Monday, October 22, 2007
Last weekend one of my all time favorite characters, former Green Bay Packers wide receiver and broadcaster Max McGee, died when he fell from his roof in a western Minneapolis suburb while trying to remove leaves. I don't think Max could play in Roger Goodells corporate NFL today. I think he would have been a bit too colorful, as were many of the characters that made the NFL what it is today. Max was not one of those guys who was lost when their football career ended. He and left guard Fuzzy Thurston started a restaurant called the Left Guard. There was one in my hometown of Eau Claire, WI. It turned into a little chain called ChiChi's which he sold for a few million bucks at the height of its popularity. He didn't need to clean off his own roof but I guess you would expect a guy like that to want to do it. The other great thing about being financially secure was that he didn't have to do the Packer broadcasts for almost 20 years. He did it because he enjoyed it and we enjoyed his commentary because we knew he would not pull any punches; if they sucked they sucked and he would tell you that. He also founded the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes; I guess you would have to expect something like that from a quality guy like Max McGee.
In the winter of 1966 a benefit was held at a small bar (The Golden Spike Bar if my memory serves me) in Altoona, WI for a kid that was hurt in a car accident. The above mentioned Fuzzy Thurston was from Altoona and donated an official NFL football, signed by all the members of the team, to be raffled off for the benefit. I was standing next to the OldMan when he won the football. I believe he had a couple more glasses of Leinies to celebrate the event. All my childhood heroes including Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, and even Vince Lombardi himself signed the football. When my dad died I inherited the football and last night I pulled it out of its top secret storage facility just to take a look at Max's signature. I noticed he signed right next to his buddy, Paul Hornung, who said, "I just lost my best friend".
The thing I enjoyed about Max the most was his dry sense of humor. As a guy with a decent sense of humor and who values friends with a good sense of humor, I can imagine the loss his close buddies have felt. There are several good stories, including the classic Super Bowl I all night partying story, which you can read in any of the many tributes on the web. One of his great lines was, "When its third and ten you can take the milk drinkers and I'll take the whiskey drinkers every time". I suspect Roger Goodell and his corporate NFL suits would cringe at that statement these days. Max will be dearly missed on a number of levels.