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Troubled Times in TITLE TOWN
Frank Deford
May 25, 1987
Court cases and losing seasons have strained the bond between the fans in Green Bay and their once-beloved football team
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May 25, 1987

Troubled Times In Title Town

Court cases and losing seasons have strained the bond between the fans in Green Bay and their once-beloved football team

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Can all this be rectified by a few wins? Will everything be hunky-dory again if only the Pack is good enough to bring back CBS's Summerall and Madden to high atop Lambeau Field? Or has some fragile bond of trust been lost between team and town, one that can never be retrieved?

"I have no concern whatsoever about the fairness of this community. Green Bay's anti anybody who makes them look bad," Stephen Glynn, the attorney for James Lofton, said early in April. "The only reason I want this case moved is because of the pride the town feels in the team—and right now because of the psychology of purging which exists. Somebody must be held responsible."

Certainly it has never been that the good people of Green Bay have been innocent of the excesses of big-time sport. In 1922, the Packers were chastised by the American Professional Football Association, the forerunner of the NFL, for sneaking in college players as ringers. And it is certainly not that the townspeople have ever been under any impression that professional football players are angels. Don Zuidmulder, Cade's attorney, a former D.A. whose own father played for the Pack 56 years ago, says, "There were problems with the Packers in my father's time, too, but people were not so likely to make much of it then."

Indeed, since the wave of Packer sex-abuse allegations, it has been recalled that, in the glory days of the '60s, one former Packer star kept an infamous apartment in Appleton, 35 miles distant, where he and some of his teammates were known to have boisterous drinking parties and marathon card games, where women danced naked and the bedrooms were constantly in use. And, at least until recent events, that sort of reminiscence was always recounted in terms of boys will be boys. Lombardi, a realist, had no illusions about his players and only advised them to do their trysting in places, such as Appleton, that were some distance from Green Bay. He would caution the Pack, "the girl you [go out with] in town is liable to be some stockholder's daughter."

The popular Packer image was of a roisterous band of love-'em-and-leave-'em rou�s. Paul Hornung, the team's handsome star, had the singular persona of lover, and the most celebrated memory of the first Super Bowl is of Max McGee, one of the stars of that game, staying up till dawn the night before, drinking and wenching.

What has happened? Is Green Bay overreacting now—perhaps because the players involved are black? Or are the athletes being preyed on—innocent, nouveau riche victims of little-city slickers? Linebacker Mike Douglass, who played with the Packers for eight years, says that it was almost a cottage industry in Green Bay for some local girls—sometimes in concert with boyfriends—to set up players and then blackmail them. "You bump against a girl wrong and everything you've done in your whole life is thrown away," Douglass says. At last, weary of all the scrutiny and the problems involved, Douglass says, he stopped going out with Green Bay women.

Or, are athletes today simply so spoiled by society, so pampered and indulged, that they come to think of themselves as a class apart, able to act with impunity. Says a Lombardi-era Packer, who asked to remain anonymous, "Look, I'm too far away from it all; I really don't know about the two trials. But you tell me about the Charles Martin incident. He's in a bar. A good-looking girl goes by. He grabs her, pinches her, whatever. O.K., I'm not saying I approve, but Martin wouldn't be the first guy in a bar to do that. But she doesn't like it. Fair enough. She's not going to be the first girl in a bar to get teed off at that. So then what does Martin do? Does he apologize? Offer to buy her a drink? No, he throws a drink all over her—like she doesn't have a right to tell him to keep his hands off her. I just want to know: Where are these athletes coming from today? Do they think they're above the law? What is it with these guys nowadays?"

In another vein, Bob Long, a Packer receiver in the '60s who settled in Milwaukee and is now the president of a large real estate investment company, says, "The modern player wants the package—endorsements, contacts. He's concerned about the quality of life—and a small town like Green Bay just doesn't supply that for most young guys."

And, says Ken Bowman, a center on the glory teams, now a lawyer in Green Bay, "Even Hornung understood that because he played in Green Bay he couldn't make what Frank Gifford did. But that was tolerable to Paul as long as he ran around with those rings on his hand, and Gifford was watching him play on television in December."

Whatever, today the players are different, and it really isn't Green Bay's fault. Perhaps it's just the last place to learn that winning isn't everything anymore.

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