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From Lambeau field, where glory stays

A poignant article in last week’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reminded me of two powerful lines from To an Athlete Dying Young.

“Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay.”

Famed author and sports commentator Dick Schaap read the A.E. Housman poem at my dad’s funeral more than 20 years ago. While, at 53-years old, my dad was young when he died, he also was 25-years past his playing days. Still, 13 of his Packer teammates and several members of the Green Bay coaching staff made their way to frozen Appleton on a weekday morning for the funeral.

I thought about that day, too, when I read Gary D’Amato’s piece, “ ’60s Packers struggle against their final foe.”

And, with all due respect to Mr. Housman and Mr. D’Amato, I’d like to offer a different perspective.

Built as it is on the adoration of professional sports’ most loyal fans, Lambeau Field may be the one, genuine place where glory does stay.

Sure my heart hurts a little on alumni day when I watch Lombardi’s heroes limp across the field, but only because it has already swelled with pride for all these men accomplished.

The point isn’t, as the article states that “the once powerful champions are losing their goal-line stand against Father Time,” it’s that they established a legacy so powerful we’re still fascinated by them today.

They played football the way they did, building a legacy that defined a decade, reveling in a lasting brotherhood, and celebrating the birth of the modern-day NFL because they loved the game and they respected their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi.

The league owes much of its incredible success to these first feisty Super Bowl warriors.

What Lombardi’s Packers accomplished during the turbulence of the 1960s will last long after the last member of those famed teams takes his final breath. It’s not just that they won an unprecedented five titles in seven years, it’s how they did it:

  • With straight backs and NFL issue blazers
  • In sweat socks and metal cleats
  • Without agents
  • With off-season workouts in high school gyms and on solitary roads
  • Self-trained
  • With fierce loyalty
  • With a back-slapping sense of fun
  • With outside pressures like second jobs and mortgages
  • With dedication
  • With love

We mourn the players, but we celebrate the team and its immortal success. Frozen in time and on their famed tundra, these men will always be the athletes who defined Lombardi’s Glory Years.

Inside the Super Bowl I plane

This is the 1966 Packers on the plane home from their 35-10 historic win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I. Note the classy shirts and ties.

Max McGee Roast

Still classy 25 years later, here are many of Lombardi’s Packers raising money for Max McGee’s charity back in 1992.

Packer D-line (Vern Biever)

Only Hall of Famer Willie Davis is left from this legendary defensive line that included Hall of Famer Henry Jordan, Lionel Aldridge and my dad, Ron Kostelnik. Their legacy lives on.

On the field at Lambeau

I submit that no team treats its alumni as respectfully as the Packers treat theirs. Here are members of the first Super Bowl team’s defense on one of the many occasions in which they were invited back to Lambeau.

Scan

Lifelong teammates and friends Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer caught up with my mom and my daughter Katherine after Katherine sang the national anthem at the Packer game in 2006.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Molly was thrilled to hang our with Hall of Famer and all around nice guy Dave Robinson a few years ago.

Mom, Fuzzy and Laura

My mom and I earned a hug from the always smiling Fuzzy last year during alumni weekend.

1966 Packers 1966 Packers

I’ve always struck by the size of those first Super Bowl teams. The 1966 roster lists just 41 players and three coaches. Though they’re aging, and many are deceased, they live forever as the very first players to be called Super Bowl Champions. They are: Herb Adderly, Lionel Aldridge, Bill Anderson, Donny Anderson, Ken Bowman, Zeke Bratkowski, Allen Brown, Robert Brown, Tim Brown, Lee Roy Caffey, Don Chandler, Tommy Jo Crutcher, Bill Curry, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Marv Fleming, Gale Gillingham, Jim Grabowski, Forrest Gregg, Doug Hart, Dave Hathcock, Paul Hornung, Bob Jeter, Henry Jordan, Ron Kostelnik, Jerry Kramer, Bob Long, Red Mack, Max McGee, Ray Nitschke, Elijah Pitts, Dave Robinson, Bob Skoronski, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Fuzzy Thurston, Phil Vandersea, Jim Weatherwax, Willie Wood, Steve Wright.

 

 

 

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Posted on December 8, 2014, in Lambeau Field, NFL, Packer Alumni, Packers, Sports, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Oh how I love to read your posts. I always leave feeling so good! Your writing is wonderful. As I read, I kept thinking, “I wonder if she has read that article in the Milwaukee Journal. I should send it to her” only to finally realize that was the Gary D’Amato piece you were referring to. I think in the end he was trying to say what you were saying about the never-ending love and respect the fans have for the Lombardi players but you simply said it so much better. Thank you for this and the pictures. You started my day so nicely.

  2. I worked a couple of Minnesota Twins charters in 1987… Tom Kelly always had the team in dress shirt, tie and sports coats. Probably why they won the World Series that year. ;

  3. WELL DONE! I had actually lived in the same neighborhood as Jerry Kramer, Henry Jordan, Bob Skoronski and Jim Taylor. They were neighbors and friends, not living in a ritzy or gated community.

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