Notebook: Packers lost a best friend

Packers Hall of Famer Max McGee is remembered at a funeral Sunday in Minnesota; with the World Series over, game time for tonight's game remains 7:30 p.m.

"I lost my best friend."

That's what Paul Hornung said of Max McGee during McGee's funeral service on Sunday at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minn.

McGee died on Oct. 20 at 75 when he fell off the roof of his suburban Minneapolis home. His service, as you'd expect for a man who lived such a colorful life and had so many friends, was filled with a mixture of laughter and tears.

"I know I'm a better man that I would have been had I not had the opportunity to know Max McGee," Hornung, who was McGee's longtime roommate and partner in crime with the Packers, told a crowd estimated at between 600 and 1,000.

Hornung was McGee's roommate the night before Super Bowl I in Los Angeles. Hornung, who enjoyed more than a few rollicking nights with McGee during their careers in Green Bay, stayed at the team hotel while McGee famously broke curfew and enjoyed a long night on the town.

Bart Starr recalled seeing McGee on the morning of the NFL-AFL Championship Game against Kansas City. "Oh, my gosh, I hope Boyd Dowler doesn't go down," Starr said Sunday.

Dowler did go down, however, suffering a separated shoulder moments into the game. McGee, hung over and on just a few winks of sleep, famously caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns — including the first touchdown in Super Bowl history — as the Packers roared to a 35-10 victory.

"A lot of athletes use the phrase ‘Got your back,' but they use it pretty loosely," Dowler said. "That wouldn't happen on our team. That day, Max had my back, he had Bart's back and he had Paul's back. If he was on your team, if he was your friend, he had your back."

McGee, however, was remembered for much more than one famous performance.

He was remembered for his All-Pro receiving skills, wit, generosity and zest for life.

"The morning of his passing, he was not 75 years old. He was 75 years young," said McGee's widow, Denise. "I treasure all 26 years I had with this man who was so honest, loyal, funny, warm and loving."

He also was remembered for his flying skills. McGee spent his rookie year, 1954, with the Packers before going into the Air Force to fulfill his two-year ROTC commitment.

"He was a great pilot. I think it was because he was so loose," said Zeke Bratkowski, a quarterback who spent most of his Packers career backing up Starr and served with McGee at Elgin Air Force Base, Fla.

After his career, McGee teamed with Jim Irwin to call games on the Packers Radio Network for 20 years. Irwin, who called himself "the loneliest broadcaster" because he didn't get a chance to say goodbye to McGee, recalled how McGee sometimes would call Brett Favre "Bart Favre" and Bart Starr "Brett Starr."

A year after leaving the broadcast booth, McGee and Denise founded the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee.

If childhood diabetes — which struck McGee's son Dallas, is ever cured, "I hope … a big beam of sunshine comes down, Max will know that the long journey is over," said Jon Vice, the vice president and chief executive officer of the hospital.

Game time stays 7:30 p.m.

The Green Bay Packers' "Monday Night Football" game against the Denver Broncos tonight will kick off, as scheduled, at shortly after 7:30 p.m. Central.

Had the Colorado Rockies extended their World Series matchup with the Boston Red Sox to a fifth game in Denver — which would have started at 7:40 p.m. Central — the NFL would have moved up the Packers-Broncos kickoff a half-hour. Boston, however, capped a four-game sweep on Sunday night.

ESPN airs tonight's "Monday Night Football" game.

Hi, Jim

The Packers will renew acquaintances with former defensive coordinator Jim Bates tonight. Bates coordinates Denver's defense, which has struggled a bit this season.

The Broncos rank last in the NFL against the run but No. 1 against the pass, which should add some intrigue to tonight's game, considering the pass-happy Packers have the worst running game in the NFL.

Adding to Denver's pass defense is standout cornerback Champ Bailey, who is expected to play after missing last week's game against Pittsburgh with a quad injury.

In his only year in Green Bay, 2005, Bates turned around the Packers' defense during an otherwise awful 4-12 season. The Packers fired Mike Sherman, and Bates was passed over for head coach for Mike McCarthy. Bates declined an offer to be McCarthy's defensive coordinator. His protege, Bob Sanders, became coordinator, meaning the Packers and Broncos will play basically the same defensive scheme tonight.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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