On December 23, 1972 I was in my senior year of college and at Candlestick Park to see the San Francisco 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC playoff game. Before the 49ers even started, I had heard on my transistor radio the Oakland Raiders take a late lead at Three Rivers Stadium on a Ken Stabler touchdown run. But, before I found my seat in the stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers had completed one of the most famous plays in the history of the NFL … the Immaculate Reception in which Franco Harris grabbed a deflected pass on a fourth down with time running out and took it to the house for a Steelers win.
A few hours later, the 49ers game ended in almost as dramatic fashion. San Francisco had been ousted from the playoffs the prior two years by Dallas, but after Vic Washington had returned the opening kickoff to give the home team a lead the 49ers seemed on their way to a win with a 15 point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Then, Cowboys Head Coach Tom Landry replaced Craig Morton with quarterback Roger Staubach, and the rest is Cowboys magic. A field goal was followed by a pair of touchdowns in quick succession and the 49ers crowd was left dazed by the Dallas win, 30-28.
Before I headed back to college, I traversed my route through Lake Tahoe where I put a significant chuck on my student loan on the Washington Redskins, who played Dallas the following Sunday at RFK Stadium. Even though I was young, I had been charting motivational factors through high school and college and knew this … when a team has an emotional win, particularly a big comeback in the playoffs, they are dead meat the next week.
I bought new snow skis that year with the winnings from the Redskins 26-3 pounding of Dallas the Sunday after the Cowboys had downed the 49ers.