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The presence of the Old Heroes gives Green Bay a certitude about its football and a confidence in its critical faculties. "You just can't spread 30 men of that caliber through a small town and not see the town develop a certain sophistication about football," says Jerry Atkinson, a department store executive who is also a director of the Packers.
The legend they helped to build is supported with a few pleasant fictions. One of the most notable is that half the population turns out for every game in Green Bay. Mathematically, if you limit the figure to the strict city limits, it is true. Actually, there are 103,269 persons living in what is gallantly called the "metropolitan area" of Green Bay, and there are almost 800,000 living within the 75-mile radius that makes up the TV blackout area for the Packers. Moreover, the Packers are an alter ego for the entire region—as well as for the town itself. Season tickets are sold to fans who live some 350 miles from Green Bay, and there is one town of about 2,200, located 200 miles from Green Bay, where half the population regularly buys season tickets. "There's no big college football team up here for a couple of hundred miles," says Tom Miller, the crew-cut, graying publicity chief of the Packers. "This is where the people come for their big football weekends."
In bars, on street corners, in drugstores and department stores, the fans and stockholders (there are 1,699 of the latter) haul out their "cut lists" in late summer to bet on who'll be with the Packers when the season opens and who'll be cut. Routine practices are attended by as many as 4,000 persons. Some band members commute 160 miles round trip for the twice-weekly rehearsals, and ushers who are growing old make arrangements to bequeath their jobs to their sons or grandsons. Townspeople love to fight over the Packers—or their quarterbacks. "It's like Republicans and Democrats—you can divide this town into Starr men and McHan men," says Bob Houle, a radio newsman and city councilman, referring to Quarterbacks Bart Starr and Lamar McHan. "With Starr in there, I can anticipate 60% of the plays he calls," says John Holzer, a druggist. "If I can do that the other scouts can do it. But with McHan in there, I guess 100% wrong." The single-mindedness about the Packers all but excludes other sports. One fan who considered Frank Howard—the 6-foot-7 Los Angeles Dodger slugger who won Rookie of the Year honors last season—an excellent football prospect could only mutter, "What a wretched waste of pass-catching talent." (Howard played minor league ball for the Class B Green Bay team.)
Nourishing tradition and feeding the sense of identity are Today's Heroes, who also walk the streets—some of them looking for a place to hide. "If you're a goof-off, the people in this town find out about it faster than in any other town in the league," says one Packer player. Green Bay is not exactly puritanical, but it likes to know who's doing what and why. "It doesn't matter what the boys do as long as they're winning," says Lewellen. "But if they're losing, the hue and cry is up, and nobody protects the kids." And, like kids the world over, the players don't know when to get out of the bars when the hue and cry is up. It is the widespread conviction in Green Bay that it was the players who ruined Scooter McLean, coach of the 1958 team—because he was too nice a guy to lead them back to the paths of virtue. Vince Lombardi, who inspires awe, not love, not only got the thirstier of his players out of the bars, but impressed Green Bay enormously with his personal habits. "He goes to Mass every day," says one official of the club. "And a half dozen of the players are following his example," says a fan.
The nearness of the people of Green Bay to their heroes who, unlike most professional athletes, are flesh-and-blood human beings visible daily on Pine or Walnut or Maple streets has prevented the city from institutionalizing them. Not long ago in the lobby of the Hotel Northland, an old friend encountered the sometimes expatriate, Curly Lambeau, who spends part of the summer and autumn in a cottage north of Green Bay. "The same old Curly," laughed the friend a little later. "You can't tell whether he has 50� or 50 grand in his pocket."
Today Lambeau is no god in town, though it was Lambeau who made the Packers synonymous with Green Bay. In 1919 he organized the team with the help of the then Press-Gazette reporter George Calhoun. Lambeau outfitted the team with $500 given him by a long-defunct company that lives only in the sobriquet of the football team—the Indian Packing Company. In that first season the 21-year-old Lambeau guided Green Bay to 10 wins before it lost to the Fairbanks-Morse team from Beloit (a team inappropriately called the Fairies). He split up the season's income with the team—each man got $16.75—and tackled, with Calhoun, the problem of keeping the team going. In the next few years various men held the Green Bay franchise, and the National Football League once reclaimed it because Green Bay was using college players. At one point Lambeau persuaded a friend to sell his cream-colored Marmon so that Lambeau could buy the franchise back. At another, the late Andy Turnbull, editor of the Press-Gazette (and Calhoun's boss), stepped in with four other men to put up $1,600 to meet the Packers' overdue bills and set up the first Packer corporation.
The first whiff of grandeur came in 1929 when Green Bay defeated the New York Giants 20-6 to win the NFL championship. The Packers won again in 1930 and 1931 and established a 15-year tradition that saw them win six league titles by 1944. But even this period was punctuated by fiscal problems. In 1933 the Packers were thrown into receivership when a spectator who had fallen from a grandstand in old City Stadium won a damage suit for $5,000. The Packers were rescued through the characteristic blend of formal financing, public subscription and individual action.
In the years after World War II the Packers were caught in the war between the NFL and the All-America Conference. "One prominent coach from the other league came to Green Bay and offered to double the salary of every player," says Lambeau indignantly. By 1949 the people of Green Bay were scurrying about, trying to sell tickets to a special Thanksgiving Day intrasquad game to help meet the payroll. They raised $50,000—and postponed disaster. But the following February, Lambeau quit, after 31 years of leading the Packers, to become head coach of the Chicago Cardinals. Another plan to refinance the Packers was conceived. "There was no crisis," says Lambeau smoothly. "There were always men of affluence who were ready to step in and help the club." The trouble came because some of the people of Green Bay thought those men of affluence were from out of town and that their conception of saving the Packers meant taking it out of Green Bay. "That," says one of the club's directors, "was what was behind Curly's leaving."
The people's team