SI Vault
July 13, 1998
Sid Luckman, 1916-1998Thanks for Everything
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July 13, 1998


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The American team's punchless, three-and-out performance in the World Cup was just another reminder that on the pitch the U.S. is still strictly Third World. But Stateside soccer fans can take heart: Compared with American squads in several other international sports, our Cup entries, with a .265 win percentage, have been powerhouses.


Sad Saga

Men's Soccer

4-12-1 in World Cup, never past 2nd round

Men's Team Handball

4-26-1 in Olympics, top finish 6th (out of 6)

Men's Field Hockey

0-19-2 in Olympics, top finish 3rd (out of 3)


1 Olympic medal (bronze) since 1948

Cross-country Skiing

1 Olympic medal (silver) since 1932

Sid Luckman, 1916-1998
Thanks for Everything

Sid Luckman, 81, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Chicago Bears to four NFL championships in the 1940s, died of a heart attack on Sunday in North Miami Beach. Senior writer Paul Zimmerman recalls one of the NFL's most influential players.

My wife showed me the obit. "You never wrote the note, did you?" she said.

I never wrote the note. I started to write it three or four times, the thank-you note. Something always came up. This week...this was the week I was positively going to write it. As God is my witness. The note was for the few days in May that I had shared with Sid in Florida, interviewing him for a piece I was doing on six quarterbacks who changed the game. Sid was the logical place to start. He ran the first modern T formation. It was like interviewing Orville Wright for a piece about flying.

I had gotten to know Sid through the years. I had interviewed him a dozen times; sometimes we just chatted. We had played for the same college coach, Lou Little, at Columbia. But I had never spent as much time with him as I did in May. I had never fully realized the warmth and splendor of this man until then.

He led me through all the scrapbooks, all the memorabilia, moving rapidly through the hard football stuff, pausing over the endless tributes to his generosity. The Mayo Clinic, the Special Olympics, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, an early 1940s note from Sid to Columbia, returning a check the school had sent him for working with the coaches to help put in the new T formation: "Please ask the college to accept this to help some worthy student as partial thanks to my former coach and college."

When I arrived in May, Sid asked me where I was staying. I mentioned some hotel. "Call 'em and cancel it," he said. "You'll stay here with me." In the world of the million-dollar athlete with the 10-cent attitude, such graciousness is unheard of. Nor was I ready for what greeted me on the morning that I left. A shopping bag loaded with presents. Presents! "These are for your wife and children," Sid's note said. "It is a family tradition that whoever comes to our house must take a gift along with him."

Thank you, Sid. For your gifts, for sharing a part of your life with me, for the kind of person you were. This is the note that I was too busy, or too stupid, to write.

Hawks Pass on Hull
Let the Stars Have the Star

Chicago, City of Big Shoulders and no Stanley Cups since the Kennedy Administration, was grumbling last week about free agent Brett Hull. The eight-time All-Star had slipped through the Blackhawks' fingers and signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars for $17 million, about $1 million less than Chicago general manager Bob Murray lavished a few hours later on another free agent, Doug Gilmour, also for three years. The Hull name is magic in Chicago—Brett's father, Bobby, the best left wing ever, played on the last Hawks' Cup winner 37 years ago—and Brett might have lured some fans to the United Center. The one thing Hull couldn't have done in Chicago is edge the Blackhawks any closer to being a Cup contender. Gilmour might.

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