September 10, 2018
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Is this really the 365th edition of this weekly excursion through the back roads of your mind? (Sounds like part of a lyric from a late ‘60s song.) Why, yes it is, and thanks for asking. When I began this venture in 2011, I figured it might last a few dozen weeks and then I would run out of material. Not so. There always seems to be something that rears its head and says “why doncha talk about me?” Okay.
Well, this time it’s football. The colleges have already been at it for two weeks (and KU got a win!) and the pros are just today wrapping up their first week of the season. (Go Pack!) Thank goodness the ‘pre-season’ contests or as I like to think of them, ‘exhibition games,’ are once again behind us. I know, they need some real contact to evaluate players and build teamwork, but I’m sure they could get by with just two or three pre-season games. A lot of players and coaches have said the same thing, but until the NFL decides it wants to drop that nifty little revenue stream, I guess we’re stuck with it.
I was thinking the other day about how late I came to be a football fan. You’d think that growing up in Packerland (Green Bay is 38 miles from my old home town) I would have been bleeding green and gold since I was a mere babe in my mother’s arms. Maybe my family just took the team for granted. We had the Milwaukee Braves for baseball and the Packers for the cold part of the year. Plus we had a semi-pro football team, the Manitowoc County Chiefs, who were very popular. We would watch the Packers on TV now and again, but I personally didn’t get all that interested until they became crazy big in the ‘60s and started winning championships under Vince Lombardi.
The friends I hung around with at the time made sure I got ‘into the spirit’ of the thing. Sundays we would usually gather at their house and turn on the ‘big’ 21-inch RCA for noon kick-off. My friend’s big brother was a rabid fan and instant analyst (fanalyst?) who would rage at the Pack for every blown play or missed opportunity. I mean, he would yell at the TV and rock back and forth in his recliner, seemingly just a hairsbreadth away from throwing a rock through the screen. His play analysis would get more hilarious with every Pabst Blue Ribbon he would open.
“Look at that!” he would holler in despair, “Nitschke (Ray) missed another one! My grandma could have run through that hole! Most valuable linebacker in the league? I doubt it! Most valuable to the Bears, maybe. Jeez, I don’t believe this.”
The only time he would pause is when he would look sadly into his empty beer can, turn to me and say, “Johnny, grab me another, okay? One for yourself, too.” I would head for the fridge and he would resume his running commentary.
“That’s the third time today Starr’s tried that pass! When’s he gonna learn, it ain’t workin.”
All the craziness aside, it was a good time to become a fan. We got to see all the legends of the era like Paul Hornung, Jerry Cramer, Bart Starr (and his back-up, the memorably named Zeke Bratkowski) and of course, stars of the other teams as well, like the ‘Kansas Comet’ Gale Sayers who put his other-worldly skills to good use for the Bears, zig-zagging through throngs of defensive players as he streaked down the field for another TD. And Jim Brown of the Browns, Johnny Unitas with the Colts, Sam Huff and Frank Gifford with the Giants, Lenny Dawson of the Chiefs, Mike Ditka and George Blanda of the Bears, Joe Namath of the Jets and so many more.
Ah yes, good times. Maybe if they still make Pabst Blue Ribbon I’ll have to have one this Sunday, just for old time’s sake.
Hey, we had a couple of trivia winners in the mail from two weeks ago. Terry answered the circus question: yes, it was during the 1760’s that circus companies started using rings to sort of focus the audience’s attention. They started with just one and eventually expanded to three. Personal note: I still have a fond attachment to the whole circus thing, as my Uncle Dick O’Connor was a Ringling Brothers clown for some years.
Honors go to Edith for answering the Willner Building question. Yes, it’s right across the street from the Tribune. The name is on the top and you can see some beautiful and colorful inlay work in the stone up there. Edith says it was once the home of Western Power. Must have been ‘before my time,’ ‘cause when I got here in ’73 they were located where their modern day successor Wheatland is. I remember K P and L being on that Forest Avenue block, though, just a door or two west of the Willner.
Okay, a few questions remain: what was the prominent piece of ‘body art’ (several decades running) on a certain Pontiac model?
Why is the Basenji dog unique?
What 1991 movie about a boy genius starred a multi Oscar-winning actress who appeared in Paper Moon?
Where was the Girl Scout House located in GB?
What QB took his team (now in the NFC North) to three Super Bowls in the ‘70s and came away with three losses?
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Well, I hope your team(s) win this weekend. Thanks for visiting once again. We’ll chat again next week.