Friday, September 5, 2008

KING KONG AINT GOT NOTHING ON LYNN


Aaron Rodgers is fast, quick thinking, smart, and accurate on the deep ball, and with some of the unflagged cheap shots he's taken, pretty tough.

Though he was an unruly miscreant at the end, Brett Favre's a legend, no arguing that. A tough son of a gun as well, as evidenced by the fact that he has blown away the record for most consecutive starts by a quarterback. Shattered it. We've seen him throw 5 touchdowns in one game playing on a severely sprained ankle. He's stepped back onto the field and played well after having his shoulder seperated by Reggie White. Thrown slews of touchdown passes with damaged fingers.


When it comes to tough quarterbacks, man, Brett is King Kong.

Lynn Dickey is the terminator.

THE FORGOTTEN SHADOW

There are Packer fans that have known no other quarterback but Brett Favre, and many have jumped ship with him when he was traded to the Jets. Those youngsters are unaware of a giant looming shadow that has all but been forgotten.
After Vince Lombardi's Packers won 5 championships in 7 years, Vince retired and left a giant legacy that couldn't possibly be matched. That legacy left a shadow that existed from 1968 to 1992, when Ron Wolf was hired as GM and made the incredibly wise decisions to hire Mike Holmgren and trade for Brett Favre. With those individuals that shadow burned away like a morning fog as the sun continues to rise further and further in the sky.

Very few remember that shadow anymore, or at least for those of us that do, it exists comfortably blanketed by a layer of success that dull the pain it caused.
That cannot be said however for the many souls that walked upon the turf of Lambeau field in the era of head coach Bart Starr. Quarterback Lynn Dickey was the captain of that wobbly ship.

BULLETPROOF

Lynn was buried for five years on the bench of the Houston Oilers, before being traded to Green Bay. In an era before sports medicine reached the level it's at today, the injuries he suffered would have sent lesser men to retirement.
Not Lynn, he had games to try to win.

Envisioning himself as "the arms and legs" of his polio-stricken brother Larry, Lynn soldiered back from some scary injuries. In his second year he had a preseason injury to his hip that then Houston Oilers doctor Robert Fain called "the worst nerve injury I've ever seen". According to a 1983 Sports Illustrated article it was closer to what emergency room physicians call a "dashboard injury".

In 1977, when with the Packers he suffered a shattered tibia and fibula in his left leg, a second surgery was required to fully repair it, resulting in severe tendonitis. The pain was all-encompassing.

After missing almost all of 33 consecutive games, Lynn strolled back onto the field in 1979. In 1980 he began to light up the league. Even with the successes he achieved after coming back, there were painful and nagging injuries that occurred, but of the kind that could be played through. By Lynn Dickey anyway.

THE TRUE GUNSLINGER

In his nine year stint in Green Bay, Lynn threw for 21,369 yards, and 133 touchdowns. In 1983 he threw for a staggering 4458 yards. The offense he ran for Bart Starr in the early 80's was swashbuckling, groundbreaking, and intense. Lynn's accuracy with passes that most quarterbacks would find too difficult to even attempt was awe-inspiring at times. His arm strength was unsurpassed. On the mainstage of Monday Night Football in October of '83, he beat Joe Theismann and the Redskins in a 48-47 track meet that still ranks as one of the greatest Monday Nighters ever played, and to this day, is the highest scoring.

The Dickey-led Pack only made the playoffs once, in the strike shortened 1982 season, and lost in the NFC finale to Dallas. As high-octane as their offense was, their defense was equally as weak, and the Lynn, James Lofton, John Jefferson, Paul Coffman, and Gerry Ellis-led offensive machine would often have to try to be perfect to beat their opponents. They never saw the playoffs again.

Dickey still put up some good numbers after the 1983 season, but thanks to his injury-induced lack of mobility, and sieve-like offensive line, it all caught up to him eventually.

He also had the devil in his eyes.

In a 1985 blizzard-encrusted game, his last, Lynn threw for over 300 yards and helped beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-0.  In the classic DVD "Legends of Lambeau", that boyish grin is still in his eyes as he recounts telling offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker prior to that game in an historic Wisconsin white-out, "We're gonna throw the hell out of the ball."


  An injury incurred while lifting weights brought about the end. 10 surgeries, some highlight reel throws, and hugely exciting moments that are often forgotten due to their association with teams that more often than not finished under .500 are what was left behind.


Often in the face of these injuries and questions about them, Lynn gave answers that were right in keeping with the swaggering wink and grin he shot to the sideline after throwing the winning pinpoint catch and run TD pass to Mike Meade in the Monday Night Redskin shootout. "What's one more torpedo in a sinking ship?"


You can hear his slight drawl saying, "You've just got to roll with it, after a while who cares?" These are his words, not mine. Lynn Dickey defined Warrior. In the era of the injuries he suffered, combined with the severity of them, it's stunning he accomplished what he did. If he had been remotely healthy his numbers most likely would have been comparable to Dan Fouts. He would have been a hall-of -famer.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article in 2001 stated, "Dickey Remembers Green Bay Fondly". Well we remember him pretty fondly as well. I have a custom made road white Lynn Dickey #12 jersey and I wore it to a Brewers game last night. I could not believe the positive reaction I got. Complete strangers were coming up to me to tell me about their memories of Lynn, or just flat out compliment me on the jersey. Some guys in the ticket office gave me a free copy of the Brewers Media Guide I was trying to buy, if I simply promised to keep wearing it.

That shouldn't be a problem.

Lynn Dickey was and is my hero for what he gave to the game. His bravery and incredible need to compete at all costs was inspiring and kept me attached to the Green Bay Packers in even their darkest hours.

Oh, no, I haven't forgotten Lynn Dickey. And judging by my cohorts at Miller Park last night, it appears most Wisconsin sports fans haven't either.

2 comments:

Matt said...

You forgot to mention the SI article entitled "He Takes Great Pains With His Passing". Dickey was in Eau Claire promoting these ace-bandage-type wraps that heats up. I brought that article to show him & he just laughed.

Thanks for the good read

Doug said...

Bert,

I realize you've posted this blog long ago, but being from Green Bay, I just had to comment. I've been watching the Pack since five years old (1982) and I would take somebody of Lynn's talent over Aaron Rodgers anyday. Most of the media has a short memory, unfortunately, and I think most fans just recall the frustrating 8-8 seasons. I've probably watched the '83 Monday Night game DVD at least fifty times. I'm gonna have to get more Starr/Gregg era games on DVD. When Starr hired Bob Schnelker in '82, his master offensive play calling was paired with Lynn's talents. It's too bad Forrest Gregg was a prick, as I believe Dickey could have eaked out one more season in '86. In any event, I didn't even realize you could get a #12 Dickey jersey. I'll have to get one with the T.V. numbers on the sleeves, instead of buying a modern #12 "A-Hole" one. Most people in Green Bay today look at me funny and laugh when I mention Lynn Dickey in football conversation. Thanks for paying tribute to one of my favorite players of all time.