There was a lot to like on September 15, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Washington Redskins 38-20 at Lambeau Field. Besides seeing a convincing victory by the current group of Packers that day, the fans in attendance were able to cheer on players from the Green Bay NFL championship teams from 1965, 1966 and 1967, who were being honored by the Packers that day.
The group of players in attendance included Bill Anderson, Donny Anderson, Ken Bowman, Zeke Bratkowski, Tom Brown, Dick Capp, Bill Curry, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Jim Flanigan, Marv Fleming, Jim Grabowski, Doug Hart, Dave Hathcock, Don Horn, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Bob Long, William "Red" Mack, Chuck Mercein, Dave Robinson, Bob Skoronski, Bart Starr, Fred Thurston, Phil Vandersea, James Weatherwax, Ben Wilson and Steve Wright.
As always, Bart Starr got the biggest ovation. Jerry Kramer was close by at that moment, and he talked about the scene.
Bart teared up a little there at the introduction ceremony, and I couldn't help but give him a hug. He was a little misty, and I understood why, so I gave him a hug and I also got a little misty.
It's been over 40 years since Starr, Kramer and the rest of the group of players had experienced the glory of those teams coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi at Lambeau Field. The 1965-1967 teams did something that no other NFL team has ever done in the playoff era. That is, win three straight NFL championships, which also included the first two Super Bowls.
The Packers of 1929-1931 also won three straight NFL titles, but that was before the playoff era began in 1933.
The 1965-67 teams had a group of special guys, as Kramer related to me.
The experience that we had was such a great experience, and it doesn't change. I mean I know those guys like a brother. You go right back to the locker room when you see those guys like it was yesterday, instead of 30 years ago or however long it's been. The emotional bond is still there. And the feeling of brotherhood is instantly there. That group was more like a family than a team. It was guys who cared for one another, worked together and sacrificed for one another. That made things work for everybody ultimately.
Unfortunately, a number of players who played on those teams have passed on. Teammates like Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Don Chandler, Lee Roy Caffey, Ron Kostelnik, Bob Jeter, Elijah Pitts, Lionel Aldridge, Gale Gillingham, Tommy Joe Crutcher, Travis Williams and Max McGee.
Kramer talked about something McGee said to his sons Matt and Jordan at an alumni weekend in 2007.
Max said to the boys, 'Well, you never know how many more of these you will attend. You never know how much time you got.' And Max was gone about a month after that.
Kramer is 77 years old and most of the players at the reunion of the 1965-67 teams are of a similar age. So these get-togethers are truly special when the boys meet up again.
Kramer also offered some advice to the current group of Packers who are 1-2, coming off a very painful loss in Cincinnati and are now in their bye week.
The game of football is an odd game. The ball is an odd shape and it's bounces odd ways. The loss (to the Bengals) was just one of those days. The team just needs to put that out of their minds, wipe it out and put it away. The Packers need to heal up in the bye week and come back and play like they know they can play.
Spoken like a true champion. In 1967, the last championship year under Lombardi, and the year Kramer co-wrote Instant Replay with the late Dick Schaap, the Packers suffered two very difficult losses in the final minute.
In the middle of that season, the Packers lost to the Colts in Baltimore, 13-10, after the Colts recovered an onside kick. The Pack came back the next week to beat the Cleveland Browns 55-7 in Milwaukee.
Then, late in the season, the Packers lost to the Rams in Los Angeles 27-24 after the Rams blocked a punt. Two weeks later, the Packers defeated those same Rams 28-7 in Milwaukee in the Western Conference Championship Game.
A week later, the Packers won the NFL title game (the "Ice Bowl") against the Cowboys, and then won Super Bowl II two weeks after that.
Kramer knew it was a special group who accomplished that, just like it was for the teams that won NFL titles the previous two years. The emotions are still there too.
There was a rich emotional bond to begin with. It's still there. You don't see many of the guys shaking hands. We're huggers. We're a family.
A family that has done something very historical. Again, no other NFL team has ever won three straight NFL titles like those Green Bay teams did. The teams from 1965, 1966 and 1967 deserve all the recognition, notoriety and applause that they receive.