In the afterglow of the Green Bay Packers win at last weekend’s Super Bowl, I started thinking about how I came to being of those “once a Packer fan, always a Packer fan” people.
It began when I first got interested in pro football at age 10. My dad, a Wisconsin Badger through and through, loved the Packers with equal passion. Then, some 13 years later, fate put me on the sidelines on December 14, 1963 with the great Packer team quarterbacked by Bart Starr.
How I came to be on the sidelines started innocuously with an invite from my pal, Dr. Ed Washburn, to help him out during the high school football games at San Francisco’s old Kezar Stadium, then the home of the 49ers and host to all the important city league high school games. Washburn was the official head physician for all high school games played at Kezar.
My “real” job at the time started at 6 a.m. and was over a 2.p.m, so making the 3 p.m. kickoffs was a breeze. I’d lug some of Washburn’s medical gear into the stadium and assist him on the field when needed.
As the season wore on, the high school coaches started calling me “doc” thinking I was doing an internship with Washburn in what passed in those days for sports medicine. More importantly, one of the professional trainers who had been hired to serve the teams playing at Kezar was convinced that I was an M.D.
So much so that one afternoon at a high school game he came over and said, “hey Doc, you wanna help out Sunday at the Packer-49er game? You’ll work on the Packers.”
I took a deep breath and said, “sure,” adding, “can I bring a fellow med student.”
No problem, and with that a buddy and I walked onto the field at Kezar stadium on that cool December Sunday afternoon. My buddy immediately lost himself in the sideline crowd while I grew increasingly nervous that I’d be called on after a Packer got crunched and my cover would be blown big time.
That anxiety rose higher when a distinguished gentleman in a camel hair overcoat called to me and asked me to join him behind the Packers bench. I did.
“Doc,” he said as I joined him, “No need to worry about anything. Our staff will take care of all the injuries. Just relax and enjoy yourself.
And thus ensued an afternoon of me snapping pics that don’t look so good today, being amazed at how intimidating and intense linebacker, and future Hall of Famer, Ray Nitschke was and spending a lot of time with the great Packer end Bowd Dowler dissecting his routes. Yes, Dowler asked me to watch his routes and comment.
The Packers won 21-17 and I went from fan to lifelong fan. As I walked out of the stadium, I recognized one of my dad’s friends who yelled at me: “How the hell did you get on the sidelines?”
By the shear luck of being the modern version of, with a tip of the hat to the great French playwright, Moliere, “The Doctor In Spite of Himself.”