News of the death of Paul Hornung, sometimes called the Golden Boy of 1950s and 1960s football, brings to mind my first encounter with him at WBBM-TV, the CBS-owned station in Chicago. (Hornung died Nov. 13 in Louisville. He was 84.)
In something of a coup, Channel 2 general manager Edward Kenefick, who played football at Notre Dame, added Hornung to the station’s sports staff after he retired from his stellar career at Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers. Next, he talked retired Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy into joining Horning to do Sunday night critiques of Chicago Bears games. It was a bold move into new territory that didn’t please the Bears.
Hornung couldn’t type and knew nothing about television production. Neither did Leahy. They needed a producer-writer to pull it all together for them. Somehow, I have no idea how, I was picked.
One problem: in those days I knew as little about football as they knew about TV.
On launch Sunday the three of us sat in a conference room watching the Bears game. While the two of them talked football – “It’s a third-down game” -- and shared Notre Dame memories between plays, I took notes. Every so often Hornung would turn to me and say “we will want that play.” Duly noted.
Obviously, this didn’t work. Mercifully, by the next week I was replaced by another producer (Bob Harris), who understood the game and appreciated the legends he was working with.
Together they put launched a Sunday night success – a hit with fans if not the Bears.