The aura of Gail
Cogdills's pewter like Detroit Lions helmet suggests an ancient Roman Empire
artifact that has been uncovered from a recent dig. Although this great helmet
is not quite that old it was used during pro football's glory period of the
1950s and 1960s B.T. (before Tagliabue). The helmet's original "birthmarks" have
been adequately preserved allowing us a special insight into it's rich history:
The original Riddell model identification sticker proudly announces that this is their (now famous) model "RK-4" six point suspension helmet and deserving of only Riddell lacquer paint. The later was an important detail overlooked by the late Roy"Friday" Macklem (the Lion's former long time equipment manager) who choose to have the team's helmets crudely repainted by a local source rather than sending them to the Riddell factory where helmets were restored with the same care in the as if they were priceless pieces of art. Notice both the rough surface finish and actual paint over spray on each end of the one bar facemask. During this era the Lions made no effort to remove the facemasks prior to repainting their helmets. The 1962 helmet manufacturing date is clearly stamped inside the shell. There is also a number "89" (Gail's jersey number) hand written in black marker on the top suspension strapping. The plain blue lion decals and striping, devoid of the current era fancy white trim, reflect a simpler more tasteful period when team designs were not overdone. The patches of blue paint that show through the helmet's otherwise silver exterior tell another story. During his career with the Lions Gail was elected three times to the NFL Western Division Pro Bowl squad. The Western division squad wore plain navy blue helmets and the Eastern Division wore plain Red helmets. The Pro Bowl was always played at the LA Coliseum in that era and the players would bring their regular team helmets with them when they departed for the game. They were painted either navy blue or red by a local LA reconditioner just a few days prior to the game. The hand written note on a piece of athletic tape inside Gail's helmet that was part of this Pro Bowl helmet painting process. The makeshift sticker simply indicated the player who wore the helmet ("Gail Cogdill") and his team ("Lions"). Although informal, this sticker served as a vital function to help identify the helmets after they were stripped of their original team markings. After the game each player returned his helmet to his original team where it was repainted in original team colors covering the Pro Bowl paint job.
The archeologist studies an artifact as if he or she were reading a special crystal ball that could recall splendid details of otherwise long forgotten historical events. When you next examine a historical helmet look beyond the simple team colors and logos and hopefully you may also find yourself on a similarly interesting path of adventure.