Every year the Super Bowl airs it takes me back to Jan. 15, 1967 when the Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. About a dozen of us ardent fans were able to score tickets to that first matchup and the trip to Southern California, plus the attendant parties, made the event very worthwhile.
Prior to that inaugural game, the same group of Reno fans would get together for a similar trip to see a game that was known then as the Pro Bowl.
The Pro Bowl subsequently settled down for good in Hawaii and it annually features all-stars whose team did not make it to the Super Bowl. Our early jaunts to the Pro Bowl in California came about through the good efforts of the late Don Burke, a former San Francisco 49er in the early days, who had segued into a job with the Reno Chamber of Commerce managing that organization’s San Francisco office on Market Street.
Burke was good friends with many of the veteran NFL players, so we were able to hoist a few with them and then watch the athletics antics of such superstars as Jim Brown and Fran Tarkenton on game day. The Pro Bowl was never a sellout, so good seats were easy to come by. Also, that first Super Bowl was not a sellout, so once again we had good seats and they soon turned into better seats when the game announcer came on and asked everyone to move closer to the 50-yard line so TV could show a packed stadium.
The tough Vince Lombardi was coach of the Packers then and in his usual pre-game visits with the press was terse and tight lipped. On the other hand, there was a “hot dog” type running back for the Chiefs who was mouthing off constantly about how he was going to tear up the Packer’s defense. Early in the game, that individual was carried off on a stretcher and Green Bay went on to methodically dominate the hapless Chiefs.
According to recent reports, that first football game was not called the Super Bowl, but something else like the World Championship. Later, when the trophy was appropriately named after its first victor, Lombardi, the name Super Bowl was coined and now it is copyrighted to the extent that you have to pay to use it in your public Super Bowl parties.
Northern Nevada residents will notice that locally its being called The Big Game and other monikers by the hotel/casinos that host the big parties on game day.
One of the other highlights of that 1967 game was the fact that the L.A. area was shutdown, flight-wise, because of heavy fog, which meant the Reno contingent had to spend a couple of extra days in the southland.
‘True Grit’ too gritty?
There has been mixed reaction to the current film version of “True Grit” that stars Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Many critics and some audience members have labeled it too realistic in its treatment of how the West actually might have looked in those days.
Actors in the current version seem to have missed more than a few Saturday night baths and Bridges in particular is pictured as a much more seedy individual than the one John Wayne portrayed in the original version. In addition, there are a number of long range “mood” scenes in the new flick that don’t seem to have a lot to do with the story line.
According to the producers of the new “True Grit,” they did not even look at the script of the original and some of the actors still haven’t seen the Wayne version because the producers wanted to follow more accurately the book on which both films were based. Too that end, the new rendition gives a much stronger part to the young girl that hires Rooster Cogburn to avenge her father’s killing.
In the original, Wayne, as he usually did in all his pictures, completely dominated the screen in every scene he appeared in. He was truly a larger than life actor and his name on the marquee guaranteed a healthy return at the box office.
By comparison, Bridges does an excellent job of portraying Rooster Cogburn as a crusty alcoholic who is still pretty accurate with a gun. His guttural voicing is a little hard to understand on some occasions but you do feel an empathy for his character. Damon is sort of wasted in a supporting role that did little for singer Glen Campbell when he played that part in the original.
Also missing from the current version is excellent actor Robert Duvall, who played the head bad guy in the first “True Grit.” His role this time is played by an actor who looks a lot more dissolute and filthy, but doesn’t seem as intimidating.
If you remember the original and go to see the new one you soon realize you are looking at two very different offerings of the same basic story.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.