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Chalk up another for the frozen tundra

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000


TAMPA -- Chris Foerster was the cheesiest of Cheeseheads, a self-proclaimed Green Bay Packers nut.

The offensive line coach has vivid memories of sitting at a friend's house in Milwaukee watching the "Ice Bowl," the 1967 NFL Championship Game played in sub-zero weather that ended with the Packers defeating Dallas 21-17.

"After that game, we piled pillows on the living room floor and then jumped over the top of this huge pile like Bart Starr did (for the winning touchdown with 17 seconds remaining)," said Foerster, who was 5 years old. "Then we went out and played football in a driving snow because we were so fired up.

"That's the way it was. I loved football, and I really loved Packer football."

Unfortunately for Foerster, his family moved to Tucson, Ariz., in the early 1970s, which meant his Packers watching basically was limited to Monday Night Football's halftime highlights. As for playing the game, Foerster also was put on hold. His parents didn't let him play organized football until 1974, when he was 13 and in the seventh grade.

Then, after all those years of "waiting and waiting to play," a funny thing happened.

"It was the first day of Little League football, and after I came home, I realized that playing football hurts," Foerster said. "Sure, you're wearing a helmet and pads, but when you start banging around, your neck hurts, your legs hurt, your back hurts, and if you haven't played before, every muscle in your body hurts.

"I hurt so bad that I didn't want to go back to practice after that first day. I told my mom, "Why would I want to go back and get beat up like that again?' I was in the car kicking and screaming the next day before practice, and she literally pushed me out the door and said, "You're going to football practice.' "

By the end of the season, Foerster not only was practicing, he was as enamored with the game as ever. And yes, despite a whole season of living in Arizona, he remained true to the Packers.

"I stayed a diehard Packer fan until I signed a contract to coach for the Minnesota Vikings (in 1993)," he said. "When I signed that contract with the Vikings, I suddenly hated the Packers. In fact, they were the team I hated most in the division."

One of Foerster's greatest football highlights came in his first season in Minnesota when the Vikings played the Packers at Milwaukee's County Stadium.

"That was a huge thrill going back to that stadium for that game, because that's where I saw my first football game when I was 5 years old," he said. "I remember it was a cold, snowy day, and my dad took me down near the walkway as the Packers came out on the field.

"So as a coach I'll never forget walking out on that same field and looking over and seeing those kids, just like I used to be, standing over there watching the players come out on the field. It really hit me that my lifelong dream had come true."

And what if his mother hadn't forced him out of the car and into that second day of Little League football practice?

"Oh, I would have been in the game one way or another," Foerster said, grinning. "I'm a football coach, and that's all I'll ever be."

SUPER BOWL VIII

Jan. 13, 1974

Houston

Dolphins 24, Vikings 7

MVP: Larry Csonka, Dolphins running back (33 carries for a Super Bowl-record 145 yards and two touchdowns).

IN THE NEWS: July 30: The House Judiciary Committee adopts three articles of impeachment against Nixon stemming from the Watergate scandal. Aug. 8: Nixon announces he will resign the next day. Aug. 9: Vice President Gerald Ford is sworn in as the 38th president. Sept. 8: Ford grants Nixon a "full, free and absolute pardon."

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: The Sting

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: Fullingness' First Finale/Stevie Wonder

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: Happy Days

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