A moment seen through different eyes, both his and mine: my latest Chester Marcol memory
He kept talking, the pen in his hand, the picture still unsigned, a photo that obviously had left a mark.
I finally got to see former Packers plackekicker Chester Marcol Friday night, finally got his autograph on a one-of-a-kind picture taken on September 7th, 1980. It was Marcol's high point in Green Bay, the afternoon he took a blocked field goal try into the end zone for a game-winning TD against the Bears. I happened to be in the end zone with a press pass that day, and a buddy who worked for the local paper snapped the picture seconds after the score, one that showed me running alongside Marcol into the Packers locker room. I carried it with me ever since, and only of late decided to see if he'd autograph it.
The chance came Friday night at a sports store at Southridge. Marcol was there to sign copies of his autobiography "Alive and Kicking". My wife and I went early, not knowing how big a crowd there'd be.
Marcol was alone as his signing session began. I handed him the photo, and you could almost hear the way-back machine fire up between his ears.
Wow, this brings back memories, Marcol said. Memories both good and bad, he admitted.
Marcol's battles with drug addiction are well known--the book goes into great detail about what he took, when he took it. The picture, he told us, reminded him of the fact that his game winning TD marked not only a professional high but the beginning of great personal lows. He'd started doing cocaine just a few weeks before that game, he told us, and snorted both before kickoff AND at halftime that afternoon. It was symbolic of the beginning of his pro football demise, one that he said began when he started taking painkillers for an injury years before.
There was that much stuff around Green Bay at that time, I asked, naive to think that football's professional hinterland would be removed from a thriving national problem.
Marcol was then in his element, talking about the abundance of drugs, the variety, availability, the places you'd never think they'd be, the problems with painkillers and child-behavior medications. He knows of what he speaks, as Marcol now makes a living as a counselor in the Upper Michigan small town he calls home.
Football came up, too: Marcol was the Pack's best offensive weapon for a while, and opponents would sometimes target him on kickoffs in an effort to knock him out of games. The Jets, he said, once had five guys go after him during a game at County Stadium, and he vividly remembers Packers coach Dan Devine screaming down the sidelines (teams shared the same side of the field back then), telling New York's Weeb Ewbank that Green Bay would end the career of Jets QB Joe Namath that very day if Ewbank kept coming after Devine's kicker. Marcol went unmolested the rest of the day.
That's not to say he didn't get hurt, or suffer the occasional concussion. Marcol told of games during which he didn't know where he was or what he'd done after getting lit up on a return. Despite that, he's not one of the many veteran NFL players taking part in a lawsuit against the league for past injuries.
What I thought would be a brief minute with a former Packer great turned into a half hour. Much of the time was spent with Chester, pen in hand, looking as if he was about to sign the picture before he'd launch into another story. It was as if he didn't want to put pen to photo, have the moment end, or let the picture go. My wife offered to scan him a copy. No, he said, this is your moment. It's yours, and should stay that way, he added.
Eventually, he signed: "Chester Marcol, #13". We took a picture, he and I, holding the memory between us.
A half hour hardly enough time to draw any conclusions, but you get impressions: Marcol seems at peace with who he is. He's comfortable sharing his low points in hopes of drawing others out of theirs. We've seen other famous people with such issues news releases about the subject in question being treated for "exhaustion" before they go about their lives without another word being said. Marcol needed time to process his turbulent life, but is now very public with his demons.
Still, that picture seemed to give Marcol a look at his life through a different portal. He thought he'd seen all the photos from that penultimate day in his life. Here was a look at the moment from another angle.
The photo will soon become a part of my mancave, a personal highlight of an incredible day in the life of a young fan/radio reporter, a momento that takes on new life via the time I got to spend with it's incredible and very human focal point some three decades later.