Hungover Heroes: Max McGee

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Today is the birthday of Max McGee. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard his name, most people haven’t. He “was a professional football player, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL. He played from 1954 to 1967, and is best known for his 7 receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the first Super Bowl in 1967.” And it’s his performance in that first Super Bowl that was so amazing, in no small part because he was badly hungover.

In 1967, McGee was at the end of his career. In fact, it was the second-to-last season he played. He was not a starter for the Packers that year they went to the first Super Bowl, and caught only four balls all year. So apparently, not expecting to play at all during the Super Bowl, the night before he broke curfew and spent the night with two women he met at the hotel bar. He rolled in around 6:30 a.m. the morning of the big game, passed Bart Starr in the hallway just getting up, and tried to catch a few winks before game time.

He was feeling pretty rough, but took his spot on the bench, fully expecting to be glued to it all game. He told starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape,” referring to the fact that he was badly hungover. Unfortunately, shortly after the game started, Dowler separated his shoulder and came out of the game, replaced by McGee. He had to borrow a helmet from another teammate, because he had left his in the locker room. McGee was reportedly startled as he heard Vince Lombardi yell, “McGee! McGee! Get your ass in there.”

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A few plays later, McGee made a one-handed reception of a pass from Bart Starr, took off past Chiefs defender Fred Williamson and ran 37 yards to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. This was a repeat of his performance in the NFL championship game two weeks earlier, when he had also caught a touchdown pass after relieving an injured Boyd Dowler. By the end of the game, McGee had recorded seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, assisting Green Bay to a 35-10 victory.

Just check out that first catch, for the very first touchdown in a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the NFL won’t allow you to watch the video on my site, even though you can see it on YouTube or directly the NFL website. Thank goodness they protected a 50-year old event from being seen here. Who knows what money might have been lost by them had you been able to see it here instead of their own website.

Here’s more about the story from Sports Illustrated:

McGee came to California ready to party. He chafed at a week of locked-down training camp in Santa Barbara and when the team moved to Los Angeles on the eve of the big game, he made plans with those two flight attendants, assuming that Hornung, who was nursing an injured neck and wouldn’t play in the game, would join him. McGee snuck out after assistant coach Hawg Hanner’s 11 p.m. bed check and soon afterward, called Hornung. “He called and said ‘I’ve got two girls and yours is gorgeous,’ ” says Hornung. ” ‘Come out and have a couple drinks with us.’ ” The fine was at least $5,000 and Hornung was getting married later that week and his neck was sore. He declined. The next time he heard from McGee was at 6:30 the next morning. “He called from the lobby and asked if they did a second check. I said ‘No, you lucky bastard, now get your ass up here.’ ”

Before every game, Dowler, Dale and McGee would have a brief, ritual meeting to go over the game plan and review tendencies one last time. “We’re having our little meeting,” says Dowler, 79 and living in Richmond, Va., “and Max says, ‘Whatever you do, don’t go down today.’ I said, What do you mean? Max says, ‘I was out all night and I had a few more drinks than I should have and I didn’t get much sleep. So just don’t go down.'”

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Dowler says, “Max had a strong constitution. I figured he could deal with it. But he did not expect to play.” This was a potential problem. Dowler had played most of the 1965 season and all of the ’66 season with a bad right shoulder; a calcium deposit had developed on the joint. Yet the Packers’ coaching staff had seen weaknesses in the Chiefs’ pass defense, including a propensity to leave the middle of the field open on blitzes. Starr was going to throw the ball extensively. “Plus, their defensive backs,” says Dowler. “They had ‘The Hammer’ [future Hollywood actor Fred Williamson] on one side and some other guy, No. 22 [Willie Mitchell] on the other side. Neither one of them were very good, one-on-one. It wasn’t going to be like trying to beat Lem Barney or Night Train Lane [of the Detroit Lions].”

