This is our 1967 pro football issue, and in it you will find a story by Tex Maule on the problems facing the two leagues, color photographs of such stars as Gale Sayers and Mike Garrett in action, and scouting reports on the 16 NFL and nine AFL teams—Can Green Bay's Grabowski and Anderson carry on in place of Taylor and Hornung? How is Joe Namath's knee? What will the Bears do for a tight end? It is a thorough preview of what should be an exciting season, but nowhere in its 38 pages will you find mention of Quarterback George Packard or a forecast of how his Harrison Street Athletic Club touch football team will fare this year. Packard's story, It Was Only a Game of Touch, begins on page 108.
George Packard is a teacher on weekdays. In fact, he is chairman of the English department. The school happens to be Princeton Day School, and Packard is indulging in legal and literary license when he moves the scene of Sunday's heroics from Princeton to the mythical site of North Paterson, N.J. "I changed the name to North Paterson," he admits, "because Princeton doesn't seem like it would produce people like Tree, Ham and Buffalo."
To keep the dramatis personae straight, Tree is a tentacled tight end, Ham is a red-dogger who sounds like a locomotive going over a bridge and Buffalo is a con-artist coach who refers to a passer as a "t'rower." They and the rest of the Harrison Street Athletic Club are a decidedly earthy lot for a bunch of Princetonians. So is the game they play, which is not the kind of touch football Ethel Kennedy plays at Hyannisport.
Packard approximated his way toward gridiron glory with the Harrison Street AC by playing tackle at Garden City High School on Long Island, part-time quarterback for club intramural teams at Bowdoin College, end for an industrial league in Florida while in the Coast Guard, and backfield coach at Millbrook, N.Y. Retreaded Tackle Packard defends his metamorphosis into a quarterback by declaring that "I'm a little overage for running down-field and catching passes or hitting people." If you remind him that he is only 35, he will probably mumble something to the effect that he has "made quite a study of passing." Mostly that means he has watched an awful lot of pro games.
"There's a lot of Tennyson's Ulysses—my favorite poem—in this story," Packard says. "It's the same sort of thing, in a different kind of way." You might say this piece is an outgrowth of tales told by Ulysses to his faithful wife Penelope upon his return home from mighty deeds on Princeton University's freshman field. ("We've always wanted to play in Palmer Stadium," Packard says, "but they won't let us.")
Come winter, the Harrison Street boys will lend the same grace and ethereal beauty to basketball. "All the same people play," Packard says. "You can imagine what that's like." To help you imagine, Packard is a 6'4", 210-pound forward. What is his best virtue as a basketball player? (Long pause.) "Well, I'm hard to move."
As you will discover—and as Tree, Ham, Buffalo or Jimmy Breslin might say—he moves the English language pretty good.