It’s a game that is rarely talked about, but it did happen. The year was 1961 and the game was between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles. It took place in the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway. The game celebrated its 5oth anniversary two years ago we were lucky enough to catch up and talk with the starting tailback for the Eagles, at the the time, Billy Ray Barnes. Barnes says he doesn’t remember much.
“That damn game was 52 years ago and I’m glad I don’t remember much. When we showed up at Bristol the field was the worst field I had ever seen. We played a game one time at the Fairgrounds in Ohio and it was just a tick better than the field at Bristol.”
When we were talking to BRB during our interview we got the idea that the times were a lot different back then. “We just went and played where we were told. We were getting 50 bucks a game and thought we were rich. When they told us we were playing at Bristol Motor Speedway, well, we just went and played.” Even though the game was just an NFL exhibition it still drew plenty of fans. “The crowd was good, but it felt like a practice. The stands were so far away from the field it was hard to get into it. We couldn’t even hear the fans cheering until we were leaving the game.”
We wanted to dig a little deeper into some of the more interesting things about the game. Check out our Q and A with Mr. Barnes and be ready to laugh. Enjoy.
Pittalks: What were some of the funny things about playing there?
BRB: It’s probably no secret, but back when I played some of the players would have a cigarette during halftime. At Bristol there was only one bathroom at the north end of the field. Both teams were sharing the same bathroom. At halftime we all met up there and had a few cigarettes and then went on and finished the game.
Pittalks: Who won the game?
BRB: Hell, I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure we won though. I do remember this for sure; I got tackled one time and landed so hard in a puddle I didn’t know if I was going to get up before I drowned. There were puddles everywhere on that field.
Pittalks: Where did you guys get dressed and ready before the game?
BRB: We stayed at some small place in town and we dressed there. We showed up ready to play. One of the things that really surprised me when we got there was how steep the track was. You guys call that what?
Pittalks: It’s banking Billy.
BRB: Yeah, the damn banking was so steep I almost lost it getting down to the field.
Pittalks: Have you been back since the football game?
BRB: Hell no, I’m not much of a race fan. I really like watching them go around the track at 200mph, but I don’t go to races. Those drivers got some balls to do that. I respect that.
Pittalks: What do you think about crew guys?
BRB: I know a lot of athletes are getting into racing. You got to be big, strong, and quick to do what they do. It’s fun to watch the drivers when it gets towards the last few laps and those guys get after it.
Pittalks: If you were going to be on a pit crew and do one of those positions now, which one do you think you would be best at?
BRB: My answer is simple, none. You’re crazy if you think I’m getting in front of those cars. That’s crazy.
Pittalks: Did you even get to take a lap around the track before or after the game?
BRB: No, we wanted out of there as soon as the game was over. That was the worst field most of us had ever played on and we just wanted to get home.
Pittalks: Well, Mr. Barnes I would like to thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. I really appreciate it and maybe we can get you out to the track one day. Are we missing anything else you wanted to add?
BRB: Yeh, did you see that contract that Calvin Johnson just signed. I got a $124 dollar raise this year for every year I played and that guy just signed a $132 million, 10 year contract. How about a little something for the old guys that helped start the game? I’m sure some of the old racers think the same thing.
Pittalks: I’m sure they do. Well good luck with everything you got going on and thanks for taking time to talk with us.