The last of pro football's big spenders sauntered into Chicago's Soldier Field Friday evening to be promptly, rudely and continuously dumped on their pretty wallets by the Green Bay Packers, who are not as rich but play better football. As they do every few years, the professional champions got themselves emotionally cranked up for the occasion of the College All-Star Game, and they buried the $4 million worth of rookies by a score of 38 to 0, thus equaling the pros' widest margin of victory. The Packers were so efficient that the game was obviously over by half time, when they led by four touchdowns, and the realists in the stadium fled to the lights of Rush Street, wondering once more if the annual mismatch is really necessary.
The game once had far more meaning. It was originated in 1934, after all, when postseason football games were scarce, and the pros could use the headlines. Even the collegians had only the Rose Bowl and the East-West game—not today's torrent of pro-senior-hula-west-north-coaches-winter-summer spectaculars, which threaten to make the sport a year-round activity. Until 1947 the game was more sanely scheduled on or around August 30 and was traditionally the season's first game. And until 1955 it held more status on the campuses because college men—Frank Leahy, Bobby Dodd, Bud Wilkinson, et al.—were selected as the All-Star coaches, and this added extra flavor. Even up until half a dozen years ago, therefore, college graduates still looked forward to Chicago with zest, delighted to put on those jerseys with the red stars on the shoulders and to see such people as Sam Baugh, Sid Luckman and Bobby Layne up close.
Now it seems logical that they would rather be in their pro training camps, trying to make the team, than in Evanston, Ill. for three weeks trying to find ways not to get knocked down by Jim Taylor.
"It's a thrill to be here. I don't mean to say it isn't a thrill, but you sure do wish you were in camp most of the time," said Arkansas All-America Glen Ray Hines, a tackle.
That was before the game. Afterward, Texas Linebacker Tommy Nobis, an All-Star co-captain, said, "We just didn't seem to be too inspired, for some reason." Said Illinois Fullback Jim Grabowski: "If this were the only All-Star game, like it used to be, I guess you'd feel differently about it. But a lot of the guys have played in a bowl game and then in something like the East-West or North-South, and then in the Hula Bowl or Senior Bowl, and again last month in the coaches' game in Atlanta. I know for myself, I keep feeling I ought to be in Green Bay learning their plays. We're all going to be three weeks behind when we finally get to camp."
Usually after the Chicago game at least one high-salaried rookie finds himself even further behind than that. Somebody gets hurt, one way or another. This time it was Oklahoma Linebacker Carl McAdams, whom the New York Jets had paid $300,000. "Officially," said a teammate with a twinkle in his eye, "he stepped off the curb." Then he added, "But I heard the other story, too."
McAdams suffered a broken ankle before the game, and the Jets will not get his services until November. A story persisted in the stars' camp and in the hotel lobbies around Chicago where hundreds of coaches, sports publicity men, newspapermen and scouts congregate each year during All-Star week, that McAdams had got his injury in a side-walk scuffle one evening when some of the sightseeing rookies ran into some Chicago Bears. "Apparently," said one rookie, "the Bears hadn't heard about the merger."
The visitors' mild affection for All-Star football was not increased by the Packers, who were a far different team from the one that lost to the 1963 collegians. That defeat had been deeply embarrassing to Coach Vince Lombardi. Thereafter he became the first man capable of maiming you with a scowl. The Packers of that day had won the NFL championship twice in a row. They were complacent, and they were without the services of Halfback Paul Hornung (who had been suspended) and ailing Guard Jerry Kramer. The Packers ran at All-Star Quarterback Ron VanderKelen and couldn't catch him. The collegians won, 20 to 17.
This time the Packers were healthy, had come off a good training camp with suntans and clearly wanted the game. "The '63 game has been mentioned once or twice," smiled Hornung. Said the veteran guard Fuzzy Thurston, "We're not up as we would be for a league game, but it's no exhibition, either." To which End Max McGee added, "Yeah, television gets you wired up a little. And then those All-Stars, they gang tackle and all that junk."
Well, they would have, maybe, if they had been able to find the Packers' Bart Starr, who passed brilliantly, or Flanker Boyd Dowler, who immediately destroyed the All-Star secondary with his quick, turn-in moves, or Fullback Jim Taylor and Hornung, who followed their friendly guards like members of a day camp behind the counselors.
The Green Bay regulars scored six of the eight times they got the ball, going 33, 16, 47, 20, 72, and 87 yards for five touchdowns and a field goal, and then they left the field late in the third quarter. They would have scored the other two times, barreling to the collegians' 20- and 22-yard lines, except for minor miscues, a first-down fumble and a blocked field goal try. The final score could have been anything Lombardi wanted to make it.
The Packer attack was so thorough, and so thoroughly unsuspenseful from late in the second quarter on that when someone later asked ABC-TV's Chris Schenkel if he thought the show lost its audience, Chris said, "Audience? In the control room I think they lost the monitors."
By that time Starr had passed 10 yards to Dowler for a touchdown and 13 yards to Bill Anderson for another, both on simple slant-in patterns that baffled All-Star Defender Charlie King of Purdue. Willie Wood returned a punt 69 yards to put Taylor in position to smash across one of his two touchdowns, and Herb Adderley delightedly observed a rookie pass thrown directly into his hands—the person next nearest the ball being a rioter on the south side of town—and danced 34 yards for another touchdown.
Most insiders knew before the game that this was not the type of All-Star squad that occasionally beats the pros and encourages sentimental fans to keep returning in the hope of little miracles. "They've got no scrambling quarterback," said one pro scout. "Their defensive line is weak and so is the secondary. They've got good running backs and good linebackers, but that's about it."
And it was. The game went 11 minutes into the second quarter before the rookies even managed a first down. At that point it seemed that the heroes of the night for the All-Stars would be End Bobby Crockett, who caught the nine-yard pass for that first down, and Billy Guy Anderson, who threw it.
Later, amid the debris, a few other collegians caused some mild stimulation. Missouri Quarterback Gary Lane, on a rare occasion when Packer Defensive Ends Willie Davis and Lionel Aldridge let someone loose, scrambled 57 yards after looking for a pass receiver and not finding any. San Diego State's Gary Garrison caught two passes and threw one notable block. Jim Grabowski dug through the white Packer shirts twice for decent yardage and lugged a screen pass for 14. Otherwise, the Stars flew at half mast. Donny Anderson suffered a minor twist of his $711,000 ankle. Tommy Nobis gave way to Tennessee's Frank Emanuel (SI, Aug. 8) at linebacker, and almost didn't get back in. And Heisman Trophy Winner Mike Garrett's best run was 27 yards with a flat pass—backward.
When it was over, the Packers had trouble finding something nice to say about their opponents. "We took a lot out of them early, and they just weren't themselves," said Willie Wood. "They aren't that bad," Bart Starr said kindly. "Our defense killed them pretty fast."
There was more to it than that, of course. Jim Grabowski put the game in focus when he said, "We sure have a lot to learn."
The same thing may not have occurred to the promoters, but to many thoughtful fans it seems clear that the All-Star game has outlived its time.