Su­per Bowl I was all business

Pres­sure was on to de­stroy AFL’s Chiefs

Packer Plus - - 50 YEARS AGO: THE JOURNEY TO SUPER BOWL I - MARTIN HEN­DRICKS SPE­CIAL TO PACKER PLUS

Be­fore Su­per Bowl I, Vince Lom­bardi se­questered his team in Santa Barbara, Calif., for a week of prac­tice, 95 miles away from the spot­light and dis­trac­tions of Los Angeles.

Two weeks ear­lier, the Green Bay head coach had taken his team to Ok­la­homa to es­cape the harsh Wis­con­sin win­ter and pre­pare for the NFL Cham­pi­onship Game in Dal­las. That didn’t ex­actly pan out, as a win­ter ice storm hit Tulsa that forced the Pack­ers in­doors and dis­rupted the head coach’s sched­ule.

The veteran team and de­fend­ing NFL cham­pi­ons were un­fazed, and played well in a hard­fought, 34-27, vic­tory over the Cow­boys on their home turf.

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Bart Starr was at his best, throw­ing for 304 yards and four touch­downs, and the Pack­ers de­fense rose up to stop the Cow­boy’s last­gasp drive with Tom Brown’s dra­matic in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone in the fi­nal minute.

But one game re­mained on Green Bay’s sched­ule: the firstever meet­ing of cham­pi­ons from the es­tab­lished Na­tional Foot­ball League and up­start Amer­i­can Foot­ball League.

With the leagues merg­ing in 1970, this “Su­per Bowl” — so dubbed by Kansas City Chiefs owner La­mar Hunt af­ter his grand­son’s high-bounc­ing toy ball — was es­tab­lished to de­ter­mine foot­ball’s world cham­pion.

Lom­bardi and the Pack­ers, in the midst of their 1960s dy­nasty, were heavy fa­vorites to show­case the su­pe­ri­or­ity of the older NFL. The game would be broad­cast by two net­works (CBS had the NFL, NBC broad­cast the AFL) and pres­sure to win weighed might­ily on the Green Bay head coach.

Guard Jerry Kramer said his team­mates and coaches felt the pres­sure to con­vinc­ingly beat the AFL cham­pion Chiefs.

“Coach Lom­bardi got calls from (Welling­ton) Mara, (Ge­orge) Halas, (Art) Rooney, and other NFL own­ers to not just win, but to em­bar­rass Kansas City,” Kramer said from his Idaho home Mon­day. “We had to beat the (ex­ple­tive) out of them, prove the NFL was the bet­ter league.

“And you know what? Coach Lom­bardi was much tighter than the play­ers. How could we tell? Well, he tripled the team fines (cur­few, etc.) and he hid us 100 miles out of L.A. from the rest of the world.”

Santa Barbara was so fit­ting. Lom­bardi, a de­vout Catholic, chose a city named for a pa­tron saint who was kept locked up in a tower by her rich pa­gan fa­ther, Dioscorus, to pro­tect her from the out­side world.

“Coach Lom­bardi told us, point blank, we had to win by three touch­downs to prove the NFL’s su­pe­ri­or­ity,” for­mer Pack­ers line­backer Dave Robin­son said from his Ohio home Satur­day. “And Vince didn’t run the score up on any­body, even against the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor teams in our league. There was a lot of pres­sure on the Green Bay Pack­ers to win, and win big.”

So Lom­bardi did what he al­ways did: make sure his team was pre­pared.

“Coach Lom­bardi was miser- able in Santa Barbara, it was a hell week of prac­tice,” tackle Bob Sko­ron­ski said in a past Packer Plus in­ter­view. “There was no fun or sun for us. He pushed us so hard. I thought we might leave that game on the prac­tice field.”

For­mer Green Bay full­back Jim Tay­lor rel­ished the hard work and chal­lenge.

“Coach Lom­bardi kept us away from L.A. for a rea­son,” Tay­lor said from his Louisiana home Satur­day af­ter­noon. “We had a job to do. I just went with the flow that week with all the press and stuff. It was a dif­fer­ent kind of week for us.

“But we were con­fi­dent and knew the Chiefs had some good foot­ball play­ers, but not the depth we had. The AFL had only been in business for six years and the NFL was es­tab­lished. We had al­ready beaten a tough Dal­las team and many didn’t think Kansas City was the cal­iber of many of the top NFL teams.”

For Tay­lor, it would be his last sea­son in Green Bay, one in which he rarely talked with his head coach.

“It was a business de­ci­sion for me to stay or leave Green Bay,” Tay­lor said. “I had to look out for me and my fam­ily fi­nan­cially. But I was a Packer for nine years and was glad to be a part of that Su­per Bowl I team. We were on a mis­sion to prove the Green Bay Pack­ers were the bet­ter team and the NFL was the bet­ter league.

“Coach Lom­bardi de­manded it.”

Lom­bardi was so fo­cused on game prepa­ra­tions and prac­tice that he didn’t re­al­ize his wife had left for Las Ve­gas for two days in the mid­dle of the week.

In “When Pride Still Mat­tered,” David Maraniss wrote that Lom­bardi asked his wife if she had flown over the moun­tains on her Ne­vada flight.

“No dummy,” Marie Lom­bardi replied, “I flew un­der them.”

Kramer said Lom­bardi — on rare oc­ca­sions — told the team a corny joke to break the ten­sion. Lom­bardi didn’t tell any jokes lead­ing up to the his­toric matchup with Kansas City in a game that would be­come a world spec­ta­cle.

Ac­cord­ing to Maraniss, he stopped the team bus as it was about to de­part for the Los Angeles Coli­seum on game day.

“He rose to his feet, stepped into the aisle, got the at­ten­tion of his play­ers, and danced a soft shoe. The play­ers started scream­ing, ‘Go, Coach, Go.’

“When he sat down, Jack Koep­pler (a close friend) asked him, ‘What the hell was that?’

“‘They were too tight,’ Lom­bardi said.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS While the Pack­ers pre­pare for Su­per Bowl I in Jan­uary 1967, Vince Lom­bardi stud­ies the Los Angeles Coli­seum turf.

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