wondering what about it was so special that it deserves its own DVD. Let's start with Joe Montana, a little known backup who had moderate success in the professional league. The model of composure under pressure, legend has it that Montana turned to teammate Harris Barton, gestured to the stands and said, "Over there ... isn't that John Candy?" just seconds before leading his team 92 yards for a comeback win in the 1989 Super Bowl. 8 years after "The Catch" -- one of football's most memorable plays ever -- nothing fazed Montana (other than numerous concussions, of course), and spotting celebrities in the crowd during the biggest game of the year was not the sign of a lack of focus; it was simply Joe. During his professional career, he was the accepted King of the Comeback, but (pardon the studio tagline phrasing) every legend has a beginning, and Montana was just a Comeback Kid in 1979.
It was Joe Montana's final college game, the defending national champion "University of College Football" had come to play a team from the host state of Texas, and the event was a sellout long before game time ... and by kickoff, no one was in the stands. 25mph winds, a sub-zero wind chill, and freezing rain kept thousands of fans at home watching the game on television. These horrific game conditions, on a turf field frozen solid, would play a significant role in a game that featured 10 turnovers and 5 blocked punts!
The first half proceeded about as one would expect in such conditions: receivers were dropping wide open passes, running backs fumbled without even being hit, and neither team was able to accomplish much of anything. At halftime, Houston led 20-12, both teams scoring almost exclusively on short-field turnovers by the opposition. The second half began, and Tim Koegel took the field as quarterback for the Irish. Who? Don't worry ... I've never heard of him either. Apparently, Montana was suffering from hypothermia due to the inclement weather, his body temperature was dangerously low, and the team physician refused to let him play any more of the game. They would have to do without their star quarterback that day, and worse, I typed all that information about his greatness for nothing! Koegel would prove a complete disaster, leading his team to 3 straight 3-and-out drives, a blocked punt, a staggering -1 yard of total offense, and a 34-12 deficit with 7:37 remaining in the game. Unbeknownst to the crowd, though, the man they called "Joe Cool" was in the locker room consuming chicken soup and bouillon, preparing to do the impossible ...
It's a television broadcast from 25 years ago, so the audio and video aren't anything special. The audio track is 2 channels, but it's essentially mono; and the picture has a steady grain to it throughout the presentation. Still, considering the age of the broadcast and the fact that material such as this isn't exactly preserved with great care, I found the quality to be appropriate and did not find it distracting at all.
None. No bells either. Well, that's not true. There is a single-sheet insert with the records of the two teams, and if you actually buy this DVD without knowing who wins the game, it's kind enough to ruin it for you right on that insert. Other than that, though, there is nothing. The DVD is divided into 4 chapters, one for each quarter, and the content begins about half a second before the opening kickoff and concludes just a few seconds after the final play.
This is a recording of the broadcast of a football game from 25 years ago. That's it. If you're not a football or Notre Dame fan, and you don't enjoy watching classic games, then this DVD is not for you. However, if classic sport interests you, this is definitely worth watching at least once, if for no other reason than the nostalgia of late 70s television and fashion. Observe the following late-game promotion: "Lindsay Wagner stars in the 3 hour epic of courage and love, The Incredible Journey of Dr. Meg Laurel, the story of a beautiful young doctor who battles backwoods superstition to bring hope and comfort to a poverty stricken land." That's gold right there! From the triple option offense to straight-on kicking, this DVD is a fun reminder of what the game was like a quarter century ago in addition to being one of the greatest football performances of all time. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this game, and I'm tempted to Recommend the DVD, but it's unlikely you would want to watch it more than once every 25 years, so I suggest you Rent It.