Zigging when he should have zagged

A winter-themed post as the cold weather settles in:

Today’s NFL owners don’t have a whole lot of pizazz. Unless they’re announcing some charitable endeavor or hiring/firing somebody, they’re hardly ever in the spotlight. Most of them strike you as the kind of guys who, if they had a hobby, would probably make duck decoys.

It wasn’t always thus. In 1947 fans could open the newspaper and read this story about Alexis Thompson, the Eagles’ dashing young owner:

2-19-47 Lex's bobsled accident

Thompson, who was 26 when he bought into the NFL, was what used to be known as a sportsman. He didn’t just employ athletes, he was one — in college at Yale and as an adult. Soccer, lacrosse, bobsledding; Lex was just a jock. He was even a member of the men’s field hockey team that represented the U.S. at the 1936 Olympics. (Don’t get too excited. It tied for last.)

This wasn’t the first time he’d been hurt on a bobsled run. Six years earlier he was training at Lake Placid and “broke an ankle,” The Associated Press reported, “when his bobsled skidded and crashed over the retaining wall. . . . Thompson entered the twenty-second curve on the mile course a bit too high.”

On another occasion “he suffered a crushed kidney in a spill on the Cresta bobsled run in Switzerland,” according to AP.

“I should have won the junior AAU [bobsled] championship last week,” he said in 1942. “It looked like a cinch. But what happened? One of my crew didn’t show up and I had to grab a guy right out of a saloon to take his place. Never been on a sled before in his life. All we got was second place. It’s a crazy game. I might give it up some time and go back to lacrosse.”

What a life Thompson led. He inherited millions at 15 from his father, a steel executive, and later started a profitable company of his own that sold eyewash. After his first marriage broke

Betty Grable's famed poster.

Betty Grable’s famed poster.

up in the late ’30s, he became “more or less a permanent member of café society,” AP reported, “squiring first one beauty and then another. At one time it was Betty Grable, but for a good while now his attentions have centered upon Lana Turner.

His apartment in Manhattan is one of the fanciest, and Alexis throws parties with imagination and zest. Once, on Halloween, he hired an outside moving van, had it completely and tastefully furnished and loaded everybody inside.

There was absolutely no interruption to the party as it was transferred out to Alexis’ country place on Long Island. If anything, it gained momentum. The most fun, one of the guests cheerfully recalls, was bobbing for apples in champagne, of course.

Close friends of the young promoter prefer, though, to tell of his good deeds. Such as when he bought a set of tires for a taxi driver who was down on his luck, the lone stipulation being that Alexis got free rides for a month.

See what I mean? Granted, NFL owners tend to be older now and less physically active, but they don’t make ’em like Alexis Thompson any more. Robert Kraft and his lodge brothers are careful men, not guys who would risk going over the wall on a bobsled run just for the thrill of it.

From the Eagles' 1948 media guide.

From the Eagles’ 1948 media guide.