Former Packer remembers playing after JFK's death
Photo: Video by nbc26.com
CREATED Nov. 21, 2013In retrospect, Bob thinks the commissioner was in a "no win" situation.
On the morning of November 22, 1963, Packers fans had a reason to be excited. Bart Starr was coming back. Starr had missed the last few games because he broke his hand on a vicious late hit by Saint Louis defensive back Jimmy Hill. Now just one game out of first place, Sunday's showdown against the 49ers in Milwaukee was going to be a festive one, or so everybody thought.
The news flash came from Dallas, Texas. President Kennedy died at 1pm central standard time. Bob Koronski, a 29-year-old offensive tackle remembers getting the news.
"We were on the practice field in Green Bay and the entire team was there, Coach Lombardi was there, someone from the office came running out and went over to Coach Lombardi and whispered something to him, obviously it had to do with the assassination."
Lombardi, a close personal friend of the President, may have pulled off the greatest acting performance of his life, stoically telling his team it would carry on, business as usual.
"He said we'll just sit by and wait until the commissioner tells us what to do, and we'll do it."
In a move he would later come to regret, Commissioner Pete Rozelle decided to play the games as scheduled, but with no TV broadcasts, no public address announcements other than down and distance, no halftime show, no band. The country's most pageantry-filled sport, reduced to the basics. It was an attitude that even extended outside the stadium.
"My wife tells me, all the people who wanted to have a tailgate party never had them. She saw one tailgate party from a fan of Green Bay."
"As many people say you shouldn't have played, others say well he would have wanted you to play. He would have wished that you played."
The Packers went on to win the game 28 to 10. At least for three hours, it was a respite from the shock and uncertainty that was sweeping the country.
"The players all acted, some of them very different. Besides being the President of our country, the most serious of all, you know well people were affected by it."
In his best selling book, "When Pride Still Mattered," author David Maraniss said a strong bond was formed when Lombardi met Kennedy at St. Willebrord Church in October of 1960, when Kennedy gave the second year coach a mass card that he carried with him every day the rest of his life.