(McGee knew this, too. Maraniss, in When Pride Still Mattered, quotes McGee as telling Packers broadcaster Ray Scott, “I’ve been studying film and I’ve found me a cornerback. I’m gonna have him for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Still, if he had expected to play, he most likely would have stayed in the night before. Or possibly not.)

On the Packers’ first series, McGee took a seat next to Hornung on the bench and made small talk about the night before and Hornung’s upcoming wedding. On the field, Lombardi opened with three consecutive running plays. On the third, Dowler executed a crackback block on Chiefs’ free safety Johnny Robinson, who was dropping down in run support. “My shoulder was not in good shape at all coming into the game,” says Dowler. “I usually put a foam pad underneath my shoulder pad, but since we were going to be throwing the ball a lot, I wanted to have some flexibility. I took the pad out. When I hit Johnny Robinson, I heard the calcium deposit crack and I knew immediately that I was finished.”

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McGee was summoned into the game, but couldn’t find his helmet. He put on a giant lineman’s helmet with a full cage and on his first snap missed connecting with Starr on a curl route. On the Packers’ next possession, Starr came out throwing: 11 yards to tight end Marv Fleming, 22 yards to running back Elijah Pitts, 12 yards to Dale. And then on third-and-three from the Kansas City 37, McGee ran a simple skinny post against Mitchell’s outside position and broke wide open. Robinson had blitzed, leaving acres of green in the middle of the secondary. Starr’s pass was far behind McGee, who reached back, controlled the ball and then turned straight upfield, into the end zone and history. It was a remarkable catch, by a man with a hangover and no sleep, running at full speed. McGee’s second touchdown, on another inside move against Mitchell, gave the Packers a 28–10 lead in the third quarter. That one came on a better throw by Starr, but McGee juggled it as he crossed beneath the goalposts, which were on the goalline. “The game of his life,” says Hornung.

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You can also see more video from television programs talking about McGee performance, such as when a TV show ranked the Top 50 Super Bowl Performances, and picked McGee’s Super Bowl I play as #31, and in another show which ranked McGee’s catch #10 among the “Top 10 Super Bowl Plays.”

And while it’s true that I’m a giant Green Bay Packers fan, and they’re the only football team I’ve ever rooted for, I still love this story about how the hungover Max McGee helped them win the first Super Bowl in 1967.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick C. Miller

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Today is the birthday of Frederick C. Miller (February 26, 1906–December 17, 1954). Fred was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “the son of Carl A. Miller of Germany, and Clara Miller (no relation), a daughter of Miller Brewing Company founder Frederick Miller.

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Succeeding his younger cousin Harry John (1919–1992), Miller became the president of the family brewing company in 1947 at age 41 and had a major role in bringing Major League Baseball to Wisconsin, moving the Braves from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953. He coaxed Lou Perini into moving them into the new County Stadium and the Braves later played in consecutive World Series in 1957 and 1958, both against the New York Yankees. Both series went the full seven games with Milwaukee winning the former and New York the latter.

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Fred Miller was also notably a college football player, an All-American tackle under head coach Knute Rockne at the University of Notre Dame, posthumously elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985. He later served as an unpaid assistant coach for the Irish, flying in from Milwaukee several times a week.

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He also “volunteered as a coach for the Green Bay Packers and, during a difficult financial period, even helped fund the team. Miller Brewing remains the largest stockholder of the Green Bay Packers,” which probably explains why they played half of their home games in Milwaukee before Lambeau Field was refurbished.

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Here’s his biography from the College Football Hall of Fame:

A native of Milwaukee, Fred Miller was the grandson of the founder of the Miller Brewing Company. The qualities which later made Fred a great business executive were already evident when he entered Notre Dame in 1925, and they were quickly recognized by the immortal Knute Rockne. It was under Rockne’s tutelage that the 6-1, 195-pounder came to his gridiron peak, earning All-America mention in 1927, and again in 1928, and achieving the ultimate Notre Dame football honor by being named captain of the 1928 team. His quest for perfection was not limited to the gridiron. During his years at Notre Dame he coupled athletic prowess with academic proficiency and established the highest scholastic average of any monogram winner. Miller was involved in real estate, lumber, and investments before becoming president of the Miller Brewing Company. In 1954, he and his son, Fred Jr., were killed in an airplane crash. Miller was 48 years old. He was survived by his wife, six daughters and a son.

