Max McGee, RIP

When I was growing up in South Dakota in the 1960s, the Green Bay Packers were our “local” NFL team, and we got their games on television every Sunday. I became a big Packers fan. I don’t really follow pro football anymore, but still have fond memories of the great Green Bay teams of that era.
Max McGee, one of the most colorful figures on those teams, died yesterday after falling off the roof of his house in Deephaven, Minnesota. McGee was an excellent athlete who probably couldn’t get a Division 1 offer today; he was neither very big nor very fast. He was just very good.
McGee had an excellent career, but is best remembered for his heroics in the first Super Bowl in 1966. By then, McGee was no longer a regular. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to play in the game, so he thought he might as well have a good time. McGee broke curfew, partied into the wee hours, and showed up hung over the next morning. Expecting to sit on the bench, he didn’t bring his helmet out of the locker room.
But the Packers’ starter, Boyd Dowler, was hurt during the first period. McGee had to fill in and caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the first in Super Bowl history. McGee was once quoted, “When it’s third-and-10, you can take the milk drinkers and I’ll take the whiskey drinkers every time.”
McGee retired after the 1967 season. He was successful in business and announced Packers games for a number of years. He was a wit and a troublemaker; like most troublemakers, he was a political conservative.
McGee lived in Minnesota for more than 20 years, but I met him for the first time in the summer of 2006. It was at a fundraiser for our friend Michele Bachmann, now a Congresswoman, at which President Bush spoke. We were waiting for the President to appear, and at some point I turned around and saw that a man standing behind me was wearing a name tag that said “Max McGee.” I introduced myself and said that I had been a fan in the 1960s. McGee was quiet and self-deprecating. Like a lot of long-retired football players, he looked like he may have been in pain from his old injuries. Then again, maybe it was just the pain of being accosted by another aging Packers fan.
Max McGee, RIP.
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