Bart & Us

I don’t follow sports but I love the characters they present to us about their lives and how it relates to our lives – even if in smaller ways. (Gleaned from The New York Times)

2008-bart-starr-op77-2732-midVince Lombardi worried that the young man might be “too polite and maybe just a little self-effacing to be a real bold, tough quarterback that a quarterback must be in the National Football League.”

50 years later, the annual N.F.L. award is given to a play, and voted on by players, for outstanding character and leadership on and off the field…it’s called the “Bart Starr Award.”

Bart’s father seemed to favor his older brother as the better athlete, he dies, at 11 years old, after stepping on a dog bone of tetanus, barefoot.

With Lombardi writing the script, Starr directed the offense. Another comment said, “Lombardi directed during the week and Starr for the game.”

The last day of the year, 1967, Dallas Cowboys…13 degrees below zero with a wind chill -49…new heating system beneath the turf failed and only made the field an ice pond… 17-14 Dallas, with 70 far yards toward victory…16 remaining seconds…time-out called by Starr and he confers with Lombardi, Starr thought he could sneak the ball across the line himself…Lombardi doesn’t think the fans could stay an extra period in that cold, he tells Starr, “Then run it! And let’s get the hell out of here.” Final score 21-17, Packers.

Chooses a lesser school to marry his sweetheart, Cherry in 1954.

The Packers selected Starr out of the University of Alabama with the 200th pick in the 1956 draft.

“Mr. Nice Guy” label that frustrated him but he never contradicted. Founds Rawhide Boys Ranch, faith-based nonprofit residential care center for at-risk youth.

37 years old, he retires from football. Returns to the Packers in 1975 to coach for eight seasons but is fired even though he jersey number “15” was respectfully retired, but not him. (Cue Kenny Rogers’ song, “You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them…”)

His son struggles with drug addiction and dies at a waaay-to-early age.

Packers president and CEO, Mark Murphy, “A champion on and off the field, Bart epitomized class and was beloved by generations of Packers fans. A clutch player who led his team to five NFL titles, Bart could still fill Lambeau Field with electricity decades later during his many visits.”

Did Bart represent only himself or something or someone else? Can we do any less in our commitments, beliefs and representations?

Initiation (Baptized into all of life’s circumstances), Testing (early years, school) Called “Formation” in churchy terms, Profession (Are you who you represent yourself to be), Personal developments but performed publicly (the Sacraments), Setbacks, tragedies (the Cross), Resolve and fortitude (the Resurrection).

All never accomplished alone but in sport’s term, it’s called teamwork. In the Church, it’s called the Body of Christ.


About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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