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Miller at Milwaukee’s County stadium, where he helped moved the Boston Braves to in 1953, along with paying $75,000 for the County Stadium scoreboard in the background.

But beyond his sports accomplishments, he was an effective leader of his family’s brewery, as detailed by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Remembering Frederick C. Miller, Milwaukee brewing’s 1st rock star:

Frederick C. Miller was the first brewery rock star.

Industry types praised Miller in the 1940s and early ’50s in the same way they gush over leading craft brewers today.

Frederick J. Miller was the builder of the brewery that is marking its 160th anniversary this year. Frederick’s son, Ernest, who took over after his father’s death, was a caretaker for the brewery keeping the status quo.

But Frederick C. Miller, part of the focus of a monthlong celebration of the company’s history that wrapped up last weekend, was the innovator who sparked new relationships, new buildings, put new ideas in motion and marched the family brewery past regional dominance to become the nation’s fifth-ranked brewery.

When you sip a beer at Miller Park or Lambeau Field it’s because of Fred C. He identified the relationship between beer and sports, and ran with it like the all-American football player he was.

“Fred was iconic,” said David S. Ryder, MillerCoors vice president for brewing, research, innovation and quality. “He was named as president of Miller Brewing in 1947, and from the day that he was named president, Miller Brewing started to grow.”

Frederick C. died when his plane crashed on takeoff at what is now Mitchell International Airport on Dec. 17, 1954. He was 48. His son Fred Jr., 20, and two pilots on the Miller Brewing payroll were killed on impact in the crash; Frederick C. was thrown clear of the crash but died hours later in the hospital.

A crowd of 3,000 mourners attended the funeral services, and the overflow was described by The Milwaukee Journal as “everyday folks — men in overalls and other rough work clothes, mothers carrying babies, young people and old.”

During Frederick C.’s time, Miller’s brewery expanded and sales grew from 653,000 barrels in 1947 to more than 3 million in 1952. He added buildings, including a new brewhouse and a new office building. He turned the former ice caves into The Caves Museum, a place where brewers could assemble for lunch or special occasions.

Liberace, a West Allis native, cut the ribbon for The Caves in 1953, according to John Gurda’s book “Miller Time: A History of Miller Brewing Company.”

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Here’s a newspaper account of the tragic death of Fred and his son in 1954.

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And lastly, here’s some interesting speculation from my friend, historian Maureen Ogle, that Miller Brewing might have done considerably better against their rival, Anheuser-Busch, if Fred Miller had not died prematurely in that place crash when he was only 48 years old.

It’s rare that the presence or absence of one person makes a historical difference (I said “rare,” not impossible). But I think that the death of Fred C. Miller in 1954 altered the course of American brewing. Miller was aggressive, ambitious, smart — all on a grand scale. He was the first beermaker to come along in decades who showed the potential to go head-to-head with the Busch family, particularly Gus Busch, who ran A-B from the late 1940s until the mid-1970s.

Miller became company president in 1947, and over the next few years, he shoved, pushed, prodded, and otherwise steered his family’s brewing company not-much-of-anything into the ranks of the top ten. But in late 1954, he died (in a plane crash) — and Miller Brewing lost its way.

As Miller faltered, A-B solidified its position as the dominant player in American brewing. Had Fred Miller not died, I believe the course of American brewing would have turned out differently: Fred Miller would have transformed his family’s company into a formidable powerhouse. He would have challenged A-B’s dominance. He would have been able to command-and-direct in a way that, for example, Bob Uihlein was not able to do at Schlitz during the same period.

Put another way, in the 1950s, Gus Busch met his match in Fred C. Miller. Things might have turned out differently had Miller lived

I can’t prove that, of course, but hey — what’s all that research good for if I can’t express an informed opinion.

