With an impressive combination of German precision, Irish luck and Catholic fertility, my parents managed to produce exactly four NFL championship rings and exactly four children.
For most of my childhood, the rings rested unceremoniously on a plaque in our family room, just a few feet from an unlocked side door. Though he valued them dearly, my dad treated his rings casually and once stood calmly in the aisle of a plane while passengers passed his Super Bowl II ring up and down the rows.
Because they earned the rings in such quick succession, players barely had time to wear their rings from the 1965 and 1966 seasons and most, like my dad, chose to wear the ring that represented all three championships, the Super Bowl II ring.
Though he died in 1993, I have very clear memories of that ring sitting snugly on my Dad’s right ring finger, next to the awkwardly bent finger he broke in 1966.
My dad played for the Packers from the 1961 season through 1968 and he wrapped up his career with the Baltimore Colts in 1969. For the record, that span netted Packer teams three world championships (1961, 1962 and 1965) and two Super Bowl titles (1966 and 1967), but just four rings. In honor of the 1962 championship, Coach Vince Lombardi asked a Green Bay jeweler to design a commemorative watch. Jostens designed all four rings.
According to the Packers’ Offensive Team Captain Bob Skoronski only a limited number of people received that first Super Bowl ring, just 41 players, four coaches, two team doctors, the trainer, equipment manager and four-member executive staff. By contrast, Packer officials estimate 300 people received the Super Bowl XLV ring.
For the past 20 years I believed I owned my Dad’s Super Bowl I ring. I tucked it away in a safety deposit box and brought it out for special occasions. Once, I was asked to speak to my son’s sixth grade class about the 1960 Packers and I let the students all try on the ring. My oldest son wore it to his high school graduation.
Yesterday, through the lens of my cellphone camera, I noticed something fishy about my Super Bowl I ring – etched on the side was a score that read Green Bay 23, Cleveland 12. Odd, because the Packers played the Chiefs in Super Bowl I. My discovery touched off a brief moment of panic among the Kostelnik women as, from Florida, my mother concluded that someone had stolen my ring, from Appleton I pointed out the unlikelihood of someone sneaking into my safety deposit box to steal my Super Bowl ring and replacing it with a World Championship ring, from Milwaukee my sister Kathy dashed off to her bank to collect what she thought was her World Championship ring and from Chicago my sister Jenny ignored all of our phone calls.
Turns out, of course, that a mix-up in the lawyer’s office in 1993 that went unnoticed for 20 years resulted in Kathy and my rings being switched.
It’s a small matter, really, because the real value of all four rings lies in the name carved into the side of each one and the wonderful memories we all have of the man who earned them.