Sometimes there is a silver lining
Recently, because of what has been happening, many of my columns have dealt with the exorbitant wages paid to athletes. I pointed out how many who received huge contracts and millions of dollars, have ended up destitute. There have been multiple reasons, but the most prevalent has always been wine, women and song…often urged on by a sycophantic group known as “The Entourage” plus unscrupulous advisors.
Unfortunately, the landscape is littered with countless horror stories of this nature. For example, in 1978, I produced a movie called “ Ring of Passion” that told the true story of Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling… a fight for the ages. I had to pay the great Joe Louis in cash, a paltry sum; the United States Government (IRS) had garnished all of his wartime earnings. Which by the way, he had donated to the Army-Navy relief Fund.
I sat on the Board of the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation. Although Raymond Charles Leonard is a friend of mine, to me, Mr. Robinson will always be the real Sugar Ray. We did a great deal of good for needy kids, but the real purpose of the Foundation founded by Frank Abramoff, was to make sure that Ray proud as he was, would have paydays.
This is sad when you remember the countless fans internationally who paid millions to watch the m fight. But Joe Louis and Ray Robinson happen to be members of a huge passing parade.
Then along comes a story about one man who capitalized on his fame. I hadn’t seen or talked to this man for almost 30 years when out of the blue, my friend and fellow writer Evan Wiener interviewed him. In the course of conversation, Evan mentioned my name and asked how he could contact me.
The next day my phone rang. It was he! ... Fred “Curly” Morrison. An old and dear friend of whom I had lost track.
“So Curly, what have you been up to?”
However, before he could answer, I started counting off the wonderful things of which I had memories. I remembered when he came out of Ohio State in 1950, as a battering ram Fullback; he was on every NFL team’s wish list.
Territorially, he belonged to the Chicago Bears. He went from playing under the legendary Woody Hayes at Ohio State plying his talents for one of the founders of the NFL and an equally legendary coach, George “Papa Bear” Halas. Under Halas, Curly became one of the vaunted “Monsters of the Midway”. In the 4 years he was with the Bears, he was the rushing leader twice. Traded to the Cleveland Browns where he played 3 more years leading the Browns to 3 World Championship Games. Once again, he played for another coaching great, Paul Brown.
Last night, I had dinner with my young friend Bob Perlberg. I consider Bob, the most avid USC fan I know. So, it is with a heavy heart that I tell him I am writing a column about a man who on October 8, 1949 devastated his beloved Southern Cal and later that season became MVP of the Rose Bowl and a member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, as Ohio State bested California.
However, Curly’s real impact on the NFL came upon his retirement. CBSTV, one of the only 3 TV Networks at the time, procured the rights to telecast NFL on Sundays. No one else had this package. Curly was the first Color Commentator and set the bar at a level that I feel no else has yet to reach. He portrayed vast knowledge and understanding of the game thus making it must viewing for people who up until then had little, or no interest in professional football.
He had the Television Bug and along with Bud Murphy formed Transamerica Video. Although my pal Clair Higgins was created and utilized the Mobile Unit, it took Curly and Bud to put one of their trucks on a barge to Hawaii bringing about the first Mobile event emanating away from Mainland USA.
Flushed with success, the company was sold and Curly went on to run for Congress in his home state of Ohio. I do not know whether he was Republican, or Democrat, but even though he lost, he’s one guy I would have voted for. With the problems of today, Curly could easily pick up where he left off and help carry us to a Financial Touchdown.
Successful in business, he was also active in the World Football League and the USFL. But, his real contribution to the game is his caring for many fellow NFL retirees less fortunate than himself. Along with his wife Sophie (They have been married 62 years), he created and ran for 22 years, the NFL Legends Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach. All monies go to help retired players. Today, his daughter Rebecca carries on as Executive Director.
He and Sophie live comfortably in their retirement, enjoying daily rounds of golf under the Desert Sun of California.