HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE 1959 MIRACLE IN GREEN BAY

In the year 1959, I was a senior at Menomonie High School in Dunn County. My three brothers and I, farm kids all, begged and cajoled our dad into getting our first television set, a black and white with rabbit ears antenna.

Before the purchase of that first television set, the four boys would gather around the radio on Sunday afternoons after church and listen to whatever game was being carried that was within our reach.

We would mostly hope that we could get a broadcast of the Baltimore Colts games because Baltimore had this big fullback named Alan Ameche who had played for the Wisconsin Badgers and we remembered his scoring heroics in "the greatest game" played on December 28, 1958, against the New York Giants - the first nation-wide televised NFL game that Baltimore won in another first, an overtime victory!

What made it all the more special for us Badger fans is that Alan "the horse" Ameche scored the winning touchdown from one yard out. So in 1959, we were Baltimore Colts fans. But the dramatic "greatest game" was our strongest talking point when we begged dad to get a TV. We didn't want to not SEE the next "greatest game"!

And then a miracle happened in little Green Bay, Wisconsin. A coach named Vince Lombardi was hired. He made us quickly forget about the Colts. The highlight of my senior year was when Lombardi sent many of his players out to the hinterlands of Wisconsin to speak to high school students. Menomonie High School was assigned to one of Lombardi's ends, Gary Knfelc, who gave a very entertaining and in-depth look at what was happening under the new coach.

We were hooked! From then on, every Sunday after Mass, we would rush home and turn on the TV, to watch the Green Bay Packers and maybe get a glimpse of Gary Knafelc.

Every Thanksgiving brought with it the hard-fought games against the arch enemy Detroit Lions - dinner was planned around the game. And so it has been ever since. I still miss the loss of that traditional Packer/Lion Turkey Day game. And Ray Scott.

I AM THANKFUL FOR ...

I am thankful for many things this morning. I am thankful to have found Kim Wilson at a time in my life when my psyche was in shambles and she stood by me while I stumbled back, patiently giving me the time and the room to become whole. For that I am thankful, not just for today but for every day she continues to be my life's partner and I hers.

I am thankful for my two sons, Jon and David, both who have grown to be good, caring men of great talent and vision. I am thankful that even though they both live a long ways away from me, always make an effort to stay in touch with me and keep me abreast of what is happening in their lives.

I am thankful for all the good that was instilled in me by both my parents, Jack and Alice. Not a day goes by that I don't find myself doing something that reminds me of one or both. To my father, I am thankful especially for showing me that only through hard work does one accomplish goals. To my mother, I am especially thankful for teaching me to be accepting of all my fellow beings, black, white, red, yellow, gay, straight - to know that all people of different cultures are to be treated with deep respect and with a sense of justice.

I am thankful also for my three brothers, all of whom I love very deeply. I marvel at how different yet alike all four of us are, proud of the fact that all of us were educators at one time in our lives, and that my three brothers also learned the same values that I did from our parents.

I am thankful for my sister-in-law Kristi, who through example, has taught me the concept of self-control in all endeavors. She has exhibited a keen ability to be able to analyze any and all facets of her own life and in so doing has not only helped herself to a better life, but has served as a great example for me.

I am thankful for my close friends. Wil Denson has long been a mentor and pillar of strength for me. I am very thankful that my friend Doug Cox still loves me in spite of our political differences. Doug is the most generous and kind person I know, even though he pretends that this is not so. I am thankful that he was able to weather the terribly long storm of poor health that he went through the last couple of years and that the "old" Doug is back! I am thankful for every minute that we get to spend together!

I am thankful that I have survived heart surgery and several motorcycle accidents. By rights, I should be long gone by now!

Finally, I am thankful that I am still able to be an entertainer, whether it be making people laugh after dinner at conventions, or going into people's homes and making my home made pizzas for a party, or taking my guitar into senior centers and connecting with them through my music - all are things that make my life worthwhile and give me a sense of purpose.