Me and the Packers: A Love Story

January 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm (Community) (, , , , , , , )

Will you permit me to write not about my family, nor about the church, but about another institution that holds a special place in my heart? I refer, of course, to the Green Bay Packers.

It’s a classic love story: football team meets girl, football team loses girl, football team finds girl again and they live happily ever after.

At Lambeau

Watching the Packers eat up the Giants December 2010

I have to confess: my first football team was NOT the Packers. I was born in Iowa, which does not boast a professional football team. My dad was a Packers fan, and my middle brother was a Vikings fan, but my oldest brother, who I adored, was a Raiders fan. So my first football fan memory is rooting for the big bad Raiders of the 1970s.

We moved to Wisconsin when I was eight, a smallish town in central Wisconsin which was Packers-crazy…like all towns in Wisconsin, small or large. (I once described my current city in Wisconsin as a place where there are two things on every corner: a church and a pub playing the Packers game). I loved to play touch football with my brother the Vikings fan and our neighbors (when they let me) and I am happy to tell you that I still have quite a spiral in my arsenal. My mom, who hates football, wouldn’t let play tackle football, although my brother (the Vikings fan, not that it’s related) would torture me with various tackle games…like setting a timer for twenty minutes and telling me he’d give me a dollar for every minute left on the clock after I tackled him. He might or might not owe me three dollars still.

As I grew into my snotty, pretentious teenage years, I actively rejected football and especially the Packers. I thought it was a violent and dumb game, and I hated what I perceived as the herd mentality that followed the Packers religiously. I’m not too proud to tell you that this period coincided with the lean playoff-less Gregg-Infante years.

Years passed and in 1996, I went away to graduate school in Washington, DC, and aside from a year abroad in Spain, it was my first experience living outside the Midwest. I think I probably found it more foreign than Madrid, too. I was terribly homesick. I missed my family, I missed the snowy winter and I missed the…oh, I don’t know, the Midwestern attitudes and values of my home state. That was the year that I realized I was a Midwesterner through and through, that I discovered I was a proud Wisconsinite and that I became a loyal Packers fan.

That was of course the season that Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren took the Packers to the Super Bowl. I found some fellow Wisconsinites and we watched the Packers win playoff game after playoff game and finally, beat the New England Patriots for their first Super Bowl win since 1967. I remember we ate sugar cookies shaped like helmets, frosted in green and gold, we screamed ourselves silly and I didn’t feel homesick in the slightest.

I realized then, I think, that being a football fan wasn’t all, or maybe even mostly, about the game. Not to revert to my snotty pretentious teenage self, but it is an exercise in community building, an experience shared by people from all walks of life. While ticket prices to games are exorbitant, you can watch the game on TV for free, and the act of rooting for your favorite team, ahem, the Packers! is another one of those threads that binds the social fabric together.

My love affair with the Packers hasn’t been all smooth sailing of course. There was the Super Bowl the following year, where the Packers lost, which I had to endure at a party I hosted, and which was attended by a vocal Denver Broncos fan. I’ve maybe almost forgiven him. There was the loss to Philadelphia (PHILADELPHIA!) in the 2004 playoffs – 4th and 26 ring a bell? There was the small issue of my husband’s allegiance to the New York Giants. A diehard Giants fan, he attended games with his dad throughout his childhood, and he has now poisoned our son into being one too. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, etc. Kidding. Sort of. There was the Saga of Brett Favre, which isn’t over even yet.

But going through all of those travails with your team is one of those things that makes you a fan…It’s another thing to chat about at the water cooler or the school pick-up line. It’s a point where you can converge with people you might not ever have anything else in common with. Sports can be a diversion and a distraction. I’m not going to lie…after the shellacking of the Democrats on November 2 of this past year it was a great comfort to see the Packers demolish Dallas five days later. What can I say? I’m a fan. Are the Packers going to win the Super Bowl this year? Golly, I hope so…but I coudn’t love them any more than I do now even if they do.

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3 Comments

  1. Adam said,

    According to one of his brothers, prior to moving to Wisconsin, Dad was a Washington Redskins fan.

  2. batsinthebelfry said,

    Dad says somebody has his Indians mixed up – he used to be a Cleveland baseball fan because of Bob Feller. The Packers were, and are his favorite football team.

  3. Mike Miller said,

    I’m almost sold! The points are all very valid and well stated. But I think men, in particular, may need to shift some of their attention back to what I would consider reality. Though most guys can probably spread their attention more thinly than I and still succeed.

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