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To keep the trip, in perspective, a Chicago newspaper printed a gleeful running box score of Grange's cumulative earnings. They came to roughly $300 an hour. By the end of the tour, Grange was in pitiful shape, but he rallied when he saw Pyle. "Make me feel good. Tell me how much I'm up to now," he said. Grange's share, with endorsements, came to more than $100,000. Pyle had made deals for Grange's name to go on sportswear, soft drinks, shoes, a doll, pictures, peanuts, a chocolate-nut candy bar—even a meat loaf. When Pyle brought in an offer from a cigarette company, Grange demurred. "I don't smoke," he said.
"You only have to say you like the aroma," said Pyle. Grange relented.
By now Grange occupied a room in the annals of sport that no football player had ever entered. The New York Times called him "the most famous, the most talked of and written about, the most photographed and most picturesque player the game has ever produced." Wrote the enraptured Rice:
There are two shapes now moving,
The Ghost was allowed eight days to recuperate before Pyle had him and the Bears off on a second barnstorming tour. This one lasted nine games, beginning on Christmas Day in Miami and moving across the South to the Far West. In Los Angeles, Brother Pyle's Traveling Football Salvation Show drew 75,000 spectators, another pro record.
By the time the Bears hit the finish line in Seattle on Jan. 31, they had played 19 games in 17 cities in 66 days, or about two games a week. Grange went home to Wheaton bruised and battered, but driving a new $5,500 Lincoln Phaeton and wearing a $500 raccoon coat. That spring the Wheaton Iceman (his other enduring nickname) wore the coat on his rounds. His old benefactor at the icehouse, Luke Thompson, asked him please not to park the Phaeton out front. "It confuses me as to who is working for whom," said Thompson.
From then on, football was no longer Grange's game; it was his entrée. There followed the second phase of his celebrity, that of the slightly flawed but increasingly beloved swashbuckler seeking any hedge against his own mortality. "Ten years from now," he said with uncanny imperception, "no one will know or care what Red Grange did or who he was." With Cash and Carry's assistance, he began storing up for the inevitable downside.
When Halas rebuffed their bid to buy a piece of the Bears for the 1926 season, Grange and Pyle went to New York and started their own American Football League. (Fancy that.) When the league bombed, Grange and his New York Yankees joined the NFL in 1927. That season, in the third game, against—of all teams—the Bears, he collided heavily with Chicago's huge center, George Trafton. As they fell, Grange's cleats grabbed in the turf, and Trafton landed on Grange's twisted knee.
Grange tried to come back sooner than he should have, reinjured the knee and missed the entire 1928 season. The damage was permanent. When he rejoined the Bears in 1929, he was no longer a breakaway runner, but he would play through the 1934 season. He had, however, found other open fields in which to maneuver.
Pegler once countered an editorialist's suggestion that Grange should shun pro football and "try to write or act in the movies" by saying, "To be an imitation writer or a fake movie actor would surely be less virtuous than becoming a real football player." Ironically, by becoming a "real football player," Grange assumed those other roles as well. He made movies. He helped write a book on Zuppke, with whom he had a reconciliation, and, much later, a column of college football picks for this magazine. He appeared on the cover of Variety and had a brief stint in a vaudeville act called C'mon Red.