Friday, February 10, 2023

Andy Young: Bart, Buck, Norm, and King Tut

By Andy Young

One of the best things about having a weekly newspaper column is enjoying the freedom to write about whatever I want.


Were it my choice this week I’d pen a fascinating essay on the 100th anniversary of the opening of King Tut’s tomb, an event that captivated archaeologists and laymen around the world back in February 1923.

But unfortunately, I am unable to do that, because like every other small-town columnist in America, I am required to write about the Super Bowl this week.

It’s the law.

Today’s professional football players may be bigger, stronger and faster than their decades-ago predecessors were, but they don’t have the sorts of memorable nicknames players had back in the 1960s.

The first Super Bowl featured the upstart Kansas City Chiefs, who were representing the seven-year-old American Football League, and the haughty, heavily-favored Green Bay Packers of the more established NFL.

Coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, Green Bay was quarterbacked by Bryan Bartlett “Bart” Starr, who was ably protected by an offensive line that included, among others, Frederick Charles “Fuzzy” Thurston.

I was rooting for the underdog Chiefs, whose most notable player was a mountainous defensive tackle named Junious “Buck” Buchanan. He stood 6-feet-7 inches tall and weighed, depending on the source, 269, 270, or 287 pounds. Even compared to other pro footballers of the day, Buchanan was a behemoth. I could do just enough math to figure out that he weighed more than three times what I did at the time.

Not surprisingly, Green Bay routed the Chiefs on Jan. 15, 1967, 35-10. That disappointed me, since I always rooted for the dark horse, particularly when it featured a wondrous man-mountain like Buck Buchanan.

This Sunday the modern-day Kansas City Chiefs will represent the NFL’s American Conference, and as was the case 56 years ago, the opposition gladiators will be clad in green. The 2022 Philadelphia Eagles may be an impressive bunch, but their namesakes at the time of the first Super Bowl were considerably less daunting. For a time the team was led by pass-happy quarterback Christian Adolph “Sonny” Jurgensen, but in 1964 management dealt him to Washington for fellow field general Norman Bailey “Norm” Snead.

Okay. Maybe not every nickname was memorable back then, but you get the idea.

Snead called signals for the Eagles for seven dreadful seasons, but at least he was photogenic. His chief asset was that he truly looked like a quarterback, which could account for his finding employment with the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers after the Eagles mercifully sent him packing following the 1970 season.

Thankfully there is no mandate for making a prediction about the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl, because I haven’t followed pro football since the down linemen transformed themselves from unusually large men into pharmaceutically-aided freight cars.

These days Buck Buchanan would likely be judged as too petite to play for the Eagles or the Chiefs. He’d look spindly compared to the 18 offensive and defensive linemen listed on Kansas City’s most recent roster, who average 303 pounds per man, or five pounds less than the average weight of the 17 current Eagle linemen.

My attitude regarding this year’s game is a combination of ignorance and apathy. I don’t know if the Eagles or the Chiefs will win, and I don’t care, either. But I do have one passing Super Bowl-related interest. What I’d really like to do is find a time machine, travel forward a few thousand years, and be present on the day when captivated archeologists open Buck Buchanan’s tomb.<

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