Johnny "Blood" McNally On The Ice Bowl

2018 January -

Johnny "Blood" McNally On The Ice Bowl

Milwaukee Badgers,

One of early pro football's most colorful characters was hall of famer John McNally.  Nicknamed "blood" from the Rudolph Valentino movie Blood And Sand, McNally was know as the vagabond half back who started his career with the Milwaukee Badgers, Pottsville Maroons, Duluth Eskimos, and Pittsburgh Pirates.  But he is most remembered for his seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers where he helped guide the team to four championships between 1929-1936.

By 1970 he was still affiliated with the Packers and wrote a piece naming the Ice Bowl the greatest game ever played.  It appeared in the 1970 21st Annual Midwest Shrine Game program, an annual preseason game that had the Packers host the Bears in their home-away-from-home, Milwaukee County Stadium.  Here is the piece in its entirety.

Blood Calls '67 Packer-Dallas Game 'Greatest'

The greatest game I ever played in or saw? Come now, who can make such a choice? There were scores of great ones and time erodes memory.  What may have been the greatest 20 or 30 years ago has lost its impact and been replaced by another.

Maybe because of that, if the question must be answered, my thoughts turn to one of the more recent games.  I think the greatest was the championship game with Dallas on an ice covered field in Green Bay on the last day of December, 1967.  Green Bay won, 21–17.

There must be guidelines first even to attempt a choice.  It must be a game between two closely matched teams.  It must be a game for large stakes. It must be a game filled with 60 minutes of suspense.  It must be a game of great plays and great demonstrations of skill, daring, good judgment, and endurance.  It must be a game in which the lead changes a few times.  It must be a game decided on the last play.  It must be a game in which the fan is emotionally wrung out at the gun.

The game played in Green Bay on that last day of 1967 meets all these guidelines – and really two more.  It was played in weather 13 degrees below zero and was won in the closing stages by a crippled team with a third string man at fullback.

I'm sure few cities if any have ever enjoyed as many cocktails as Green Bay that night or ever woke up on the first day of the new year with fewer hangovers.  Such is the power of real joy.

To cap everything on this bitterly cold afternoon, quarterback Bart Starr called his own number on the ultimate of all clutch plays, the last one, and scored on a sneak from the two foot line over the tangled bodies of Green Bay's Jerry Kramer and Dallas' Jim [sic] Lilly.

The final play as called was anything but a show of egotism.   It was instead an example of uncommonly sound and courageous judgment followed by extreme muscular effort.  What Starr showed was the ultimate in responsible and brave leadership.  It has to be his finest moment as a football player.

Yes, the 1967 championship game with Dallas was the greatest I ever saw.  It shook me as no other has in more than 40 years.

Taken from Tripoli 21st Annual Midwest Shrine Game, August 15th, 1970