Saturday, August 29, 2009

A political football: Kennedy was courted by the Packers

He undoubtedly still would have wound up in politics because that was Ted Kennedy's destiny from birth, given his family's history.

Still, it's interesting to wonder what might have been had the senator accepted the Green Bay Packers invitation to try out back in 1956. Apparently, Kennedy had caught the Packers' eye after catching a touchdown pass in a 21-7 loss to Yale in The Game during his senior year. Packers coach Liz Blackbourn saw the film. He liked Kennedy's size - 6-foot-2, 210-pounds - and athleticism enough to send the Crimson receiver a personal letter.

Kennedy reportedly was flattered, but not enough to take the coach up on his offer. He eschewed the tryout in order to attend law school and pursue politics, which he wittily and accurately described as "another contact sport.''

Upon learning of the senator's death earlier this week, the Harvard football team hung a lone jersey - Kennedy's No. 88 - in the locker room.

After graduating from Harvard, Kennedy's grid-iron activity would be restricted to those highly competitive touch football games at the family's compound in Hyannis. His life-long sporting activity wound up being sailing, but his favorite sport to follow was baseball. He was a die-hard Red Sox fan, and said one of the greatest thrills of his life was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a game at Fenway Park early this year. It was an honor also bestowed upon his grandfather, former Boston mayor Honey Fitzgerald, many decades earlier.

Kennedy also followed the New England Patriots closely, and had a running correspondence with coach Bill Belichick. He would send Belichick congratulatory letters following significant victories and spirit-boosting notes on those rare occasions the Patriots lost. The normally stoic coach opened his Wednesday press conference thanking the late senator for his loyal support.

That was great news that the LPGA will return to Rochester for a 34th time next summer. As I stated on numerous occasions, the women's golf organization needs us more than we need them. To have snubbed one of your best supported venues and most generous sponsors (Wegmans) would have been a terrible business move, and fortunately the players realized that and rid themselves of commissioner Carolyn Bevins before it happened.

Look, I've signed off on giving a Michael Vick a second chance despite his heinous acts, but I believe the standing ovation he received from Eagles fans the other night was a little much. True redemption takes time.

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