"You could see right away the following season that the crowds were building from game to game," Marchetti said. "We felt like kings. At the taphouses, people introduced you to friends like they were proud to know you."
Television interviews multiplied.
Huff appeared on the cover of Time in 1959, and in 1960 CBS aired a special, hosted by Walter Cronkite, called The Violent World of Sam Huff.
Unitas, meanwhile, became an emblem of the crew-cut, stoic men who defined the 1950s and early 1960s. By beating the glamorous Giants, the Colts had become a sensation in Baltimore and a symbol of how the NFL could bring life to new markets.
"I think it was really a coming-out party for the city of Baltimore," said Goodell, who was born in New York less than two months after the game but grew up a Colts fan.
With the AFL expansion, more sophisticated passing offenses came into vogue. Training methods improved, and players grew larger. Coaching, following in the footsteps of Landry and Lombardi, became more specialized. The game as we know it bloomed.
Historians tie much of that back to the 1958 game. "They were really on the vanguard," Bowden said, "inventing the modern game of football."
Berry offered a simple take on that legacy, celebrated this year by four books and a feature-length ESPN documentary.
"I think it's just a hoot," he said, "to think that 50 years later, anybody gives a flip."