DISTANT REPLAY by Jerry with Dick Schaap Kramer
Kirkus Star


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An uneven but frequently engrossing exercise in male-bonding nostalgia that could have been titled The Return of the Green Bay Eleven. Kramer (whose diary of the 1967 NFL season, Instant Replay, was a best seller) here reports on the first formal reunion of the Packers club that won pro football's first Super Bowl game. Nearly 18 years later, 29 members of the 40-man squad gathered to spend a long October weekend in the small Wisconsin city that gloried in their victory. They came mainly to renew old acquaintances and toast absent friends, including their demanding coach, Vince Lombardi, who succumbed to cancer in 1970. In addition to championship seasons, Kramer makes clear, the tie that binds Green Bay's ex-players is the shared experience of Lombardi's exacting regime. With a big assist from Schaap, he manages to convey the reality of their mentor's presence at the festivities without undue mawkishness. Otherwise, Kramer focuses on answering the question: Whatever happened to. . .? The short-take updates he offers reveal most of his teammates either took up coaching (Bart Start, Forrest Gregg, Elijah Pitts, Zeke Bratkowski) or slipped contentedly into middle-class obscurity (Herb Adderley, Tom Brown, Gale Gillingham, Jim Grabowski, Steve Wright, et al.). In the years since Green Bay beat the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, several Packers have also become millionaires. Willie Davis (a defensive end) owns five radio stations and sits on MGM's board of directors, while hard-living Max McGee (the wide receiver who starred in Super Bowl I despite a hangover) cashed in a pile of chips after Chi-Chi's, a chain of Mexican restaurants in which he had an equity interest, went public. There have been tragedies as well as triumphs for former Packers in the interim. Lineman Henry Jordan, for example, dropped dead of a heart attack at 42. Another defensive bulwark, Lionel Aldridge, suffered a mental breakdown that put him clown and out. He eventually surfaced after the get-together as a postal worker in Milwaukee, and Kramer uses a bathetic account of a post-reunion visit he made there as an envoy. Grating, too, are the author's self-conscious stabs at introspection, and his penchant for settling old scores, notably, with Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor. Such lapses apart, a most worthy successor to Instant Replay.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Putnam