And lastly, the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame created a short video of Miller’s life that’s a nice over view of him.

Beer In Ads #2196: Heineken Refreshes Joe Jordan


Thursday’s ad is for Heineken, from the 1970s. In the later 1970s, Heineken embarked on a series of ads with the tagline “Heineken Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach.” Many of the ads were in a sequential panel, or comic strip, format and they were intended to be humorous.

In this ad, a four-panel box format, featuring illustrations of Scottish football player, coach and manager Joe Jordan. “A former striker, he played for Leeds United, Manchester United, and Milan, among others at club level, as well making 52 appearances and scoring 11 goals for Scotland. As a player he gained a fearsome ‘Jaws’ persona due to having lost two front teeth early in his career.” And that’s the angle played in the ad, where in the first panel he’s holding a mug of Heineken, smiling broadly through two missing front teeth. In the second he’s downing the beer, while by the third panel his missing teeth are back, plus his teeth are gleaming white now. So that’s a pretty impressive beer.

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Beer In Ads #2149: Sid Luckman For Pabst


Saturday’s ad is for Pabst Blue Ribbon, from 1949. In the later 1940s, Pabst embarked on a series of ads with celebrity endorsements, photographing star actors, athletes, musicians and other famous people in their homes, enjoying Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. This one features Sid Luckman. He “was an American football quarterback for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) from 1939 through 1950. During his twelve seasons with the Bears he led them to four NFL championships. Luckman was the first modern T-formation quarterback and is considered the greatest long range passer of his time.”

In the ad, done when was still an active player, though he would retire the following year, Sid sits in his home, surrounded by a few of his trophies. He holds a glass of beer, but there are two bottles of Pabst in the tray next to him. Either he was a prodigious drinker, or perhaps there’s someone else there in the room with him.

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NFL Football: Pick The Winners At Brookston Fantasy Games 2016

football
This is the tenth year for the Brookston Fantasy Football Games. We’ve had a lot of fun over the last nine, so if you love football and beer, consider joining us this year, whether you’ve played in past seasons or are a newcomer. The NFL season begins on Thursday September 8, so you’ve got exactly one week to sign up.

I’ve again set up two free Yahoo fantasy football games, one a simple pick ’em game and the other a survival pool. Up to 50 people can play each game (that’s Yahoo’s limit, not mine), so if you’re a regular Bulletin reader feel free to sign up for one or even both. It’s free to play, all you need is a Yahoo ID, which is also free. Below is a description of each game and the details on how to join each league and play.


nfl-teams

Pro Football Pick’em

In this Pick’em game, just pick the winner for every game each week, with no spread, and let’s see who gets the most correct throughout the season. All that’s at stake is bragging rights, but it’s still great fun.

Also, like the last few years, we’ll be able to keep picking all through the playoffs, so the game will continue through to the Super Bowl, which is pretty cool.

In order to join the group, just go to Pro Football Pick’em, click the “Sign Up” button (or “Create or Join Group” if you are a returning user). From there, follow the path to join an existing private group and when prompted, enter the following information…

Group ID#: 29723 (Brookston Football Picks)
Password: brookston


packers-retro

Survival Football

If picking all sixteen football games every week seems like too much, then Survival Football is for you. In Survival Football, you only have to pick one game each week. The only catch is you can’t pick the same team to win more than once all season. And you better be sure about each game you pick because if you’re wrong, you’re out for the season. Actually three years ago they added a new feature and I changed the game so to be kicked out you have to be wrong twice. In that way more people stand a better chance of lasting longer into the season. So get one wrong, and you’re still okay, get a second wrong, now you’re gone for the season. Last man standing wins.

Again, like the last two years, we can keep picking all through the playoffs, assuming our luck holds. So the game could even continue through to the Super Bowl.

