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Back to the Future
Peter King
September 02, 1996
In a rematch of the first Super Bowl, between the Chiefs and the Packers, four worthy men will realize their dreams
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September 02, 1996

Back To The Future

In a rematch of the first Super Bowl, between the Chiefs and the Packers, four worthy men will realize their dreams

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"Oh, that'd be too much," says Chuck Giordana, research specialist for the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, as he takes a visitor through the Hall one August day. "People would go wild. What a story! Kansas City's chance for revenge."

Giordana points to the gold bowl presented to the Pack after its 35-10 win in Super Bowl I. THE WORLD'S PRO FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS, the engraving reads. "Guys got $15,000 to win that game," he says. "Losers got $7,500. That's an NFL fine these days. But it seemed like those guys—[Ray] Nitschke, [Forrest] Gregg, [Bart] Starr, [Jerry] Kramer—didn't care about the money. Seemed like those guys played tougher, too. One time Nitschke broke his hand and came to the sideline saying, 'Coach, I broke my hand.' And Coach Lombardi said, 'Get back out there! The other team doesn't know it's broken!' "

Kind of like Green Bay defensive end Reggie White playing with a torn hamstring last season. White and Allen would trade anything to play in Super Bowl XXXI; just look in their eyes if you doubt it. Favre, the rehabbed Packers quarterback, and Schottenheimer, the tortured Chiefs coach, are similarly driven, but for different reasons. It is the will of these four men that will lead to an anniversary game between Green Bay and Kansas City five months hence.

I don't want to be football's Ernie Banks.

As he trained during the off-season, White would visualize success. He could see himself sacking quarterbacks and winning games and hugging teammates. But he could not picture what he wants most deeply. "I've never been able to see me and my teammates running out of the tunnel on Super Bowl Sunday," he says. "That bothers me."

Many things in this game have come easily to the NFL's alltime sack leader. But White turns 35 in December, and his clock is ticking. The hamstring twinges strike more regularly now, and he faces the prospect of retiring without a championship. He is a religious man, so the lack of a title wouldn't ruin him. Nevertheless, there would always be a scar. He has tried to tell his younger teammates how fleeting an NFL career can be, how few chances a player has to reach the Super Bowl.

"You see this with so many guys early in their careers," White says. "Guys get overwhelmed by the good life. They can't realize what I realize now: When you're on a good team right out of college, you might think you've got your whole career to get to the Super Bowl. But I'm proof that no matter how much money you make and how many awards you win, there's a professional emptiness when you don't win the ultimate game."

He knows all about Banks, the Hall of Fame shortstop who played 19 years for the Chicago Cubs without making it to the World Series. "We both accomplished quite a lot," White says. "The difference is, I've still got a chance to win my title."

I have one thing to say to all the people expecting me to fail: Go ahead, bet against me.

He is fiercely competitive, but he can also play the class clown. Take a recent appointment with a rehab counselor who has worked to help him overcome his addiction to painkillers. Favre emptied a beer can into a sink and refilled it with water. When the doctor walked in and saw Favre chugging from the beer can, he turned pale. "Sorry, Doc," Favre said. "Tough day at practice." Then he drained the can into the sink, revealing its contents, and began howling.

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