A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Why I Love Sports: Green Bay Packers

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Green Bay Packers helmet

Image via Wikipedia

Watching the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears Sunday was about as good as it gets for me as a sports fan. Great game, but really great franchises, and of course the right winner. As we get ready for the Super Bowl, I want to take a moment to write a love letter to what is to me the most compelling sports franchise in American history.

I want to make clear from the start: The Packers are not MY team. I’m from California, and though I do have some family in Wisconsin, the San Diego Chargers are my team…I just wish I could say all this about them.

1. Winningest Franchise in NFL history

As great of an event as the Super Bowl is, the NFL existed for more than 40 years before the Super Bowl came into being. It drives me nuts that people forget about this. The Pittsburgh Steelers may have won more Super Bowls than anyone else, but it is the Green Bay Packers who have won the most NFL championships.  12 THIRTEEN of them in all.  . Those 6 Super Bowl rings of the Steelers? Lovely, but in the first 39 years of the Steelers franchise, they were terrible, making the playoffs just once.

2. Greatest Rivalry: Packers vs Bears

I always shake my head when people ask what rivalry is the greatest in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears (then known as the Staleys) have been playing each other since 1921, and their 182 games played against each other surpasses all other rivalries. The teams are close geographically, and within a geographic region synonymous with pro football since the earliest days. Both teams fan bases are legendary and rabid, and the current Bears coach made an immediate point upon getting hired to promise he’d beat the Packers. Add to that, both teams have been winning championships since the 20s, and while the Packers have won more titles than anyone else, the Bears have won the 2nd most.

This is the rivalry that the Yankees vs Red Sox would be if the Red Sox actually had been winning championships regularly. This is the rivalry that actually rivals the rivalries of college football. There is no rational debate between this and other NFL rivalries.

3. The Packers were started by a guy named Curly working at a Packing company

Do I even need to elaborate here? This is old timey sports roots right here. Just a bunch of guys strapping on the leather helmet and playing. There’s just no way younger franchises can compete with this when we talk about the purity of the game.

4. Green Bay is the 268th largest city in the USA

And we’re not cheating here, Green Bay isn’t a part of the Milwaukee or Madison metropolitan areas and choosing the name “Green Bay” for quirkiness. It’s its own city, and it is only slightly more than half the size of the next smallest city to have a pro sports team (Salt Lake City‘s Utah Jazz). At one time, such small town franchises were everywhere – now the Packers are all that’s left.

For the greatest franchise in the biggest sporting league in the world to come from a city this small is so delightfully unexpected, how can anyone else compete with that?

5. The Packers are Non-Profit & Community-Owned

In this era of big business sports, where franchises are owned typically owned by ego-maniac billionaires or faceless corporations, the Packers are utterly unique and hopelessly fetching because this franchise is just completely different from all others in its inherent structure. 

Of course, this is probably part of the reason that the team still remains in Green Bay. Also helpful is the NFL’s reliance on national TV revenue which makes revenue sharing more feasible, and makes the Packers reliance on admission-based revenue not as crucial (score one for the quirks of scheduling football).

6. Those Goofy Uniforms

Yellow is not exactly an intimidating color. Oh sure, some variants of it are, nothing wimpy about gold. Packer yellow is not gold though. It’s a happy yellow. It’s an unselfconscious yellow. It’s Charlie Brown yellow. It’s not tough. It’s just begging to be made fun of.

Some other football teams will make use of such a yellow, but always in moderation, and always with a bodyguard color present in spades. The Michigan Wolverines have their maize yellow, but they’re known as Big Blue because of that dark blue color that dominates the uniform.

The Packers let the happy yellow dominate their helmet, and as if that weren’t enough, they make the logo on that helmet a short, fat “G”. How can you take them seriously?

But you do. You watch the Packers and they don’t look like a kid about to lose his lunch money, they look timeless. They say, Yes, this look went out of style decades ago, but we don’t care. We know who we are. We were here before you got here, and we’ll be here after you’re gone. We’re not going to change when some hotshot in marketing thinks he has a brilliant idea to move product. We’re not going to change if the kids don’t think we’re cool, eventually they’ll grow up, and they’ll see what we see.

7. Hell Hate No Fury Like a Fanatic Scorned, or, “Screw You Brett Favre!”

Seriously, how can you not cheer for the Packers right now given what they went through with Favre?

Now, let’s be fair first off, this whole fiasco was a tough position to be in for everyone. Football is a brutal sport, and it’s quite understandable why an aging veteran player would be uncertain about how much longer he wants to play. The team’s management always has to work with this in mind when there are players of irreplaceable talent around, and they don’t have any real right to be bitter about that fact alone.

Of course, Favre played the “will he or won’t he” game for years with Green Bay, before doing the “won’t” that wasn’t followed by a delayed “will” until after the Packers had moved on, and then he had the gall specify teams he wanted to play for and vilify the Packer organization along the way. And of course then he proceeded to sneak his way over to the rival Vikings and shove it all back in the Packers’ collective face.

This year has undoubtedly been quite cathartic to the Packer fanbase. Favre stumbles off into the sunset with a whimper after pulling the will/won’t card again in Minnesota, proving to everyone that Favre would have pulled this stuff to whatever team he was with. The man the Packers chose over Favre, Aaron Rodgers, emerged even further as an elite quarter completely justifying the decision the Packers made. And now the Packers have made it to the promised land. Their first Super Bowl since early in the Favre era.

For all the reasons described above, good luck Cheeseheads.

One Response

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  1. […] Obviously, as I wrote before, I love what the Packers represent, so I’m quite happy with how this turned […]

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