In the Infamous Sporting Goods Hall of Fame — somewhere alongside George Brett’s Pine Tarred Louisville Slugger, George Mikan’s Seminal Rec-Specs, and Craig MacTavish’s Invisible Helmet — Tom Matte’s Cheat Sheet Wristband is worthy of a place of honor. The mythical ISGHOF will, of course, have to borrow Matte’s wristband from the actual Pro Football Hall of Fame, where it’s part of the display of pro football’s first 100 years.
Matte was a reserve halfback for the Baltimore Colts in 1965, when both starter John Unitas and his backup Gary Cuozzo were injured. Set to play for the NFL’s Western Conference Championship in Green Bay, Baltimore head coach Don Shula was forced to play Matte at quarterback. In order to help his accidental signal caller remember the plays, Shula and his staff placed an index card of notes under a plastic sheet on Matte’s wristband. The invention — mothered purely by necessity — inspired a quarterback accessory which today is commonplace in the NFL. Every time Tom Brady or Drew Brees checks their inner arm before entering a huddle, it’s a wink at Tom Matte.
On this day in football, June 14, 2012, we salute Matte on his 73rd birthday, with a look back at the story of his famous wristband, as originally presented in 1998: