“It screwed up his whole practice routine, his whole schedule,” Hornung says. “He hated it.
“I kind of liked to go over there. (Packers tight end) Ron Kramer was from Detroit, and Max McGee and I would go over early and have Thanksgiving dinner the night before at Ron’s house. It made Lombardi nervous, us over there alone on our own. Max and I shared a house in Green Bay, but none of the loopy women we had around in those days could make Thanksgiving dinner.”
Come game time, the Packers were usually cooked anyway.
“It was always ridiculous, never pleasant,” Hornung says. “You had to take on that great defense, and that was never pleasant.”
Thanksgiving Day football has a lore that stretches back to 1892, when the Lehigh Mountain Hawks allegedly beat the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, 21-0. Other record listings show Notre Dame’s Corby Hall winning all three of its Turkey Day games, 1911-13, by never allowing a point to be scored on them. Another classic apparently was the 1915 victory by the Conshohocken Athletic Club over the Norristown Billikens. They were apparently forerunners to the great Lions defenses. The score was 3-2.
Once Lombardi broke up the Packers-Lions Thanksgiving Day game, the NFL gravitated toward something less traditional and certainly more lucrative. Surprise, surprise.
This Thanksgiving Day’s NFL menu will have three games. The Oakland Raiders will be at the Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens and - here we go again - the Packers at the Lions.
Hornung lives in Louisville, Ky., where he grew up and continues to stay active in sports. The Louisville Sports Commission has an annual award in his name for the most versatile college player in the country. UCLA’s Myles Jack is among the finalists.
Hornung also owns thoroughbred horses and had one, under the training of Wayne Lukas, start in this year’s Preakness. The horse’s name is Titletown Five - “Titletown” for Green Bay’s nickname and “Five” for his jersey number.
His dream is to have a Kentucky Derby winner.
“If that happened,” Hornung says, “I’d yank the jockey off the horse and ride him into the winner’s circle myself.”
He will be watching when the Packers take the field in Detroit Thursday. It shouldn’t be like the old days. The Lions haven’t won a Thanksgiving Day game since 2003.
But his memories won’t be able to keep him from worrying about what used to be, when his Packers took on the Lions in Detroit.
2013 Los Angeles Times
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