View Full Version : Football Kind of funny old Sports Illustrated Article

Rain Man
11-04-2010, 05:41 PM
I clicked a news link for an SI article, and this was a 1971 article from their vault that was apparently randomly linked for the interested reader. I apologize because it's about George Blanda, and if you don't hate George Blanda you should, but it was kind of interesting about how the old NFL worked. I include some of the more interesting segments below.

The article has a kind of weird writing style to it, and it stops before Blanda even hit the AFL, so it was kind of unsatisfying, but if you like NFL history there are some good tidbits. Boy, he hated George Halas.


After last year people came up to me and said, "George, how do you do it? What's your secret?" Word got out that I had a special diet, that I didn't drink or smoke. One "insider" said that I was taking hormones, and that was why I was able to play so many games at my ripe old age. Well, there is no secret. My special diet consists of the same things I've been eating ever since I grew up: steak and potatoes and green vegetables. I smoke and I drink. The worst five years of my 21 as a pro were the five when I didn't smoke at all. Now I've gone back to cigarettes, a pack or two a day, although I don't inhale them. As for alcohol, I enjoy bourbon—it's part of my University of Kentucky background—but I don't guzzle it down like water. I sip it, and I limit myself to two or three drinks. You may see old George Blanda acting stupid, but you won't see him acting drunk!

I wound up at Kentucky under the whirlwind coach of them all, Mr. Paul (Bear) Bryant, and what an influence he was! Playing for Paul Bryant is like going to war; you may come out intact, but you'll never forget the experience. I have never worked as hard in my life.

Somehow Bear tagged me at first as a blocking quarterback in the old Notre Dame box formation, and this really frosted me. I was a kicker, a punter, a passer and a runner, and I'd be damned if I was going to rumble around the back-field like a truck, blocking for other people. So I played bad, and Bear temporarily demoted me to linebacker on the B team. I went crazy. The first time we scrimmaged the varsity I must have made 10 straight tackles, and I tried to kill everybody I tackled. It got so bad that one of the varsity halfbacks cursed me and kicked me in the face after I'd made an especially vicious tackle. I didn't care. It was competition.

I asked about dollars and cents. He threw out a figure: $6,000. My head went ding-a-ling like a cash register. I'd studied phys ed at Kentucky, and I'd planned to graduate and go into teaching and coaching, which would have paid about $3,000 a year, so already I was ahead of the game. But I still had the Los Angeles Dons to think about. Maybe they'd pay more. "I'd hate to sign anything today, Mr. Halas," I said. "I've got another offer."

He became very emphatic. "We've got to get this squared away right now," he said.

"Well," I said, "suppose the Dons offer me a lot more money?"

"Now, George, you don't want to go to that junior high school league, do you? Why, they'll be broke in a year. You want to play with the established National Football League, with a team that's got tradition."

"Yeah," I said, "but $6,000 doesn't sound like much money."

"Well, I'll tell you what I'm gonna do," Halas said. "I'll give you a $600 bonus, and that'll make it $6,600. I'll write you out a check for the $600 right now." He whips out a checkbook and starts writing.

What could I do? It was one thing to talk about some intangible $6,000-a-year salary, but a $600 check right now was something else again, a terrible temptation for a 21-year-old kid who'd never had anything in his life. So I said O.K., and I signed the contract and another piece of paper. When I got outside, I looked at the back of the $600 check where it said, "Advance on 1949 contract," and I looked at the other piece of paper and discovered it was an IOU for $600. If I didn't make the team I'd have to repay the $600 with interest. It wasn't a bonus at all; it was an advance against salary.

I thought I was a lock to start, but when the opening exhibition game rolled around, against Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, right in my old backyard, Halas started Lujack. My first game as a Bear, all my old friends there to watch, and I'm shot down. I kicked off and I must have hit that ball a good 80 yards in the air, I was so sore.

Well, the score was 0-0 with a few minutes to go in the third quarter, and Halas comes over to me and says, "O.K., kid, go in and get 'em!" As I ran out on the field, I noticed George McAfee standing over by the sidelines, just in bounds, and he gave me a little hand motion to throw him a pass. Pittsburgh didn't have the slightest idea that George hadn't left the field, "and I threw him a 40-yard touchdown. How's that for an introduction to pro football?

The Bears really came on after that gift touchdown. I completed seven out of seven passes, threw for three touchdowns, kicked four extra points and kicked off into the end zone every time. We won the game 34-0 with five touchdowns in the last 18 minutes of play. After the game the press huddled around me, and I tried to answer them as modestly and correctly as I could. They also interviewed Halas, and the next day I read his comments in the paper. He said that I was a good prospect, but that my footwork was faulty and I held my hands wrong.

Later on I figured it like this. Halas was extremely concerned with his own image as the great mastermind of the Bears. Now he couldn't have a third-string quarterback looking too good while his two other high-priced quarterbacks were sitting around, could he? So he had to find flaws in me.

Out on the field, life wasn't much more rewarding than it was while needling Halas. I played quarterback, linebacker, cornerback, safetyman, anything that would give Halas his $6,600 a year value (my salary didn't change for the first four years, and it never changed much). The high point of my early years with the Bears was when Harry S. Truman came to one of our games and observed later that I must be one whale of a place-kicker. "Why, did you see what he did," Truman told one of our coaches. "He hit the upright from 48 yards out! He must be a very accurate kicker to be able to hit exactly what he aimed at from such a long distance."

11-04-2010, 06:35 PM
Awesome read, man.

11-04-2010, 07:01 PM
Some good shit, sir.