In order to join the group, just go to Survival Football, click the “Sign Up” button and choose to “Join an Existing Group”, then “Join a Private Group”. Then, when prompted, enter the following information…

Group ID#: 13597 (Brookston Survival League)
Password: brookston

With 50 players allowed in each game, there’s plenty of room, so don’t be shy. Sign up for one or both games. In past seasons, I’ve posted the standings on the home page, and hopefully I’ll do that again this season. Why not join us? Go head to head again me and my team, the Brookston Brew Jays.

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Beer In Ads #1983: We Won!


Monday’s ad is entitled We Won!, and the illustration was done in 1955 by Haddon Sundblom. It’s #114 in a series entitled “Home Life in America,” also known as the Beer Belongs series of ads that the United States Brewers Foundation ran from 1945 to 1956. This is another duplicate, and it was used the previous year as #100 with a different title, After the Game, everything else is exactly the same. The only difference is, this time we know they won. As I wrote about it the last time, the kids are back from the football game, and Mom has the salad and jello mold ready for them. Thankfully, someone also set out beer, which is the only thing on the table they really want.

114. We Won! by Haddon Sundblom, 1955

Beer In Ads #1969: After The Game


Monday’s ad is entitled After the Game, and the illustration was done in 1954 by Haddon Sundblom. It’s #100 in a series entitled “Home Life in America,” also known as the Beer Belongs series of ads that the United States Brewers Foundation ran from 1945 to 1956. In this ad, the kids are back from the football game, and Mom has the salad and jello mold ready for them. Thankfully, someone also set our beer, which is the only thing on the table they really want.

100. After the Game by Haddon Sundblom, 1954

Super Wager For The Super Bowl

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You knew it had to happen. There’s at least one every year. Two breweries in the home city or state make a bet for whose team will win the big game, with the other’s beer as the prize. The only question is which breweries would step up.

This year, Denver’s Spangalang Brewery is throwing down the gauntlet, and Fullsteam Brewery of Durham, North Carolina has picked it up. The two breweries have wagered the outcome of next weekend’s Super Bowl on february 5, and apparently “the terms of the wager are significant for the brewers and their fans.”

According to the press release I got today from Denver beer writer Marty Jones, “The losing brewery will have to brew a special batch of beer from a recipe chosen by the winning brewery. The beer recipe will include indigenous ingredients from the winner’s state and will be named by the winning brewery.

On tapping day the losing brewery must hang the winning team’s flag and fly it for one week or until the beer is gone, whichever comes first.”

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Marty Jones with Fullsteam Brewery’s Sean Lilly Wilson during CBC 2010 in Chicago.

“That Panthers flag,” says Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam Brewery, “is going to look great hanging in the Spangalang tasting room. But we’ll send a beer recipe with some choice Carolina ingredients and flavor to help ease the pain of Denver’s loss.”

“It will be interesting to see if Cam Newtown can sport his 1000-watt smile with Von Miller in his face,” says Spangalang co-founder and brewer Darren Boyd. “I’m thinking ‘Cam’s Kryptonite’ would be a good name for the beer recipe we send to North Carolina.”

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Spangalang’s Austin Wiley with Orange Crushsicle.

Each brewery will be asking its social media followers to suggest beer styles, local ingredients and names for the winning beers.

From the press release:

On February 5, the Friday before the Super Bowl, each brewery will release a special pre-game beer to rally local fans.

Spangalang will bring back Orange Crushsicle, which it debuted prior to the Broncos defeating the New England Patriots to win the AFC crown and a place in the Super Bowl. The beer equivalent of the Dreamsicle frozen treat, Orange Crushscicle is a citrus session ale enhanced with orange juice, sweet and bitter orange peel and vanilla. Its name pays tribute to the past and current defense of the Broncos and predicted the creaming of the Patriots by the Broncos.

