A cold blast from past: 1967 Ice Bowl re-created


For the legion of Green Bay Packers fans who love to relive the team's glorious past, NFL Films has a treat ready for them Tuesday.

In a 90-minute show on ESPN, NFL Films will re-create the Ice Bowl -- the 1967 NFL title game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.

This is part of a series NFL Films started two weeks ago with the game Baltimore fans want to forget -- Super Bowl III, when the New York Jets upset the Colts.

The Ice Bowl was a more dramatic game. Super Bowl III is remembered for its historical significance because it gave status to the AFL, but it wasn't exciting. The Jets sat on the ball in the final period when Joe Namath didn't throw a pass.

But as Packers fans are reliving that game-winning drive in the Ice Bowl climaxed by Bart Starr's quarterback sneak, they might have to ponder one chilling thought.

The 1997 Packers are a lot closer to the 1968 Joe Namath Jets, who won one title, than to the Vince Lombardi Packers, who won five championships in the 1960s.

The current Packers are a solid team built around a great quarterback, Brett Favre. They probably have only one potential Hall of Famer besides Favre -- Reggie White. The Jets had one other Hall of Famer besides Namath -- wide receiver Don Maynard.

The Packers of the '60s, by contrast, had a Hall of Fame quarterback (Starr) who was overshadowed by such legendary Hall of Famers as Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg and Willie Wood.

All this helps explain why the Packers have struggled to a 2-1 start this year even though they're favored by 12 points over the Minnesota Vikings today.

The Packers entered the season with a swagger, talking about a perfect season, but they've now facing the reality that they're not a dominant team and have to play well to stay on top.

It hasn't helped that they've lost running back Edgar Bennett and cornerback Craig Newsome for the season with injuries and that strong safety LeRoy Butler will play the season with torn biceps. On top of that, defensive lineman Gilbert Brown has been in and out of the lineup with hip and knee injuries.

This doesn't mean the Packers won't repeat. In this era of parity or mediocrity (take your pick) caused by the salary cap, there aren't any other dominant teams. They may still be the team to beat.

Bob Ackles, the director of football operations for the Miami Dolphins, has gotten a good look at the Packers because the Dolphins played them last week and in the exhibition opener. He's not counting them out.

"I think they're probably as good as last year, maybe a little better. They weren't going to go 16-0. They're going to take a couple of losses, but you have to believe they've got as good a chance as repeating as anybody or at least of being there," Ackles said.

The Packers, though, haven't recaptured the form of last year when they crushed the Vikings, 38-10, in the season finale.

Look for it to be closer today.

Packers work on new grass

The Packers were so impressed with SportGrass, that combination of synthetic grass and the real stuff at Memorial Stadium, that they installed it at Lambeau Field this year.

It was supposed to solve the problem of having to replace the turf for January playoff games in bad weather.

So far, though, it's gotten mixed reviews. Players were slipping and sliding last week.

A spokesman for the company said the problem was caused by an algae buildup caused by rain and says the problem will be corrected for today's game.

Oilers lacked common sense

The NFL keeps proving it's difficult to be a successful monopoly because the success tends to cause the executives to lose their common sense. The result is they make decisions that make little sense.

Look at the Tennessee Oilers, who are having problems drawing in Memphis. You would think somebody in the league office would have reminded the Oilers that Memphis fans were bitter at the NFL for snubbing them in expansion.

And look at the Redskins, who overbuilt the number of premium seats (18,000) at their new stadium, so they now have thousands of empty seats at their games.

They should have realized that despite their large fan base -- their TV ratings last week almost tripled the Ravens' ratings -- there's a limit to the number of people who can afford to pay more than $200 a seat for an NFL game.

By contrast, the Ravens, who estimate they could have sold 10,000 club seats, are building only 7,900 and have them all sold. It's always better to have more demand than supply.

But it's uncertain if the league will learn anything from these mistakes.

For example, Oilers owner Bud Adams first announced he was going to change the Oilers' nickname when he moved to Tennessee. Then he turned off the Tennessee fans by changing his mind.

He blames the Ravens' experience for his decision.

"Definitely, one of the factors to take into consideration with any decision is the Ravens-Browns experience. Fans around the country have a tough time identifying with the Ravens, and that's a valid concern," he said.

The reality is that changing the nickname was one of the best things owner Art Modell did when he moved to Baltimore so the team could have a Baltimore identity.

Modell, noting it gets overlooked that he's the only owner in sports to leave a nickname behind, said, "Bud's a friend of mine, but that's not a valid analysis. The Ravens will become a name of importance once we start winning and get in our new stadium."

Having a new name certainly didn't hurt Carolina and Jacksonville once the expansion teams became immediate hits.

Tuna Bowl II coming soon

It's coming up in just a month. On Oct. 19, the New England Patriots will go to Giants Stadium to play the Jets for a rematch in the league's hottest rivalry.

Their game last Sunday night lived up to all the buildup, and the reaction of the coaches shows how much it meant to both of them.

Patriots coach Pete Carroll, whose team needed a blocked field-goal try to escape with the victory, said: "It obviously had a major impact on the perception of the fans on our regime. This was a special win and it was an important day in that it allowed us to get started with our program. Without getting a win, it would have been difficult."

By contrast, the Tuna, Bill Parcells, was devastated by the loss even though the game showed he's making an immediate impact. He's even worried about a hangover effect as his team plays the Raiders today.

"These particular games are hard to get over, they really are. This could've been a big step for us, a monster step. The psychology of that result could've been monumentally difficult for us in a positive way. Now who knows when we're going to get another chance to do that?" he said.

They'll get another shot on Oct. 19.

Ditka still has tirade in him

Saints coach Mike Ditka finally went off at halftime last week and had a confrontation with cornerback Eric Allen, but even his tirades apparently aren't as good as they used to be in Chicago.

Saints linebacker Mark Fields said, "I don't think this dispels the myth that Mike has mellowed. I think he has some. I don't know if it was vintage Ditka because I haven't been around him long enough. I know this: I've seen Jim Mora's tirades and I think his were a little worse than Mike's. Absolutely. But Mike's was a good one."

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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