Sometimes nice guys actually do finish first
September 29, 2010 | 07:36 AM
One of my few claims to fame is that I was kicked off a football field by Bart Starr.
It was the early '80s. I was taking pictures at a Packer training camp for a weekly newspaper and Starr was the team's coach. James Lofton, their star receiver at the time, was going out for a pass. He cut toward the sideline where I happened to be standing a bit too close to the action.
I heard a firm voice from down the field. It was Bart Starr, but at that moment it sounded like the voice of God.
I'm not sure what he said. Knowing Starr it wasn't a four-letter word. Whatever he said prompted me to back off and save a close-up of a wide receiver running me over for another day.
But Starr stopped short of kicking me out of the stadium that day, and even acknowledged me at the gate after practice. I won't forget his stern reprimand, but not banishing me was something else I'll remember.
Starr, as everyone knows, was a star quarterback during the Packers heyday in the 1960s. Later, he became a less than successful head coach for the Green and Gold.
Except for the occasional appearance at an old-timers event or at Rawhide Boys Ranch, the Wisconsin charity he helped start, you don't hear much about him anymore.
However, memories of Starr returned the other day when I noticed a small item in the paper.
The story said Starr was giving three NFL championship rings and other memorabilia to the Packers Hall of Fame — the most significant gift the Hall has ever received. Starr said the rings were hanging in the family's study and his wife, Cherry, suggested they could be put to better use.
For the sports fan, this may seem like a minor story. For the non-sports fan, it probably doesn't sound like a story at all.
But it was meaningful to me. Starr was often laughed at for his goody-two-shoes demeanor. But he survived the stern leadership of Vince Lombardi and led the Packers to five championships.
Now 76, his glory days are long past. There was a time when he had hopes of starting his own NFL team but that window has surely closed. He's hardly at death's door, but the recent passings of Packer tight-end Ron Kramer and, before that, other Packer greats like Max McGee, reminds all of us that even football players are mortal.
So it's nice to know that Starr is living the autumn of his years the way he's lived all his life.
Some heroes will bathe in the limelight as long as they can, surrounding themselves with selfish reminders. But the truly classy ones like Starr will pass the spirit that lives in their trophies on to a larger community.
Starr was a class act even when he kicked me off the football field. He's still a class act now.
Halverson is the general
manager of the Regional News.