I’m going with the Packers on Sunday because they were my favorite team when I was a kid. Quarterback Bart Starr was my favorite player. He was very effective but not flashy, and the steady, determined leader of a team that would find a way to win. The cards shown here are 1964 (top) and 1968 (bottom), which were my peak years of collecting. Like every other American male born between 1946 and 1960 (approx.), I can report losing a shoebox-ful of precious bubble-gum cards to some fit of cleaning or thinking I was too old for that stuff, so these cards are not from my collection. I had a bunch of old Packers, though, including Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, Forrest Gregg, Henry Jordan, Willie Wood, Jerry Kramer, and Jim Ringo. For a long time I saved a couple of big newsprint tablet drawings I’d made with crayons on my living room floor while watching the first Super Bowl on TV in 1967. I was 13 years old. Green Bay beat the K. C. Chiefs 35-10. The drawings also went into the trash.
In those days I had a t-shirt with the number 15 like Bart Starr. It was a thin, blue-and-white short-sleeved shirt from Stuart’s Department Store or maybe Beaver Brook Mills (not a fancy green-and-gold uniform shirt with a special NFL tag), which I wore over a sweatshirt when playing outside. Nothing was more fun than playing neighborhood football after school on a day when it was snowing just enough to make the grass crazy slippery on the farmer’s field at the top of Crosby Road. Usually we played touch football, but once in a while we’d play “tackle without equipment.” That was particularly wild in the snow. I don’t remember any broken arms or legs in all those years, and the hits were real hits.
Few of our neighborhood players were on town junior-league football teams, and nobody was on the high school football team, although several were good enough to have made it. We were a sub-neighborhood sports hotbed that ran four seasons: baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. When I say “we,” I mean guys and any girls who wanted to join in. Elaine Lacourse went on to become an excellent high-school athlete. Also, lucky for us, Elaine’s father built a hot-topped tennis court in the mid-’60s that gave us a chance to be tennis players in the days when Channel 2 would broadcast matches in black-and-white, featuring Australians like Rod Laver ( “A man hanging from a huge left arm,” said Bud Collins.). We were a youth sports militia organizing ourselves, and we didn’t need “no stinking uniforms or badges.”
We had our heroes back then, so I’ll be pulling for the Pack on Sunday.