hardly be less like Lombardi in personality, though he tends to think the same
in many ways. Like Lombardi, Starr is a pretty good golfer, an 80s shooter,
although Starr is perhaps a little better. But although both belonged to the
Oneida Golf and Riding Club in Green Bay they seldom played together. A former
Oneida caddie recalls, " Lombardi was always yelling and throwing clubs, and
he played with noisy guys. He'd rather have played with Paul Hornung or Max
McGee than with Starr, who was too quiet for him. Starr could play a whole
round with a toothpick in his mouth. Another thing, too, Starr usually carried
his own clubs, in a fairly big bag, and the other guys rode in carts. I'm sure
Starr did it just for the exercise. The caddie fee was $3.50."
There is a film
made by ex- Green Bay All-Pro Guard Jerry Kramer that stars The Lombardi People.
Starr is not one of the featured performers, for no reason other than that
Starr is his own person. "I think the title of Jerry's movie is perhaps a
play on words," Starr said. "But it's indicative that there were a kind
of people who were able to stay and perform for Lombardi. He demanded so much
that those who stayed came to believe what he believed—that by attempting to do
things the way he wanted them done, all this effort and dedication would
transcend the locker room and stand them in good stead the rest of their
from Lombardi teams have become successful in other fields. But that funny
story Henry Jordan used to tell at banquets—that Lombardi treated us all equal,
like dogs—was only true when Lombardi first came here and wanted to see who
could stick it out and maybe become a notch better than they thought they were.
If you stayed, you discovered what the man was really about. He began to treat
us as individuals. We all had to work hard and keep the rules, but Lombardi
knew some needed sugar and some needed salt. I learned a lot from him in that
area, I hope. Actually, as a coach he was well suited to my personality as a
player. I didn't need to be a whipping, tongue-lashing kind of quarterback, the
coach took care of that, and we didn't need two like him. I would pull a player
aside and chew him out if I thought it necessary. But I never did it in front
of anybody else, because I believe a man's greatest asset is his
As a player Starr
had the reputation of remaining orderly and cool regardless of the
circumstances. "The pattern was that nobody said anything to him in the
huddle unless Bart asked," says Knafelc. "The worst thing Bart ever
said to you in the huddle was 'Hush up.' Bart is consistent, that's his secret.
He can be extremely tough, but he does it quietly. Instead of screaming, he
gives you a go-to-hell look that says it all."
Six hours before
Starr's first game as head coach of the Packers—he insists it was not his
debut, since it was an exhibition, but maybe he ought to claim it anyhow—his
wife Cherry was stacking groceries on shelves in the kitchen of their home in
De Pere, a few miles south of Green Bay. It is a thickly carpeted,
upper-middle-class house, a live-in magazine ad. Zeke Bratkowski, who was
Starr's backup quarterback and now is Green Bay's quarterback coach, lives in a
split-level across the street. The other coaches kid Zeke that he lives there
so it is convenient for him to cut Starr's grass and shovel his snow, but in
fact Bratkowski is one of Starr's closest friends, and their families take
vacations in Hawaii together.
fountain spurts behind the Starr house, and a Great Dane grumbles gently on the
lawn. The youngest Starr, Bret, 11, blisters rubber on the driveway with his
minibike. Bart Jr., tall and 17, aiming at a college golf scholarship, ambles
through the house. Cherry keeps smiling as she recounts how she has given up
jogging two miles a day, which she found boring, in favor of tennis. A tanned,
well-coiffured woman, slim and pretty, Cherry was Starr's high school
sweetheart. She says her husband demands that his trousers be hung in the
closet in a certain manner and his shirts arranged in order. "Bart is very
particular about things," she says. One evening while he was getting
dressed Bart was complaining about having to go out until she reminded him he
was on his way to accept a Mr. Nice Guy award.
The Starrs don't
venture into public much unless it is required, but on Friday nights Bart and
Cherry often turn up at the Oneida Golf and Riding Club for a fish dinner, a
beer for Bart, a Tab for Cherry.
The phone rings.
Bart has promised football tickets to some people who drove up to the stadium
in a camper that afternoon and encountered him in the parking lot. Bart arrives
home at that moment in his Lincoln, rushes into the house and says he has found
the people four tickets, thus winning their Mr. Nice Guy award. Bart sits down
and tries to grin. It is now about five hours before the exhibition game
non-debut, and he is acting calm and patient but is clearly nervous enough to
lick the wax off the coffee table. The floor shakes in a series of shuddering
slams. "First time I heard that, I thought it was an earthquake,"
Cherry says, "but it's only Bart Jr. hitting his punching bag in the
basement. Notice how Bart thought of the perfect place to hang the bag, under
the den." "I'm a very emotional person, but I hide my emotions,"
Bart says. "My father was an extremely hard-nosed master sergeant. I was
introverted as a kid." Starr is now one of the smoothest after-dinner
speakers who ever toured the circuit, but he has refused nearly all requests
for speeches and endorsements since he took the Green Bay job. Starr says he
applied for the job after Devine resigned to become head coach at Notre Dame.
Dominic Olejniczak, president of the seven-man executive committee of Green Bay
Packers, Inc. since 1958, made the Christmas Eve announcement that Starr had
been hired. "I thought you'd never ask," Starr said to laughter at the
press conference. Mr. O., a former mayor of Green Bay and old pal of Packers
founder Curly Lambeau, had cast the deciding vote against firing Devine earlier
in the year.
A story going
around town is that in the divisional championship season of 1972, Starr as
quarterback coach called the plays from the sideline right up until the playoff
with the Redskins in which Devine called the plays and the Packers lost. Starr
says that story is exaggerated, and that he quit at the end of the season
simply because he was not content to be an assistant coach. (He had retired as
a player in July 1972 after two shoulder operations.)
some problems he would as soon have done without, but �f they hadn't existed
there might not have been a Green Bay coaching job open in the first place. The
controversial trade in the middle of last season for John Hadl—the NFC's Player
of the Year with the Rams in 1973, benched by the Rams in 1974—provided the
Packers with an experienced quarterback but deprived them of first, second and
third choices in last winter's college draft and of first and second choices in