This August former Packers great Brett Favre will be inducted into the Pro Football of Hall of Fame. The prodigal son will be welcomed home once and for all. For many of us, we were hoping that 2016 would have been a dual celebration where Favre and Packers legend Jerry Kramer would be inducted together. But that dream did not come to fruition last year. I could reference numerous articles written by professional and amateur bloggers alike that have enumerated the reasons why the NFL 50th Anniversary Team member is worthy of induction, but I’m sure if you’ve made it this far into the article, you’ve already read them numerous times.
Quite simply, the PFHOF is incomplete without Jerry Kramer. Some say he didn’t do enough to merit induction, though his accolades and accomplishments speak otherwise. Some say it’s because of his tell-all book that removed the fourth wall from the inner sanctum of professional football, even though there are more salacious and damning books out there. Some say it’s because the Hall has already filled its quota of Lombardi era Packers and we should leave room for other great players. And then there are some who simply say he does not belong there because he was voted down previously.
There is a lot of nonsense floating around why Jerry Kramer does not deserve to be there. But the reasons why he should clearly outshine those ticky box reasons to reject him.
I’ve written about statistics and the Ice Bowl ad nauseum previously. So here is yet another reason. Perhaps it is intangible, but it is a reason nevertheless. And it is an important one at that.
Jerry Kramer continues to remain one of standard bearers from the golden age of football who is eager and willing to tell his story. He is the bridge from the past that ties those years to the present.
And let’s face it, there are less and less of those storytellers every year. Willie Wood, a likely victim of CTE and too many blows to the head to count doesn’t even remember Super Bowl I. Two strokes later and the insidious creep of dementia and the Packers most beloved icon Bart Starr remembers very little from his career now. Their memories and stories can no longer be told first hand, and the subtle nuances of their experiences are likely lost forever.
Then there’s the fact that the 1966 Green Bay Packers team seems to shrink a little bit each year. Thirteen men have already passed away, and the remaining players aren’t getting any older. Last year we mourned the loss of Fuzzy Thurston. Before that there was Lionel Aldridge, Bob Brown, Roy Caffee, Don Chandler, Tommy Crutcher, Gale Gillingham, Robert Jeter, Henry Jordan, Ron Kostelnik, Max McGee, Ray Nitschke and Elijah Pitts.
But one constant remains. Jerry Kramer is still there to tell their story. He actively remains a vital part of the Packers community, an ambassador from an era long gone always willing to greet a fan with a smile, stop for a photo or an autograph, and reminisce about football from fifty years ago. Sure, the years have taken their toll. He walks like an old man in need of a new hip, but that smile is missing from his face. He’s part of the Packers family and he makes fans feel welcome.
While it isn’t a personal experience, a friend’s serendipitous meeting with him sums up why he is such an amazing ambassador for the game. My friend David played guard in high school and college. Kramer has been his favorite player since he can remember. He has a picture of that iconic Ice Bowl play breaking the goal line in his office.
So when the Packers played in Super Bowl XLV, he, like many of us made the journey to Dallas in February of 2011. While most of us were wearing modern day players’ jerseys, David wore 64 with the name KRAMER across the back of his shoulders. As he left the stadium that night still basking in the magic of that victory, an old man walked up to him and smacked him in the arm as they headed toward the doors.
“Nice jersey, kid,” the old man told him.
Needless to say he now has a second picture in his office, one with him smiling ear to ear with his arm around the shoulder of none other than Jerry Kramer.
In an era where the NFL offseason is often marked by arrests, domestic abuse and contract hold outs, the league needs more ambassadors like Jerry Kramer to remind us that there can be a connection between the player and fan experience. Quite simply, the NFL needs more Jerry Kramers and less Ray Rices.
Kramer has the accolades and accomplishments to be enshrined in Canton. He was a guard that stood out among guards. But more importantly, he is that upstanding guy that has stuck with his team and its fans even into the twilight of his life.
Jerry Kramer deserves to be invited to join his teammates in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And it would sure mean a lot more to everyone if he could do that and don the gold jacket with his family and fans cheering instead of his children one day accepting it after he has passed.
To quote former Packers coach and 2016 inductee into Canton Kevin Greene:
It is time.--------------