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Before we knew about girls, my best friend in sixth grade, David Long, and I eagerly gathered every available artifact pertaining to our sports heroes. Bubblegum cards, autographs and publicity photos were all part of our indiscriminate collections. When decorating our rooms we reserved space for posters of our athletic idols. To our way of thinking, there was no finer human achievement than to be "blown up" into a 2' X 3' living-color action poster.
Choosing appropriate posters was no small matter, and I suffered far greater anguish over deciding whether to trade in a Wilt Chamberlain poster for a Jerry West than any of Wilt's team owners had in trading Wilt. Unfortunately, space limitations in my room dictated such tough decisions.
In general, my policy was to honor on the bedroom walls only the true legends—Wilt, West, Hank Aaron, Gale Sayers and, one slight exception, Larry Wilson, an All-Pro free safety who qualified because he played for my hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals. My friend David preferred flashier young Turks like Joe Namath, Larry Csonka and Pete Maravich. We held bitter debates over who qualified for induction into our own Hall of Fame. We did agree, however, that posters should be taken seriously, and not outgrown.
But as time passed I gave up the serious collecting of posters. As a senior at Yale University and a defensive back on the football team in 1982, I was preparing to graduate both from college and from organized sports. My college dorm room was decorated with sunset and landscape photos whose primary function was to cover holes in the wall.
As an athlete I had long ago confronted the cruel fact that I would never attain poster status. Still, as my senior season wound down I sought a special souvenir of my athletic career.
Then it happened. As I arrived at the locker room one afternoon I saw a group of players jostling for position outside the training room. What could possibly be commanding such attention?
I elbowed my way to a large easel with dozens of 4" X 5" color action photos of individual players from our previous two games. These pictures touched the vanity of even the most ego-suppressed offensive lineman.
Off to one side of the easel was the real lure. There stood a 16" X 20" color poster of our tailback, Paul Andrie, about to crash the Dartmouth line. Now Paul was a fine player—but he was an All-America as a poster. Better yet, for $13 anyone could have his own picture enlarged to poster size. The man who made this possible was Charlie Pack, head of C.W. Pack Sports (167 Baxter Road, Storrs, Conn. 06268). As soon as I found a suitable shot of myself I ordered three posters.
For the past eight years, Pack has made his living by photographing sporting events and selling high quality professional prints at a reasonable price. For the 16" X 20" photos, complete with school name, the price has remained at $13 for the past four years.
A few days before I was to return home for Christmas vacation, my posters arrived. I stared in disbelief at how formidable I looked. There I was, beginning my backpedal as I peered into the offensive backfield from my cornerback position. I looked like a lean, mean, young Larry Wilson ready to wreak disaster on the offense.