SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
November 19, 1984
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November 19, 1984


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Ballplayers and rock stars weren't the only famous people suggested by contest entrants. Others included Hubert Humphrey, Charles Lindbergh and both major-party presidential candidates; as in Minnesota on Election Day, Walter Mondale outpolled Ronald Reagan. One other suggestion was Notadome, which recognized that with the Vikings, the Twins and the University of Minnesota all playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome the new racetrack will feature the only major spectator sport in the area that's staged outdoors.

During Wisconsin home football games, the press box at Camp Randall Stadium usually contains more than its share of non-sportswriting types who commit the sin against journalistic canons of rooting shamelessly for the home team. At one point during the Badgers' 16-14 win over Ohio State on Oct. 27, press-box announcer Bud Foster admonished the box's occupants to demonstrate a little more detachment. "There's no cheering in the press box," he said. Mistakenly thinking his microphone was off, he added, "There's the end of the quarter. Now we'll have to punt against the wind."


What Bill Lumpkin III, a 23-year-old sportswriter for The Gadsden ( Ala.) Times, had in mind was a harmless Plimptonesque yarn. By arrangement with Gadsden High football coach Vince Dilorenzo, Lumpkin, who had been too small to play football in his own schoolboy days but had since rounded out to a well-fed 5'11" and 215 pounds, would play tailback for the Tigers in a scrimmage and write a story about the experience. Lumpkin announced his intentions in his column and waggishly described himself as "a tailback with great agility, tremendous speed and the moves of Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson." Coach Dilorenzo played along with the gag. "We're looking forward to seeing if Bill runs as well as he writes," Dilorenzo said.

"I guess that fired them up," Lumpkin now ruefully says of the mock-boastful column. The scrimmage was set up so he would run with the first-team offense against the fourth-team defense, but "practice was cut short, and somehow I ended up with the fourth-team, or meat-squad, offense against the first-team defense." After he blocked on three or four plays, Lumpkin carried the ball for the first time. It was also the last time. "We ran a sweep and I picked up seven or eight yards, and the only guy I had to beat was the cornerback," he recalls. "I figured I would just run over him. Well, he slowed me down, and I think everybody on the team got a shot at me."

Lumpkin got a yarn out of the experience, all right. He finished it after being released from the hospital, where he spent five days. Beneath a photo of himself lying on the field and being tended to by the Gadsden High trainer, Lumpkin wrote: "For that nifty eight-yard run, I ended up with three damaged ligaments in my left knee and, after an operation the next morning, a full cast on my leg that weighs a ton.... I got a chance to learn about high school football from the inside. And now I'll learn about the rehabilitation of a football knee injury."

Lumpkin noted that the player who got the biggest piece of him was tackle Zack Thornton—"I think I'll call him Mr. Thornton now"—and he told of hearing from Ray Perkins, the coach at Alabama, Lumpkin's alma mater. Perkins sent a note, Lumpkin wrote, "to remind me that my eligibility had run out."


His name is Albert, and in the TV commercial that has made him famous across Canada, he's the kid nobody wants in the pickup hockey game. Finally, the other boys say to Albert's older brother, "He's your brother." The reply, is a resigned "O.K., come on, Albert." By the end of the commercial, hapless Albert, fitted out in hockey gear from Canadian Tire, a retail chain store, has grown up to become a star. The fans chant. "Albert!...Albert!...Albert!" and the coach says, "Sure wish we had more players like Albert."

The commercial has caught the fancy of a nation. Albert T shirts and posters are on the market. Before a preseason intra-squad game, the Vancouver Canucks stitched ALBERT on the back of the sweater of rookie defenseman J.J. Daigneault, at 19 the youngest player on the team. Spectators at the game chanted "Albert!...Albert!...Albert!" Albert shooting contests are held between periods at Calgary Flame games, and calls for Albert have been heard at Canadian Football League games. During a recent Canucks game, a fan sat with a bag over his head in lament for the plight of the NHL's worst team. Written on the bag was, WE WANT ALBERT.

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