Minnesota Vikings: JFK Remembered

JFK Remembered: Fred Zamberletti

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
6:59
PM ET
The Minnesota Vikings' trainer from 1961 to 1998, who still works as the official team historian, reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

"At that time, we used to practice over at Midway Stadium -- not the Midway Stadium that’s there now. Old Midway was east of there on Snelling Avenue, and I can remember leaving there, going to Montgomery Ward’s on University Avenue. I remember pulling into the parking lot when the first news report came out from Dallas. We didn’t know the severity of the shooting, but there were a lot of reports coming in, and then we heard the president was pronounced dead. It was kind of a gray, overcast day. It was so shocking, I don’t know if we realized what the hell was going on.

"We played the Detroit Lions that weekend. They had beaten us earlier in the year, but we could see very early they were not with it. I don’t think there were any doubts [whether we were going to play]. It was not really discussed whether we were going to play or not, and I didn’t know until years later, when Rozelle said it was the biggest mistake he ever made, that it was even a question. We were a generation where you didn’t question. Whether it was too hot, too cold, Thursday, Sunday, you just played. It was called trained obedience.

"We won the game [34-31, the first time the Vikings ever beat the Lions]. I don’t know that there was a lot of jubilation after the game. We only won three games that year, so a win was a big deal, but I can’t say there was a lot of celebration.

"Monday was the players' day off back then, so not everybody was around the day of the funeral -- just the injured guys getting treatment. We had a television in the equipment room, and players would come in and see us watching it. They didn't say a word. Here was a man that was a father, a husband, and he was taken away from us. He really had a lot of charisma. He was a good-looking guy. That was a big shock to the nation. Football players at that time, they were raised by dads who came from the 'Greatest Generation' -- they were World War II veterans, taught not to show any emotions. There weren’t a lot of tears externally, but from me, there were a lot of tears internally. Especially seeing the president’s son salute the casket -- god dammit, it gets to you."

Zamberletti, 81, as told to ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling

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