- Jerry Kramer, 1967
From the introduction to Instant Replay
The original concept was quite simple, really. Have a pro football star keep a daily diary for an entire season. Pair him up with a nationally respected sports author and produce a very different kind of book. A book that would take readers onto the practice field, into the locker room, to the film sessions, inside the huddle and onto the game day sidelines with the Green Bay Packers and their fiery head coach, Vince Lombardi. A book that would capture player personalities, warts and all. A book that secured unprecedented access to the inner workings of an NFL team long before the wall-to-wall coverage afforded by the daily mob of reporters, ESPN and the Internet in today's media world.
When Packer all-time great Jerry Kramer said yes to Dick Schaap's proposal to write Instant Replay, he couldn't possibly have envisioned what lie ahead. This behind-the-scenes look at the Packers' quest for their third straight NFL championship spent 37 weeks on the New York Times best seller list when it was published in 1968. It has become one of the most popular and best selling sports books of all time.
The book project also launched a remarkable friendship between Kramer and Schaap, a friendship that spanned several decades, several marriages, a dozen children between them and several more book and video projects, including Farewell to Football, Lombardi: Winning Is the Only Thing, and Distant Replay.
Finally, the book left its mark in other profound ways that still inspire Kramer to unleash his boyish giggle.
"Many years ago, I had some teachers call me from Wisconsin and they had been using the book in class," Kramer explained recently. "They needed like three or four hundred books and I didn't have anything like that. They're not available." The book has been out of print for more than a decade.
Still active on the speaking engagement and autograph circuits at age 70, Kramer keeps running into people who say, "Gee, I loved that book! I had it and I loaned it to a friend' or ‘My mom did this' or ‘Something happened to it.' And they kept reminding me how much they enjoyed the book. I realized that we've got a whole new generation here that hasn't had a chance to understand what Coach Lombardi and our group was all about, so maybe it's time to bring that book out again."
Which brings us to Sept. 5, 2006, the day Kramer will release an updated version of Instant Replay. He has also recently released the Inside the Locker Room CD which shares his never-before-heard audio tapes that were used to create the book. Kramer recently found the tapes in his garage and they are the ideal companion to the book, allowing fans the rare opportunity to hear Lombardi's final pre-game speech and post game address following Super Bowl II.
"If you're a fan, I think you will really enjoy hearing the voices on the tape and hearing the actual words of Coach Lombardi recorded in Instant Replay," said Kramer. "I put those tapes away and just never anticipated doing anything with them."
Kramer still chuckles when he recalls his stealth mission – sneaking his tape recorder into Lombardi's locker room.
"He knew I was writing a book and he gave me his blessing on the book," said Kramer. Though Lombardi never found out about the recorder, "He knew how strongly and positively I felt about him. I think he would have had enough faith in me to know that I would not embarrass him or do anything that would embarrass any of the team, my guys."
Of course, it didn't hurt that by that point in time, Kramer's relationship with Lombardi had evolved in a very positive way.
"I was sticking up for him," said Kramer. "I was telling the world what a beautiful man he was, that people didn't understand him. They didn't know him. After the Ice Bowl, I said some things about him that I felt needed saying and he and his family really appreciated it. He had some very negative publicity and I thought it was B.S. So, when I took the tape recorder in, it was with a positive outlook about him."
"It was a very good book and I think it gave people a little insight into the personalities on our team and how life was lived in the Lombardi system," added Kramer's teammate at left tackle, Bob Skoronski. "Those times that Jerry recorded were very private and were not to be shared with anyone else. But enough years have passed now and it's interesting to hear all the guys sharing in the discussions about games and hearing different guys talking in the pre-games. Lombardi's legend lives on and Jerry has really nurtured that with his book. Those values that Lombardi gave to the guys were certainly worth preserving because they were values of success and goodness."
Kramer says that he still gets chills down his spine when he listens to the tapes and hears "Bart Starr, Max McGee, and Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke saying, ‘Just play with your hearts!' If we had thought for six years about what to have Ray Nitschke say in a pre-game speech, ‘Just play with your hearts!' wouldn't be a bad idea."
Does the enduring popularity of Instant Replay surprise Kramer? "It stuns me," he says. "I don't think surprised is a strong enough word. When I wrote the book, Max McGee or Gary Knafelc said, ‘You should have called it ‘Half of It.' I said, ‘What are you talking about?' and he said, ‘Well, you only told half of it.' I had no intention of telling the other half, the off-the field exploits of the players. I wanted to look at the game, at the coach and what went on inside the locker room and out of the eyes of other people. I didn't want to get into romance and (Paul) Hornung and McGee. I really wanted to confine myself to looking at Lombardi, the team and the personalities."
"I think Jerry was very candid as he made different comments about different guys," said Skoronski. "You know how it is when someone writes a book – you probably want them to write about you differently than they did but I think by and large he did a very good job. He was very fair across the board and, of course, Dick Schaap was a very perceptive guy who was very friendly with most of the guys on the team. He had a very good feel for the team, too, and together, they really collaborated well on the book."
If you were a Packer fan during the 1960s, the book and CD will bring back a flood of great memories. If you are a younger fan, Kramer's work will allow you to discover pro football in a very different time and place. When it was much more of a game than the megabucks business it is today.
And let's face it. How could Kramer and Schaap have gone wrong with the 1967 Packers, a legendary team on the cusp of achieving pro football immortality?
"I don't think you start out to create (a book) like that," Kramer noted. "You just get lucky. Realistically, we had an incredible cast of characters. Obviously, the dominant figure in the book is Coach Lombardi. We've got Hornung and McGee, text book bad boys. We've got (Bart) Starr and Carroll Dale, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. We've got everything in between and we have a wonderful group of guys who put their individual needs, wishes and wants second to the team. We couldn't have picked a better year with our third consecutive title, something that had never been done before. We had the coach's last game."
Actually, Schaap had a different title in mind for the book – The Day the Clock Ran Out.
As Kramer explained, "We had always said that we never lost, we just ran out of time. The clock ran out when the other team had more points."
With the clock ticking down in the dying moments of the 1967 NFL Championship Game, the Dallas Cowboys led by 3 points. "The book would have been titled The Day the Clock Ran Out had not we been able to make that incredible 68-yard drive in the Ice Bowl," Kramer acknowledged. Fittingly, it was Kramer's crunching double-team block with center Ken Bowman that allowed Starr to sneak into the end zone with the winning touchdown.
Simple. Direct. Hard-hitting. Just like Instant Replay.
(Editor's note: Autographed copies of the book and Jerry Kramer's companion CD can be ordered by calling (800) 708-1078. Kramer's book and CD are also available online at JerryKramer.com . In addition, Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston will be hosting a special "Instant Replay" VIP Reception Sept. 10 in Green Bay celebrating the re-release of Kramer's book and the release of Thurston's new biography, "What A Wonderful World: The Fuzzy Thurston Story." Kramer and Thurston will be joined by several of their teammates including Bob Skoronski and Willie Davis. Complete details area available on Kramer's web site.)