Legend, Gentleman. Packer forever.
Bart Starr’s death is one that affects generations of the team’s fans because what he did between the lines left an indelible mark on the team we love. And, there are those who may not know a first down from a touchdown yet Bart Starr touched them too with his charitable work, especially that done for the Vince Lombardi Cancer clinic.
Those my age and older watched his gridiron exploits in the moment, then re-told them ad nauseum to our kids and their grandkids who tried to keep their eyes from rolling as we explained in great detail one more time where we were when #15 plunged into the frozen Lambeau end zone that New Year’s Eve of 1967. There were the tales of the three straight NFL titles, the relationship with the beloved coach.
– Packers legend Bart Starr dead at 85 years old
– Gene Mueller’s blog: Bart Starr – A legend passes, another link to glory gone
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 1: A chase for perfection
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 2: Winning, not stats, defined Starr
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 3: Competitive fire and comebacks
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 4: 1967- Ice in his veins, fire in his heart
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 5: Post-Lombardi – his coaching failure and a moment of forgiveness
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 6: Kindness, presence, attitude, an impact of love
When his playing days ended and his stint as Packers head coach coldly came to an end, Bart Starr still made Green Bay and Wisconsin a part of his life when, truth be told, he really didn’t have to. Yet he and his wife returned each summer to help run the golf tournament named in honor of Lombardi, one aimed at finding a cure to the disease that ended his mentor’s life, one that touched so many the Starr’s never even knew. They’d come back again each winter to host a banquet that honored those who, like Lombardi, achieved excellence. He’d meet you once and then remember not only your name but that of your wife when your paths crossed again the following year at the same gathering–I know, because it happened to LuAnn and I.
The game changed a lot since Bart Starr first donned a green and gold jersey. It’s bigger and brasher, not necessarily better. It was a black-and-white TV curiosity in the 1950’s, a Sunday afternoon filler before Ed Sullivan came on later that same night. Bart Starr, Lombardi and the Packers of the 60’s helped turn the league into an industry, a financial juggernaut, doing the NFL the ultimate favor by defeating the upstart AFL champions in each of the first two Super Bowls when the great debate raged about which league was better. There was no doubting the answer when Starr was behind center, surrounded by talent assembled by Lombardi.
Through it all, you never had to apologize for being a Packer-backer or a Starr fan. He played and won with class, scandal never scarring his name or legacy. If pro sports had a Ward Cleaver, it was #15: smart, unflappable, always making the right choices. Adversity finds everyone and the Starr family was no exception. As always, it was handled with dignity. Even in his final years, when age and disease robbed him of some of his sparkle, Bart Starr fought hard and remained resilient to the end. His final Lambeau appearance that stormy Thanksgiving night is etched in the minds of fans, not just those of the Packers but those of the NFL, too.
It is a life to be celebrated. It is also one to be emulated. May we all be as gracious, kind and human as Bart Starr.