Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bronko Nagurski, Not Live From Nowhere

The amazing thing looking back at Bronko Nagurski and how he got to be there was how direct it all was. When he came down from the Iron Range all brawn and hard consonants there was no national recruiting war; he went to the University of Minnesota.

When he got out of school after four years of two-way greatness there was no protracted drama over where he would play professional football, no raccoon-coated Mel Kiper bellering at passers-by through a megaphone, "Nagurski to the Stapletons at number three; great value pick at that position."

They would have looked at him like he was completely daft, and they would have been right. They would have taken his pennant away, too.

The Bears were there first with the most money, and so he signed. Then when he got in the backfield they so much as shouted across the line, "We're running Nagurski now; try and stop us," which they couldn't, because there were three Hall of Famers in front of Nagurski, who himself was as big as their biggest lineman and ran like the 20th Century Limited. And when Nagurski retired to wrestle and fish he said, "I'm retiring to wrestle and fish," and it was done without SportsCenter on-location at Rainy River or Rich Eisen babbling live from the Mankato Armory.

People in the '30s had the tech savvy of stuffed animals and were casually bigoted, offandedly cruel, and foolishly superstitious chain smokers and binge drinkers, but they weren't so idiotic as to care where Bronko Nagurski fished, what he caught, and how the fish felt about the whole thing. Advantage them.

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