“Broncos fans came out in droves to try the beer last weekend,” says Spangalang brewer and co-founder Taylor Rees. “Our tap room will be a sea of orange jerseys when we tap it again.” Fullsteam will release Bless Their Heart, a twist to its recent collaboration with Charlotte-based Free Range Brewing. The beer is made with foraged juniper, North Carolina Frasier fir, and an addition of chokeberry syrup. “We thought chokeberry would be a good ingredient to use in this beer,” Wilson says, “due to Manning’s history of choking in the Super Bowl.” No matter which team wins the game, the rival brewers are comfortable with the wager. “The worst that can happen,” Boyd says, “is we let a like-minded, quality obsessed craft brewer take the lead on a beer of ours. So this is a good bet to make. Although the Panthers flag in our brewery would make us all sick.”

Founded in 2010, Fullsteam Brewery is a Durham, North Carolina production brewery and tavern inspired by the food and farm traditions of the South. The brewery aims to “pioneer the art of distinctly Southern beer” and specializes in traditional and experimental beers with a Southern sensibility. Its beers often incorporate locally farmed goods, heirloom grains, and seasonal botanicals.

Spangalang Brewery was founded in April 2015 by former Great Divide Brewery brewers Taylor Rees, Austin Wiley and Darren Boyd. The brewery crafts world-class beer for locals and celebrates the past and present culture of its historic Five Points neighborhood. Spangalang earned numerous “best new brewery of 2015” honors and a gold medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival medal.

May the best brewery win.

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Beer In Ads #1744: When Do 300 Lb. Lineman Say Budweiser?


Sunday’s ad is another one for Budweiser, also from the late 2000s. Although it’s a recent ad, it has a more vintage feel, and is part of a series that was created for college market newspapers. This one shows a football player’s head up close, and the thoughts in his head that lead her to drink a beer.

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NFL Football: Pick The Winners At Brookston Fantasy Games 2015

football
This is the ninth year for the Brookston Fantasy Football Games. We’ve had a lot of fun over the last eight, so if you love football and beer, consider joining us this year, whether you’ve played in past seasons or are a newcomer. The NFL season begins on Thursday September 10, so you’ve got about a day and a half to sign up.

I’ve again set up two free Yahoo fantasy football games, one a simple pick ’em game and the other a survival pool. Up to 50 people can play each game (that’s Yahoo’s limit, not mine), so if you’re a regular Bulletin reader feel free to sign up for one or even both. It’s free to play, all you need is a Yahoo ID, which is also free. Below is a description of each game and the details on how to join each league and play.


nfl-teams

Pro Football Pick’em

In this Pick’em game, just pick the winner for every game each week, with no spread, and let’s see who gets the most correct throughout the season. All that’s at stake is bragging rights, but it’s still great fun.

Also, like last year, we’ll be able to keep picking all through the playoffs, so the game will continue through to the Super Bowl, which is pretty cool.

In order to join the group, just go to Pro Football Pick’em, click the “Sign Up” button (or “Create or Join Group” if you are a returning user). From there, follow the path to join an existing private group and when prompted, enter the following information…

Group ID#: 12069 (Brookston Football Picks)
Password: brookston


packers-retro

Survival Football

If picking all sixteen football games every week seems like too much, then Survival Football is for you. In Survival Football, you only have to pick one game each week. The only catch is you can’t pick the same team to win more than once all season. And you better be sure about each game you pick because if you’re wrong, you’re out for the season. Actually two years ago they added a new feature and I changed the game so to be kicked out you have to be wrong twice. In that way more people stand a better chance of lasting longer into the season. So get one wrong, and you’re still okay, get a second wrong, now you’re gone for the season. Last man standing wins.

Again, like last year, we can keep picking all through the playoffs, assuming our luck holds. So the game could even continue through to the Super Bowl.

In order to join the group, just go to Survival Football, click the “Sign Up” button and choose to “Join an Existing Group”, then “Join a Private Group”. Then, when prompted, enter the following information…

Group ID#: 5816 (Brookston Survival League)
Password: brookston

With 50 players allowed in each game, there’s plenty of room, so don’t be shy. Sign up for one or both games. In past seasons, I’ve posted the standings on the home page, and hopefully I’ll do that again this season. Why not join us? Go head to head again me and my team, the Brookston Brew Jays.

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