Paul Hornung: The Player, The Gambler
An excess of success that produces unfortunate cases such as Paul Hornung's.
Paul Hornung is a fun-loving fellow who stands to lose $50,000 in the next year for being untidy in choosing his fun. He gambled on football games, including some in which he played as a star halfback for the Packers.
The consequence was that Commissioner Pete Rozelle of the NFL suspended Hornung for a year - which, besides loss of salary, sharply reduced Hornung's chances to endorse products in advertisements, which provided him with upward of $15,000 a year in pocket money.
When the decision went out, and Hornung went out to see what people thought, it might as well have been spring.
Cab drivers and sportswriters and fellow athletes and ladies in elevators hailed him and told him how Pete Rozelle ought to be strung up by his strait laces.
Others were just as convinced that Rozelle was justified, but Hornung did not hear much of that. At a banquet in Worcester, Massachusetts, he was given a hero's ovation. 'Everywhere I went the people were behind me,' said Hornung, understandable relieved.
The crime obviously had not fit the punishment. Why, there was hardly no crime at all.
But naturally, there was. Hornung himself is not a criminal; his football play is unassailable, and he has not thrown a game, taken a bribe or sold his soul to Frankie Carbo.
He is a generous young man, good to his mother in Louisville and, as a practicing Catholic, he meticulously orders clam chowder on Fridays. No, indeed.
Hornung's mistake was not a criminal act, it was an irresponsible one. Naively, and perhaps unwittingly, he destroyed a portion of faith in the integrity of the game that pays his way.
One day he was merely the pal of Gambler-Businessman Barney Shapiro. The next day, 'scarcely before I realized it,' he says, Shapiro was his betting agent and confidant.
He had no idea of the consequences of his actions when he placed his first $100 bet. Anybody old enough to chew bubble gum can fathom what suspicions this association aroused.
Encouragingly, Hornung was quick to realize his error. Unlike the recalcitrant Alex Karras, who thought himself railroaded, Hornung has been contrite and has tried to say all the right things. He says if he had to do it over again, he would still 'tell all' to Commissioner Rozelle.
Hornung admits he is not sure of all the implications of the rule he violated, and he does not consider his action 'immoral,' but he knows for sure his conduct 'wasn't kosher.'