Editor’s note: The following story, written by former Spokesman-Review columnist Harry Missildine, appeared in The Spokesman-Review on Jan. 1, 1968, following the Green Bay Packers’ 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the famed Ice Bowl, considered one of the greatest games in NFL history. In the game, Jerry Kramer’s block paved the way for Bart Starr’s winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.
Kramer’s four words – a revelation
“Maybe it’s like Camelot.”
Jerry Kramer in those four words did more to illuminate the mystery and mystique of the Green Bay Packers than all of the nattering smoke and fog uttered recently by some of the more pompous slicks.
Vince Lombardi is not Merlin, he’s King Arthur. Bart Starr is Sir Lancelot who drinks not mead but 7-Up.
There was a message in that phrase of Kramer’s which comes through as true and strong as his block on Dallas tackle Jethro Pugh that created the precious, victorious 12 inches of advance for Starr into the Dallas end zone.
Kramer’s block, revealed in justifiable repetitions on the replay, must now stand as the greatest moment in the career of this great Sandpointer and former Idaho player, who has had so many great ones, and who has overcome an incredible succession of injuries and ailments, the last almost fatal. After three operations, they found the cause, a poison-spreading abscess around a splinter in Kramer’s innards, relic of one boyhood accident. Kramer had a cow by the tail in a pasture, getting a free ride, when the animal kicked up a spear-shaped length of wood that impaled him.
Even Vince doubted it
Kramer has had a broken neck, a detached retina, a broken ankle or so, a forearm partially shot away in a hunting accident, broken ribs, acute appendicitis.
In June 1965, when Lombardi and Phil Bengtson were here for the State Football Clinic at Whitworth, it was this bureau’s pleasure to meet the great man.
Just before, I had been in touch with Kramer, then recovering from the final and finally successful operation for that abscess.
“I’ll play this year,” Kramer assured me, though he was then wasted away to 205 pounds or so.
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Lombardi at a luncheon during the clinic. “I’m glad Jerry thinks he can play. I just don’t see how he can.”
It is possible, then, to be tougher than Lombardi thinks you can be.
A simple thing – and perfect
Kramer’s block on Pugh, who weighs 270 and stands 6-foot-6, was a simple marvel of power, technique and timing.
First, perhaps most important, Kramer never tipped his assignment. As he got into his stance, he never glanced at Pugh, and his slight body angle left-to-right seemed to suggest he’d block to the outside, creating a gap through which Pugh might charge.
At the snap, Kramer’s first charge carried his left shoulder into Pugh’s chest. Pugh resisted, but as the driving Kramer planted his next step into Lambeau Field’s frozen tundra, his force staggered Pugh, now turned and clamped him into a vice of which the closing jaws were Kramer and the driving shoulder of Green Bay center Bob Hyland.
Not ice water – antifreeze
I hope nobody writes that Starr had ice water in his veins. The postgame sample showed 78 percent Prestone. And Lombardi’s antecedents didn’t come from Italy. He’s the great-great-great-great-grandson of Eric the Red.
And there really are abominable snowmen. Their names are Lionel Aldridge, Henry Jordan, Ron Kostelnik, Willie Davis, Lee Roy Caffey, Dave Robinson and Ray Nitschke.
And what does Sir Lancelot do in Camelot, when the tournament’s two minutes from over and the black knights are ahead and it’s second-and-25 at midfield? He throws a check-off pass to Anderson, another check-off pass to Anderson and another check-off pass – to Chuck Mercein.
It was like Camelot, but was Camelot ever so cold?
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