Depending on which event you attend, you will have an opportunity to see, meet or even play golf with some of your favorite players in a more relaxed setting away from the practice field, away from the coaches and – oh, yes – away from the media.
One of my personal favorite charity golf events over the years has always been the Vince Lombardi Golf Classic which occurs in June at North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls. This year the Lombardi celebrated its 35th anniversary and, as in previous years, it featured a host of Packer players, past and present along with celebrities from the entertainment world of movies and television. It's all for a great cause, too – raising money for cancer research in the name of the legendary Packer head coach.
What I've always enjoyed about this event is the mix of Packer players and coaches who turn out. The Lombardi Era is always well-represented with the likes of Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Max McGee, Fuzzy Thurston, Bob Jeter and many others. Among those from this year's edition of the team were offensive lineman Kevin Barry, quarterbacks Craig Nall and Aaron Rodgers and quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell.
If the new guys don't know much about Lombardi prior to this event, they get a crash course from some of his prize pupils. "It's pretty cool to be part of this event," said Nall as he eyed up a poker game featuring McGee, Hornung, Kramer and others on the other side of the clubhouse dining room. "The Packers have a great tradition and it's great to be part of this."
Of course, the Packer tradition began long before Lombardi came to Green Bay in 1959 but when you rub shoulders with some of his players you get some sense of why Lombardi was so successful. You are continually reminded of the values he taught and the life principles that continue to guide his men to this very day.
"I don't know that there could be a better collection of men as there were at that time in Green Bay," said former defensive back Doug Hart who wore the Green and Gold from 1964-71. "There are a lot of stories about them but they were such quality people who had the ability to work with each other, to talk with each other and to think with each other. We wanted to be with each other all of the time and that togetherness made us so strong and so cohesive. We had the ability to deal with any issue that came to us. It was an era of high intensity without making errors. He (Lombardi) used to tell us that five errors determined the outcome of a football game. We were drilled on doing the right things and with the right attitude. One way or another, we were going to solve the problem. I think that was the most unique group of people in the history of professional football."
Of course, any of the newer players that wanted to learn more about what made Lombardi tick only needed to spend a few moments with former guard Jerry Kramer (and, yes, please add my name to long list of people who can't figure out why this guy is not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton). Kramer is one of the most eloquent of the Lombardi Packers still on the speaking circuit. Go ahead and ask him. What was it about Lombardi that he was able to instill so much wisdom in his team and inspire them to such great achievements?
"I start off by telling people that in 376 B.C., Plato said, ‘There is no learning without pain,' Kramer explained. "Later, Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.' Excellence, then, is not an occasional act, it is a habit. Coach Lombardi said that there is a price to be paid for success. It's not easy. There's some pain involved. No pain, no gain. He said, ‘You don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.' His philosophies, principles and concepts were really ageless. They came from ancient ideas and fundamental truths."
Fundamental truths that will serve any of the new breed of players well if they are willing to listen.
Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.