Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Ice Bowl

Thursday will be 42 years since the Green Bay Packers played the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL title game that is known to pro football history as the "Ice Bowl."

If you aren't old enough to remember it, it may be hard to understand why people still regard it as one of the greatest games — if not the greatest game — ever played. I guess the only answer is: The Ice Bowl had it all. It combined everything that football fans love about football — legendary coaches and players, adverse weather conditions, championship stakes, a young but percolating rivalry between the teams and their fans, topped off by a dramatic game–winning drive in the final minutes.

I've always enjoyed the account of the game–winning play in the best–selling 1967 season diary of guard Jerry Kramer, "Instant Replay."
"The ground was giving me trouble, the footing was bad near the goal line, but I dug my cleats in, got a firm hold with my right foot, and we got down in position, and Bart [Starr] called the 'hut' signal. I came off the ball as fast as I ever have in my life. I came off as fast as anyone could. In fact, I wouldn't swear that I didn't beat the center's snap by a fraction of a second. I wouldn't swear that I wasn't actually offside on the play.

"I slammed into Jethro [Pugh] hard. All he had time to do was raise his left arm. He didn't even get it up all the way and I charged into him. His body was a little high, the way we'd noticed in the movies, and, with [center Ken] Bowman's help, I moved him outside. Willie Townes, next to Jethro, was down low, very low. He was supposed to come in low and close to the middle. He was low, but he didn't close. He might have filled the hole, but he didn't, and Bart churned into the opening and stretched and fell and landed over the goal line. It was the most beautiful sight in the world, seeing Bart lying next to me and seeing the referee in front of me, his arms over his head, signaling the touchdown. There were 13 seconds to play."

Jerry Kramer
Instant Replay

I was merely a young boy when the game was played, but the Packers of those days turned me into a Green Bay fan for life. I still have vivid memories of watching Vince Lombardi walk the Green Bay sidelines, although I have few memories of anything else from that time — except perhaps the summer evening about seven months later when my grandfather taught me how to cast from the banks of an east Texas lake and, to both his surprise and mine, I caught a fish.

But that's another story.

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