Roger from Indianapolis, IN
Always a great trick sports question. I was a freshman in high school. Everyone remembers Bill Mazeroski hit the ball, but very few remember Yogi Berra as the leftfielder who watched it clear the 408 sign. They always remember him as a catcher jumping into the arms of Don Larsen after the perfecto in the World Series of 1956. Yogi is a loss to humanity, not just sports. His philosophical terms were mind-boggling at times, but exactly on point. Yogi was also one of the many young Americans who rode the Higgins Boats onto the beaches at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Perhaps his greatest contribution of all. He was truly every American’s all-around good guy. You hated the Yankees, but you loved Yogi.
Beautifully written prose about a truly beautiful man. He was right. Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded. By the way, it was 406, not 408.
Alen from Tilburg, The Netherlands
What’s the most important skill to have as a football player?
Courage. Lombardi was wrong. Football is first and foremost a game of courage.
Chris from Eau Claire, WI
You say quarterbacks need multiple Super Bowl titles to be in the race for greatest of all time, so you don’t think Peyton should be in the conversation? I’ve always felt Brady was lucky to get Belichick, and Dungy was lucky to get Manning, if you know what I mean.
Belichick was 5-13 when he got Brady, if you know what I mean.
Ryan from Elmhurst, IL
You say nobody today compares to Joe Greene or Reggie White, and you’re probably right. Fred Taylor is another player you’ve always held in high regard. Are there any Fred Taylors in today’s game?
Adrian Peterson is Fred. Same size, speed and power. The difference is Peterson runs with more edge. Fred isn’t mean enough, which is probably what I love the most about him.
Grt from Bowling Green, KY
Why do the opposing teams have conference calls with each other?
It’s a carryover from the days when pro football needed publicity. In most cases, it was to sell tickets. Coaches knew a big part of their job was promoting the game, and they cooperated fully, just as the reporters did. We were all in this together; the fraternity, you know? We asked the questions and the coaches entertained us with answers that made for good headlines. Lombardi was great copy. What if he wasn’t? What if he hadn’t said winning is the only thing, for example? What if he had won five titles but hadn’t been the personality he was? What if he had been dull or uncooperative? I don’t think the game would’ve risen to popularity as sharply as it did had Lombardi not been the compelling figure he was. I wish the give and take between coaches and reporters today is as it was back then. Something has been lost.
Kerry from Margate, NJ
Vic, best pair from Villanova, Howie Long and Brian Westbrook.
Mike Siani was pretty good, too, but I’m gonna go with Tony Prazenica and Rick Reiprish. One was my high school quarterback and the other one is a long-time friend and esteemed NFL personnel man.
Bill from Oskaloosa, IA
Joe Kapp? I remember him throwing more wobbly and even a few end-over-end passes than any NFL quarterback.
Do you remember him being 5-1 against the Packers in 1967-69? In one of those games, he was two of 11 for 25 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and 0.0 passer rating. He never completed more than nine passes in a game against the Packers; that’s how different football was in his era. We’re talking about a player who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Kapp’s face was a study in toughness. I loved that scar. He was another one of those compelling figures whose presence defied statistical comparison. It was a beautiful game.
John from Verona, WI
Suppose Aaron Rodgers wins another Super Bowl or two. What places him above the other great quarterbacks?
He has it all. Rodgers can beat you with his legs. Brady can’t. Bradshaw could do all of the physical things, but he resisted the nuances of the position, such as check-down and swing passes. His eyes were always in one place, downfield. Rodgers uses the whole field. I’ve never seen a more complete quarterback than Rodgers; Montana was as complete.
Todd from Rochester, NY
If you’re afraid to fail, you will. I sense no such fear from this team, and I think it showed against Seattle. McCarthy has done a great job instilling confidence, even in our young guys, and I think our fast start can be attributed as much to that as anything else.
Mike McCarthy possesses the unique blend of brashness and humility.
Biff from Bartlett, IL
Why do the Packers call their colors green and gold? To everybody I ask, they are green and yellow. For example, look at the helmets of Notre Dame; now that’s gold.
That stuff doesn’t matter to me, but it does to a lot of fans, and Cliff Christl has written the longest column in the history of the world about it. Enjoy!
David from Prophetstown, IL
Vic, so you’re telling me back in the old days teams like the Steelers and Raiders never played against each other with revenge on their minds? From how violent you make them seem, I find that hard to believe.
It was never about revenge. It was always about hate. Those two teams were born to hate each other. They still hate each other. Have you ever seen one of them say something complimentary of the other? That was the real thing; no hype. Pete Banaszak was my radio partner in Jacksonville, and we’d get into conversations about those games and he’d go after Swann as though he was Atkinson or Tatum. I was down on the field late in one game, and Phil Villapiano walked by on the way to the locker room after injuring his knee, and he looked right at me and yelled, “The Steelers are history!” I smiled; he snarled. I hated to cover those games. They were disturbing. The crazy thing is when those players were gone, so was the rivalry. It wasn’t about the teams, it was about the men who played on those teams. They just naturally hated each other.
Ken from Des Moines, IA
Vic, you mentioned Buddy Ryan was good to you. Could you elaborate?
Doug Plank was Buddy’s favorite player. He named the “46 defense” after Doug, who wore No. 46. Doug was from a town in my circulation area and I often called the Bears to talk to Doug and do updates on him. Doug was not good at returning messages, so the Bears PR guy began giving the messages to Buddy, and that’s when the calls got returned. Buddy would ask Doug, “Did you call him yet? Go do it now.” After Doug called, I’d get a call from Buddy: “Do you need anything from me?” That’s what I mean when I talk about coaches being promoters of the game. I wish we hadn’t lost that attitude.
Jim from Rancho Cucamonga, CA
I’ve noticed how you are a forgiving man who believes in second chances, and you also don’t chortle when someone or some other team struggles. Can you point to an event in your life that opened your eyes to this attitude? Maybe it’s football related; maybe it’s not.
The nuns probably did it to me. If they didn’t, football did. Lombardi, Unitas, Layne, Ditka, etc. were my role models. They were tough guys who carried themselves with dignity. You can’t demand respect if you don’t afford it to others. They always did.
David from Milwaukee, WI
Would you have supported a family selling a pair of tickets to the Seattle game if the money had been contributed to a family member’s college fund?
Yeah, if the tickets were sold to Packers fans. If they weren’t, you betrayed your team, and betrayal is the worst of all crimes against emotion.
Glenn from Vancouver, BC
“You must look into the heart and soul of the game, where fear lives. Football is all about overcoming fear. That’s the confrontation.” Thanks for that gem, Vic. Isn’t developing one’s capacity to confront fear the most important lesson football teaches us in preparation for the game of life?
Absolutely. Much greater fears await us, none greater than the fear of being a parent. Courage is also a learned response.
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