History Book – Pilgrim setbacks, and Monday Night Football

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, September 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book.

Today, the anniversary of a publicity stunt turned deadly. Plus, 50 years ago, the first broadcast of Monday Night Football on ABC.

EICHER: But first, we return to the voyage of the Pilgrims. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: The last time we checked in on the English separatists, it was the summer of 1620. They initially set sail on the Mayflower and Speedwell from Southampton, England, on August 5th. But not long into the voyage, the Speedwell began leaking—badly. So they sailed into the port of Dartmouth for repairs. The passengers lived off their journey provisions while they waited. 

A little more than two weeks later, they finally leave Dartmouth: Hoping this time, the Speedwell—which at this point seems very poorly named—will prove sea worthy. But 300 miles past land’s end, it’s leaking once again. Turns out, the shipwrights overmasted her, putting too much strain on the hull. 

The adventurers and Pilgrims decide to return to England once more. Instead of waiting for a third repair attempt—which would put the whole voyage in jeopardy—they decide instead to attempt the trip in just one ship. 

Audio here from a 2016 BBC documentary titled: “The Mayflower.”

CLIP: If you wanted to go to America, Virginia, or New England, you should try to leave…February or March at the latest, so you can get there in the spring and give yourself a full spring and summer to become accustomed to the New World…

In addition to the risks once getting there, they have a far more pressing problem: the Mayflower isn’t intended for many passengers. The quarters are tight, with little privacy, and very unsanitary conditions. They throw themselves on God’s mercy and leave Plymouth, England, on September 16th, 1620. They have little idea what awaits them in the months ahead.

Next, 50 years ago today, September 21st, 1970:


The first broadcast of “Monday Night Football” on ABC.

CLIP: From Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, two powers in professional football meet for the first time ever…the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns…

The Jets are expected to win behind the arm of quarterback Joe Namath, but the Browns score first and stay ahead the whole game.


In the final two minutes, the Jets are behind by only a field goal, but are pinned down on their 3-yard line. On third down, Namoth throws an interception, and the Browns run it in for a touchdown. The final score: 31 to 21. 

ABC hosted Monday Night Football from 1970 to 2005. It became one of the longest-running and most successful prime time programs on commercial network television. It moved to ESPN in 2006.


Our last story begins in the summer of 1992. 

CLIP: Of course the Hands on Hardbody will be this coming Tuesday…

A Nissan dealer in Longview, Texas, sponsors a promotional stunt: “Hands on  Hardbody.” It’s a contest where people stand around a truck, and have to keep at least one gloved hand on it at all times. Contestants take 5 minute breaks every hour, and a 15 minute break every six hours. 

The last person standing wins the truck. 

PERKINS: You’re standing in one spot, and you’re doing absolutely nothing…what happens is, you go slowly insane. 

Three days later, the last person standing is Benny Perkins.

PERKINS: You know, it’s like the guys that come back from the space program. They’ve got a camaraderie that they share, it’s a closeness, that nobody else can understand.

The contest became a yearly event in Longview, Texas. In 1995 a film crew documented the competition. 

Hands on a Hardbody, the film, won the audience award for best documentary at the 1997 Los Angeles Film Festival—inspiring copycat versions of the promotion across the country and around the world. 

“Hands on Hardbody” came to a tragic end 15 years ago this month. On September 16th, 2005, one of the final contestants walked away from the dealership during a 15-minute break. He crossed the street, broke into a K-Mart store, smashed open a gun display, and grabbed some ammunition. Police showed up before he could leave the store. The man turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger. 

In honor of the victim and his family, the dealership cancelled the competition—indefinitely.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

(ABC Sports Photo) On Sept. 21, 1970, ABC’s NFL “Monday Night Football” premiered with (L-R) Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson and Don Meredith calling the game action during the premiere game between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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